There are obviously a number of storylines during camp, but one of the more interesting ones is the future of Stu Bickel.
Bickel had a solid start to his NHL career two years ago when he provided much needed toughness on the blueline while offering capable defense.
Then he made a disastrous turnover in Game 1 of the Rangers first round series against Ottawa, John Tortorella lost complete confidence in him and he's never been the same player since.
Last year, Bickel never found a role on the team as he rotated between defense and forward until he was finally demoted to the Whale.
But as we all know, Alain Vigneault has given everyone a "clean slate"and tonight will be Bickel's first real chance to make an impression on his new coach.
Bickel missed yesterday's scrimmage due to a back injury but is expected to suit up tonight in New Jersey.
Here's Vigneault on carrying a strict enforcer in the line-up...
“You’ve got to be able to play. You’ve got to be able to skate and get in on the forecheck. Because you’re a physical presence out there, sometimes you have to stand up for yourself, but you have to be able to play. I don’t think a lot of teams have that. Some teams do, but a lot of teams don’t.”
...the biggest concern I've seen from fans this training camp (other than Stepan) has been the lack if toughness on the roster. Yes, I know Dorsett can fight, but he doesn't seem like a guy the opposition would be concerned about going into the game.
...if you've read the blog for awhile you know I'm a proponent of the Rangers playing with a physical edge and standing up for one another. Two years ago when the Rangers made their run to the Eastern Conference Finals they led the league in fighting majors during the regular season. Last year? Near the bottom. I don't think I need to remind everyone about the non-responses to big hits on Kreider, Nash and McDonagh during the lockout shortened season.
...having said that, I agree with Vigneault. You need to have some kind of skill to keep up with the play and not be a liability on the ice. If Bickel can prove he has developed other parts of his game, I wouldn't mind seeing him on the team as a 13th forward/7th defenseman. You can't underestimate the importance of team toughness.
...i also wouldn't count out Haley making a run at a roster spot for this exact reason.
Here's more from Vigneault...
To watch at Blueshirts United, click here.
Tend to agree with award--would love to see the bigger guys on the team play a bit nastier (Nash, Boyle, Pyatt, Kreider to name a few)and start sticking up for themselves and their teammates. They dont necessarily have to become fighters just start giving back as much as they take. Hit at least as much as you get hit.
i am more worried about their general lack of toughness than I am about needing an enforcer. We love our "nice guy" Rangers but there is a serious deficiency in the nasty category ie Boston's Milan Lucic or the Ducks Corey Perry. Guys who play like their pissed off and don't care who they take it out on. Nobody ruthless on this club.
Dorsett cannot take on a heavyweight.
Haley skated well yesterday and I thought he played well as a call-up last year. He can take on a heavyweight even if he's not quite one himself.
Mashinter is a big body and decent fighter with more skill than a lot of tough guys.
I'm willing to give Bickel another chance but looking at the reaction on twitter, it appears a lot of fans aren't. If that's the case, no matter what he does during first month I can't see him being able to continue when he gets to the Garden. (Which is ridiculous in my mind but I know how some of those fans are....) If I had to guess, Bickel does play more in the NHL than AHL this year...but for another organization.
Question for everyone on here (not related to this)... If you asked Hank what the hardest loss for him was, what game do you think he would say?
Game 6 against the Devils ECF
Last game of the season shootout loss to the Flyers to miss the playoffs
@award Someone like Lucic would be awesome. He's tough but also very skilled. In the last two full-schedule seasons he put up 61-62 points each. Last year was a little off that pace but still a respectable 27 points. And he has been a big contributor in the playoffs.
wow, Bickel's time may be done here, huh?
@FREE LINDBERG Thats a no brainer Game 6 against the Devils ECF...the year the NYR had the team to win it all. The shootout is garbage anyway, just like the f'n Flyers are. Dumb question sir.
@FREE LINDBERG I'd got to go with that Game 6 loss, because a chance to go to the Stanley Cup Finals was on the line.
@AG_Blue Not sure if you're being sarcastic or not but that's my guess (not based on anything but my thoughts). Personally I hope he isn't but he deserves a chance to play in NHL (if he's still at that level) so if he doesn't have spot here, then let him go somewhere else.
@AG_Blue Agree. I don't think McIlrath is ready for start of season but definitely could be up before end. I'm not surprised Bickel tested well...he had a good rookie year and then no idea what happened last year. Guess we'll see what happens tonight. It's a contract year for him so we'll see what he can do ;-)
Oh, I see
Yeah, we have a great bunch of D. Looks to me like McIlrath still has a lot of work to do, especially on skating. Time to call Laura Stamm. But AV says Bickel tested well, so we'll see what we see tonight. I hope it doesn't mean a gratuitous fight. Everybody knows he can do that if need be, but let's see what his game looks like.
@AG_Blue Okay...wasn't sure cause I know how some people feel about him lol. Honestly have no inside knowledge or anything like that, just my guess based on how many NHL-level or close to NHL-level D we have.
not being sarcastic at all, just asking ...