Bickell plans on 'big summer' to improve

CHICAGO -- The Stanley Cup playoffs drive Chicago Blackhawks forward Bryan Bickell to play at another level.

The Blackhawks would like Bickell to be just as motivated for the regular season.

Bickell is undoubtedly a different player when it comes to the playoffs and the proof is in the statistics.

Over the past four seasons in the playoffs, Bickell ranks fourth in the NHL in goals. The list is led by the Los Angeles Kings' Jeff Carter with 24 goals followed by the Boston Bruins' David Krejci with 22 goals, the Kings' Justin Williams with 21 goals, Bickell with 20 goals and the Blackhawks' Patrick Sharp with 19 goals. Bickell averaged 0.42 goals per game during that span.

In those same four regular seasons, Bickell finished tied for 174th with 46 total goals. He averaged 0.18 goals per game.

It's unlikely Bickell can keep up his playoff numbers over an entire regular season, but the Blackhawks would like him to meet them somewhere in the middle. At $4 million a season, the Blackhawks want Bickell to show up for more than just the playoffs.

That was the message Bickell received recently from the Blackhawks after following the same pattern as last season. Bickell was ordinary in the regular season this season with 11 goals and four assists in 59 games and a star in the playoffs with seven goals and three assists in 19 games.

"I think this is a big summer for me to get in shape and to be more of a regular-season guy, not just a playoff guy," Bickell said Tuesday.

Bickell admitted recently he plays harder in the playoffs than the regular season, but that was because he didn't think his body could hold up over a full regular season if he played in the same fashion. He said he is searching for something in between.

"You know to play 82 games like that, it's going to take a toll," Bickell said. "I think I need to show more spurts. Ideal, [I'd play] better like that in the regular season than I did this year. I know I've had a couple meetings [with the Blackhawks]. Personally, I need to have a big summer. I have a newborn coming, so I'll probably lose some sleep that way. Just physically and mentally, I think hopefully I can be ready for next season."

Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville has balanced the past two seasons being positive about Bickell's playoff performances and seeking more from him in the regular season.

"We've seen in this year's playoffs he's kind of very comparable of where he was last year," Quenneville said May 16. "So, it's tough to say why. But as a staff and probably as an individual, we'd like to see, he'd probably like to be more consistent. We'd like to see more consistency out of him.

"But then again, you play like this in the playoffs, the most important time, and you rise to that challenge and you make an impact or an imprint on games the way he has, it's a great strength that you're able to play at this level and bring that type of player you're looking for that can bring that physicality, bring that size, bring speed and a nice set of hands. Put it all together now, we'll take it, but certainly we'd like to see it a little bit more in the regular season."

A longer offseason should benefit Bickell, especially in strengthening his knees even more. He suffered a right knee injury in the playoffs last season and a left knee injury this season. The injury this season, which occurred Nov. 19, kept him out of the lineup for nearly a month.

Bickell reported Tuesday that both knees are better and don't trouble him as the season progressed.

"Knees were good," Bickell said. "It's kind of weird I didn't have any knee problems until a couple years ago. All of a sudden, both knees went. I think they're back to normal. They feel normal. I'm ready to get those braces off."

Let the summer of Bryan Bickell commence.