The Rangers didn't play a single game this season with its top-five defenseman, with Marc Staal being out until Jan. 2 and Michael Sauer unable to play after an early December concussion ended his season and possibly his career.
The bottom two defenseman for the Blueshirts was a revolving door throughout most of the season. One those players were Stu Bickel, who was called up in December and stuck around with the team the entire season, though with mixed results.
Bickel, who was acquired last season from the Anaheim Ducks, started his career with a bang, recording a handful of assists in his first couple games. That was it offensively, as Bickel didn't score a goal, finishing with nine assists in 51 regular season games.
What he lacked in offense, he made up for with heart and fists. Bickel quickly became a fan favorite due to his willingness to drop the gloves with anyone in the league. Rangers fans always appreciate that style, and welcomed him with chants of "Stu."
Bickel was involved in the six player opening fight against the New Jersey Devils in March. Bickel was moved up to center for the opening draw, in which he left an opposing Devil bloodied.
Though he dressed often, Bickel was seldom used in tight situations, including third periods. In the playoffs, Bickel was glued to the bench. In triple overtime Game 3 against the Washington Capitals in the second-round, Bickel played under five minutes in a game that almost went 120 minutes.
Head coach John Tortorella obviously sees something in the young defenseman or he would not have stuck around through the conclusion of the season.
Bickel won't give you offense, but he also has to be better in his own end, but that will come with experience. The kid is willing to do whatever he can to help the team win night after night. He took his benchings like a man and never once complained about it or hinted that he was frustrated. To steal a line from Torts, he just went about his business.
The Rangers, though, will look to upgrade their bottom two defenseman this offseason, as the team cannot continue to go with Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh playing 26 minutes per game, especially in the playoffs.
Bickel is an unrestricted free agent, but won't command much and will be given a two-way contract if the team decides to bring him back. There will be stiff competition for those two spots, as the team expects Tim Erixon to compete for it, as well as any other free agent the team acquires,
Final season grade: C
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