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Well, We’re Waiting – 2013 Blackhawks Season Preview – The 3rd Line

Moving right along down the depth chart we now come to perhaps the most stable unit of the post 2010 era, Dave Bolland’s third line. While Bolland has never truly become the force of nature that his numbers in junior or his paycheck would have suggested, that he has become one of the premier checking forwards in the NHL is still a victory in and of itself.However, the line he’s been a fixture on is not without its flaws, Bolland included, and it will need to find consistency in short order for this abbreviated season to be a successful one for the Hawks.

Dave Bolland

76GP 19G 18A Even+/- 47PIM 15.1% 16:30TOI -.041BTN

The Rat enjoyed his most healthy and productive season scoring-wise since 08-09, tying a career high in goals with 19, and even in that campaign his shooting percentage was markedly up to a robust 17.1. But the real tale of the stats is the even plus/minus and the barely negative behind the net, as Bolland continued to be a workhorse for Joel Quenneville, playing some of the nastiest minutes in the league. Barely over 30% of Bolland’s shifts start in the offensive zone, and his quality of competition was 10th in the league at .086, only behind Brent Seabrook on the Hawks. While part of his offensive success last year can be attributed to Toews being dingy for a long stretch and someone needing to score in his absence, the sample size is large enough to show that Bolland dragged whatever linemates he had by the dick into competence. He’ll need to do the same this year, with all the same caveats- that his back could go Mt. Vesuvius at any given moment, and that he’s not going to win a draw to save his life. Bolland’s been skating fairly regularly here in town, when he wasn’t making a total fucking joke of himself on Twitter, so the conditioning is a concern. With Philip Danault eating souls in the Q and posting a similar skillset while being younger and cheaper, this could be our last long look at Bolland in the Indianhead.

Bryan Bickell

71GP 9G 15A -4 48PIM 10.1% 12:08TOI -.56BTN

Another player who might be taking his last trip around the carousel with the Hawks is Bryan Bickell, who will assuredly earn himself a larger salary than his current pube-above league minimum wage. Once Bick finally realized that he was not in fact Joe Sakic and nor did he have his wrist shot despite what his stats from the previous year kept telling him, he actually became relatively useful once everyone’s game needed to be streamlined in Toews’ absence. Bickell used his size more, but still not as aggressively as one would like. Nonetheless, he’ll undoubtedly be featured on Bolland’s line, and entrusted to make life difficult for opposing D men in their own corners. The smart money (the appropriate metaphor in this case) is that Bickell does so with a fervor this year, with unrestricted free agency on the horizon and a small window to make that matter in. Additionally, Bickell’s put up 27 points in 28 games for the Austrian league during the prelude to the NHL season, so he should be ready to charge ahead from jump street.

Michael Frolik

63GP 5G 10A -10 22PIM 4.3% 12:52TOI -1.44BTN

This is where things get a little iffy. While many observers would love to slot Andrew Shaw on Bolland’s right wing, the fact of the matter is that Shaw’s game is simply too irresponsible to be entrusted with this role, as evidenced by his numbskullery in the show, and it continuing unabated with the Swine so far this year.

There’s no getting around how rough of a year Fro had last year. That shooting percentage and BTN is enough to make little 6lb, 8oz, don’t know a word yet Baby Jesus cry. But much of that has to do with the perpetual crank-yanking he received from the coaching staff. One game on Toews’ wing, one game eating popcorn. One game as the #2 center, one game grooming those magnificent eyebrows. If given a home with Bolland, and the expectations are reconnoitered to him being the next Jay Pandolfo rather than the next Jagr (as he was at the time of his draft), then it stands to reason that the holes in his game can be masked, most notably a shot selection that would leave Nate Robinson befuddled. Frolik has shown the last two post seasons that he’s got the bag and the brain (something Shaw severely lacks) for such a role, it’s time to give it a whirl full time, and he should be ready to go as well after playing in the Czech league to this point. It stands to reason that this could be Frolik’s last chance with the Hawks as well, though if he steps in it again, that contract becomes mighty tough to deal, and the pitchforks for Stan come out again.

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