Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Bollig (52) and Colorado Avalanche center Ryan O'Reilly (90) skate during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Monday, March 18, 2013, in Denver. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey)
Throughout the month of July, Madhouse Enforcer will be taking a look at various members of the 2013 Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks. What did they do right? What did they do wrong? What can they improve upon next season? We’ll answer all those questions and more in the lead-up to Blackhawks Convention, which starts July 26th.
Today’s subject is bruising winger Brandon Bollig.
Head coach Joel Quenneville likes to have guys with grit in his lineup. Fans have seen that over the years with players like Daniel Carcillo and Adam Burish getting minutes in big spots, but Bollig joined that pantheon this year, and he did his job in that respect.
Despite only playing an average of 8:01 in his 25 regular season games, Bollig ended up with 41 hits on the season, and frequently could be seen mixing it up with opposing players after whistles.
Today’s NHL has moved away from that type of skillset being totally necessary for success, but when the coach inserts you into the lineup with that purpose in mind, you do it, and Bollig did.
One could start with the fact that Bollig didn’t have a single point this season, but that doesn’t quite tell the full story of his season. He not only had the second lowest PDO (a metric that quantifies puck possession, with a higher number being better) on the team with a 975 (only Dave Bolland’s 968 was worse), but he also started 61% of his shifts in the offensive zone.
That last number means that, despite his status as a fourth line guy for the Hawks, he wasn’t being put out on defensive assignments all that often. That means that in addition to not scoring at all, which he could be expected to do because of his zone starts, he also isn’t trusted by Quenneville and the coaching staff to take care of defensive assignments.
Both of those things put together would indicate that outside of his hitting ability, Bollig didn’t really perform the job he was expected to. His limited ice time has something to do with that, but it is equally, or perhaps more so, an indicator of lowered expectations.
Best Game of the Year:
There were times this season that Bollig displayed some NHL-level potential, and April 26th against the Calgary Flames was definitely one of those days.
Even though he didn’t pick up a point on the scoresheet, he did dish out five hits and put three shots on goal in a Hawks’ victory. He also took advantage of a bit of extra ice time thanks to Quenneville wanting to rest his starters for the upcoming playoff push, and he managed to play a very physical game without doing anything undisciplined.
Outlook for 2013-14:
With the Hawks looking at bringing up some young players to replace guys like Bolland and Michael Frolik, Bollig could conceivably compete for a more regular spot in the rotation.
Unfortunately for him, there are players like Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes, and Ben Smith who will also be competing for those spots, and they all have higher offensive upside than he does. For Bollig to shine in that competition, he will have to show the coaching staff that he is capable of playing a disciplined physical game, combined with a heightened defensive awareness.
That is a tough thing to show in training camp or even in preseason games, so he will be playing catch-up, and will therefore have to make the most of his regular season opportunities if he wants to improve upon his 25 games played in 2013.