Full disclosure: As readers of Second City Hockey know, Dave Bolland is my favorite Hawk.
In the dark days of 2005 and 2006, it was following his junior numbers that got me through. I thought that at least there was one prospect coming through (this was before Toews and Kane were drafted at all). I kept a close eye on his production in the AHL, and was transfixed when he came up to the big club in the same year that Toews and Kane did.
From the word go I saw what he could be. Because of this investment, when he isn't that guy -- which he hasn't been for long stretches this year and last -- I judge him harshly. But when he's even better than what I thought, I kind of have this glow. Bolland gave us both this season, and frankly I'm exhausted.
Positives: After an at-best indifferent start (and at worst a complete abortion of a start) to the season, Bolland caught fire from December on. He racked up 32 points in his last 40 games of the regular season. And he did this while facing the highest quality of competition in the league for any forward.
Every night, Bolland would face up to the other team's top line, and would usually keep them at bay while chipping in his own offense.
His comeback from a concussion in Game 4 against the Canucks clearly galvanized the Hawks, and his four-point performance will rank up there with some of the more inspirational in recent Hawks history.
His developing chemistry with Michael Frolik is something that has a lot of Hawks fans excited.
The penalty kill is also far worse off without him, and after finally getting an extended look on the second power play unit from somewhere else other than the point, that unit really started to hum.
Bolland is lethal when he sets up from behind the goal line, as he can pick a pass cross-ice or to an open d-man, and opposing kills just can't cover all the angles.
Negatives: Health is first and foremost. Bolland has been a full-time Hawk for four seasons, and he's only played more than 60 games in one of them. And concussion problems can pop up whenever and wherever.
One has to fear that Bolland is only a stiff breeze away from missing significant time again.
That hot streak in December? Well, that means the first two months of the year he had five points in 21 games, and he was an utter ghost for most of those contests.
He still doesn't win faceoffs consistently, which would make his defensive duties that much easier.
Contract Status: Signed for three more years at $3.3 million cap hit.
Keep Him or Ship Him: Easy. Bolland's considered a major part of the core and certainly won't be going anywhere. His return to the lineup showed just how valuable he is.
There are so few players who can shut down the other teams' main threats while scoring themselves. Bolland is a rare find.
He goes through his doldrums, as he did early this year and for most of last year. But when he gets going, as he did in the Cup-run and in the middle part of this year, the Hawks are a significantly better team.
The only question that remains for the Hawks is whether Bolland is going to be their second or third center. is he just a checking pivot whose points are kind of a bonus? Or if he were released from his defensive duties, could he put up 60 or 70 points behind Toews? Is he too good at shutting down opponents to take that away?
A lot of where this summer goes depends on how the Hawks answer that. There wouldn't appear to be a wrong answer, but then again, there might not be a right one either.