Stu Bickel was not expected to remain with the New York Rangers long after being recalled by the team in December of 2011. However, it turns out that he would go on to play 51 regular season games in addition to 18 postseason contests before the end of the 2011-12 campaign. Who once was intended to be a temporary spot-filler suddenly molded into a permanent skater on the blue-line, and one that came in handy for the Blueshirts over the course of a very lengthy year.
The Good: Stu Bickel wasn't exactly a name you'd here often on the nightly broadcast during the regular season, but he did have a quiet effectiveness about him in his rookie NHL year. He was tough, he learned the system quickly and was serviceable as a third pairing defenseman. It was not often where Bickel would find himself in a situation which he was a liability out on the ice, which is basically the goal of a sixth blue-liner on any team. To be brief, he did what was asked of him.
But what really grabbed the attention of the coaching staff and fans, and in this case bloggers, was his snarl that was put on display every night. Bickel is a fearless hockey player ready to drop the gloves with anyone, which certainly isn't a bad thing in this day and age when defensemen continue to grow softer and softer as they years go on. This guy is as blue-collar as they come, and he was always ready to sacrifice his body in one way or another if it meant helping the club.
The Bad: Bickel is not a rare player, or someone who will stand out. Actually, he may not even play all that much, so basically he is a spot-filler despite skating in over 50 games with the Rangers this season. Don't get me wrong, he was of great use to the Rangers this year, but the organization is looking to get stronger on the defensive side of things talent-wise and Bickel isn't exactly a 'talented' player. He is responsible, yes, but he's not going to score goals, lead a rush or quarterback a powerplay - all traits the Rangers are in the hunt for at the moment (see Justin Schultz).
Highlight of the Year:
Overall Assessment: Stu Bickel, 25, is set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1, so his future as of right now is unclear. Whether he is contacted again by the Rangers may depend on whether or not they are able to reel in Justin Schultz and/or re-sign Anton Stralman. Bickel was great to have around for this past season, but he's not someone the team necessarily needs moving forward.
Report Card Grade: B