When Stu Bickel was called up to replenish the Rangers blue line following injuries to Mike Sauer, Steve Eminger, and Jeff Woywitka, no one was really sure what to expect. After ten games, four assists, 18 PIMs, surprisingly good defense with only one glaring error, and a physical presence that has been missed with Sauer out, Bickel has been one of the most pleasant surprises of the season, and looks to be sticking around in the short term.
What was originally supposed to be a short term call up is turning into a bit of a situation that the Rangers did not expect. When the Rangers cut Bickel from the roster in October, he needed to clear waivers. So it should come as no surprise that he would need to clear waivers again if he were to be returned to the Connecticut Whale when the Rangers blue liners return from injury.
That said, while there should be no surprise in his waiver status, the issue here is that he might not actually clear waivers this time around. In October, Bickel wasn’t a known entity, and he only made noise when he was the last player cut from camp. This time around, the league is taking notice of the young kid who has filled in on a decimated Rangers blue line, and played relatively well.
Teams looking for young, physical, reliable defensemen (note: Islanders) are more likely to take a flier on Bickel now than they were three months ago. Such is hockey, such is life. But with Bickel’s likelihood of being snatched on waivers comes a different scenario: Will the Rangers actually waive him?
I stated last week that I believe Bickel to be the odd man out based on a numbers game, and I stick by that. But then again, I’m not running the team.
If they do not waive him, it will not be because they believe him to be better than Jeff Woywitka or Steve Eminger or Anton Stralman. If they are to retain him, it’s because he’s a young kid and they don’t know exactly what they have in him. When a kid impresses, you keep him around to see what he can do, especially if it’s at the cost of a roster spot for someone who likely won’t be back the following year.
In the grand scheme of things, we are talking about the third pairing that is comprised of a combination of place holders until Tim Erixon and/or Dylan McIlrath are ready for the show. Bickel has been a nice surprise, but that numbers game isn’t working for him. John Tortorella loves his ‘jam’, so he may want to keep him around. No one knows but him.