Blackhawks open lockout-shortened camp on Sunday
BY MARK LAZERUS Sun-Times Media January 13, 2013 10:54PM
GM Stan Bowman is confident Dave Bolland will be up to the challenge of centering the second line. | Richard A. Chapman~Sun-Times
Updated: February 15, 2013 6:28AM
CHICAGO — Dave Bolland figured it out pretty quickly once he got to the NHL. If he wanted to stick around a while, he had to put away those dreams of being a top-line forward, a highlight-reel guy, a scoring machine.
“Once I got up and was playing with the big team, I knew to stay up here it was either play defense or be back in the minors,” Bolland said. “And it was never fun down there.”
So Bolland focused on his defense and on playing responsible hockey, becoming a valuable member of the Blackhawks as the checking-line center for most of his five NHL seasons. But deep down lurked a scorer just waiting to break out. After all, this is a guy who tallied 57 goals and 130 points in 59 games in his last junior season in the Ontario Hockey League, in 2005-06. A guy who scored 19 goals in 2008-09 and again last season despite playing mostly on the checking line. A guy who had eight goals and eight assists during the Hawks’ run to the Stanley Cup in 2010.
“We always somehow (peg) him as that type of player, but we expect him to not just be in that role,” Hawks coach Joel Quenneville said. “I think there’s more there.”
Well, Bolland’s going to get his chance to prove it.
The Hawks opened their abbreviated training camp on Sunday — the first of five workouts before they leave for Los Angeles for Saturday’s season-opener against the defending champion Kings — and Bolland found himself skating in between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane. A viable second-line center has been the Blackhawks’ white whale for a few seasons now, and Bolland hopes he can be the missing piece.
“I embrace my role, and whatever is thrown at me, I take it,” he said. “If this is what it is right now, I’ll take it. It’s a big role and I’m ready to embrace it.”
Bolland should get an extended audition. With such a short training camp and no preseason games, there’s not much time for tinkering, even for the famed tinkerer Quenneville. And Hawks general manager Stan Bowman said Sunday that a trade or big signing is “possible, but unlikely.” Like Quenneville, he wants to see what Bolland can do.
“We’ve slotted Dave in at that third-line role for a long time,” Bowman said. “(But) each player in our team always has room for growth in their game. In order to demonstrate that, you have to give them the opportunity. Now is the time. … We certainly know he can play in that role he’s been playing in. But his pedigree prior to coming to the Blackhawks — he was an offensive player. There are a lot of players that score in junior don’t that dont translate over. But he’s got a lot of skill.”
Both Kane and Sharp welcomed the idea of flanking Bolland. But nobody’s expecting him to become a 50-goal scorer. In fact, they don’t want want him to change much at all.
“He’s still going to play his game,” Sharp said. “He’s still going to be tough to play against, and win face-offs, play well defensively, and we’ll see how it goes.”
That balance is exactly what Quenneville is seeking.
“Offensively, we think that’ll be some nice production between the three of them,” Quenneville said. “And at the same time, there’s some responsibility defensively. I like the balance that line shows. Bolly, offensively, has some skill. You can argue that every team in the league, Bolly could be their second-line center.”
The Hawks just hope he can be theirs, so they can finally stop looking for one.