Bickell was present when camp opened at Notre Dame on Friday, and he was pleased to be there.
“I’m happy,” Bickell said. “I’m really happy. There’s always rumors and thoughts, but I felt comfortable from last year to be a Hawk. To get through those waves and maybe a talk that I’m still here and happy to be back here. You don’t want to leave a team like this where we’ve been through, where I’ve started in this system, as a team. Hopefully I can stay here my whole career. If that was written down on paper, I’d take that for sure.”
The Blackhawks aren’t likely to guarantee him a lifetime contract just yet. He was among the names Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman floated to other teams this offseason to help the Blackhawks create cap space, but a deal wasn't made. Bowman ended up trading Kris Versteeg to the Carolina Hurricanes on Sept. 11. It’s certainly possible Bickell could be moved down the road.
Bickell is now trying to put all those rumors behind him. His focus is on being a bigger contributor to this season’s team. Last season, he was satisfactory with 14 goals and 14 assists in the regular season, but he disappeared in the playoffs and had zero goals and five assists in 18 games.
Part of Bickell’s issue in the playoffs was that he suffered from vertigo. He thought he had taken care of it when he had a tooth pulled in the offseason, but the symptoms haven't completely disappeared.
“There’s still symptoms over the course of different situations, but I’m working on it every day to get better and better, and hopefully it leaves sooner than later,” Bickell said. “I don’t think [it will affect me]. Before, during the playoffs and during the summer, it was too far along where I couldn’t play and I’ve pushed myself to find what it was and to fix it and it’s going the right direction.”
The Blackhawks could use Bickell to step up this season. If he can produce more, it’ll allow the Blackhawks’ newer players more time to adjust. Bickell is also the team’s fourth highest-paid forward.
Bickell realizes the importance of this season.
“Chicago still wants me and then to be here, to have this moment and I just need to have a great year,” Bickell said. “This is a crunching year for me to get ready.”
Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville is always careful not to criticize Bickell too greatly, but he does desire more from his veteran forward.
“Bick is one of those players you'd like to find that consistency in his game,” Quenneville said. “If he puts that all together, he's that power forward that every team craves for. We've seen him have some good games, some good stretches in the playoffs. Regular season, in games, there's some good moments. But total package is what we're looking for. But every player, I don't think anybody really has a mulligan to have an ordinary year and thinking that's going to be good enough. Everyone should have high standards and consistency. That's where we want to have him nail it.”
Panarin’s adjustment: Russian rookie Artemi Panarin is still adjusting to be in the United States. He knows just a little English and allowed teammate Viktor Tikhonov to translate for him on Friday.
“He’s kind of walking a little lost,” Tikhonov translated. “He’s not really in his place. He spends most of his time in the hotel and on the ice. He really needs to start getting the language down to start feeling like himself again.”
Panarin did say two works in English on Friday. When asked what it was like to play alongside Teuvo Teravainen, Panarin said, “Very nice.”
Adding weight: Teravainen said he put on about 10 pounds this offseason and is up to about 183 pounds. He spent the offseason training in Finland.
Three-on-three experimenting: The Blackhawks had two 10-minute three-on-three periods on Friday. Quenneville didn’t know exactly what to make of it yet.
“I think it'll be OK,” Quenneville said. “It's hard to predict exactly how it's going to play out. But I think getting the guys a little familiar with maybe some plays that you can look to take advantage, some trouble spots and I think defending is something we have at. It's something you never really play anymore, so maybe gives us a little bit of an idea what to look at and we can look to do as a team.”