That time again, Mr. McClure. Lots of issues surrounding the Hawks these days, hard to pick out which ones we should discuss. We got to a lot of it in the roundtable, so let's cover something we haven't. Last night was unquestionable Dave Bolland's best offensive game. If you haven't seen the Feather's take on Bolland, I thought it was a brilliant sum up. Last night was as mobile as we've seen him. Do you think this will be the case more consistently from now on? Or does Bolland's game just based too naturally in setting up behind the net and be more stationary?
Connected to that, there 20 scouts in attendance, according to some reports. Bolland's name has been mentioned as a possibility to go. How would you feel about that? To me, it seems that Bolland would be shipped to bring in another center to allow Patrick Sharp to move full time to wing. But then you don't have a checking center, as I don't think Jake Dowell is capable of being that guy. No team post lockout has won without an effective checking center. The Canes had Rod Brind'Amour, the Ducks Sami Pahlsson, the Wings have like four, the Pens Jordan Staal, and of course Bolland from the Hawks last year. While we may complain about his offensive game, and the salary that suggests there should be more, can the Hawks afford to lose that type of player? In my mind, I don't think they can. While Bolland may never be what we truly want, though last night portends to a possibility of that one day, if this team is indeed built on the blue line and down the middle, then shipping him off for a #2 center is at best running in place.
I'll hang up and listen for my answer...
I think it comes down to simply having a specific task to do, as well as trotting out the old warhorse meatballism of "the best offense is a good defense". While the Hawks have hoped and prayed that Bolland can and will become a true #2 center, despite the numbers in junior, I really don't think it's going to manifest itself here. When Bolland has been asked to provide straight up offense, being surrounded by the likes of Kane and Hossa, the Feather does astutely point out that experiments like that have fallen flat on their ass, but I don't think it's a matter of his tendency to work from a stationary position behind the net. Bolland's, and as a result his linemates' offensive opportunities have come as a result from taking away the opposition's first. When an opposing line is bogged down in the neutral zone or stopped at the blue line, Bolland has the advantage of counter-punching against lines that aren't typically the most defensively responsible themselves, while having enough offensive polish to take advantage when someone is likely caught behind the play. That aspect also helps when the play is in that given line's defensive zone, as they're not accustomed to having to skate prolonged shifts at that end of the ice, which leads to blown coverages. We saw that last night because he was sent out shift after shift with the sole purpose of muting Matt Duchene and his Bang Bang Dance. It seems when he focuses on that aspect first, the offense comes as a result, though it can't be overlooked that when Bolland is out there in that role, it's usually Marlboro 72 patrolling the blue line for the Hawks, and we've seen for the past 3 years now that Duncan Keith is the linchpin of a great deal of the Hawks' success. Keith and Seabrook had a strong game last night and we saw the results.
This puts Bowman in an odd position, because it's not what he envisioned, nor what Bolland was paid by Dale Tallon to do, but as you point out is an invaluable skill in a playoff series. The idea that Bolland could be moved for a true #2 center to feed Sharp and/or Hossa is based on the assumption that there's one out there to be had. Barring an absolute nose-dive in the standings, Brad Richards isn't going anywhere, as many problems as that would solve. Past that, you'd have to get real creative to try to find someone that fits the description of a #2 center from a team in the shitter. Tim Connolly of Buffalo fits the bill, but he's a trip to Sick Bay waiting to happen. Daymond Langkow of the Flames seems to have shuffled his mortal coil. There were numerous options down the middle from the Bruins when they were dry humping the cap, but shipping Marco Sturm to the Kings has ameliorated their need or desire to move Savard, Krejci, or Bergeron (who was re-upped anyway). Matt Cullen of Minnesota is a nice idea and he's won a Cup as a #2 center, but his benefits don't outweigh the loss of Bolland if he's going to play like he did last night and last May. Jake Dowell, while he has improved greatly this year and has more game than I thought he had, hasn't been asked to ever provide that time of game and doesn't have nearly the offensive polish to be as effective a counter-puncher as Bolland has been. And quite honestly, while Dowell has certainly been willing to stick up for teammates, I don't know that he's capable or even aware of all of the nasty, sneaky, kinda-dirty shit that Bolland pulls that makes him so effective.
So, while there may have been scouts at the game, and other GM's can ask about whoever they want, unless someone presents a package to Stan for Bolland that really hits his g-spot and he can't say no to, my guess is that he's not going anywhere, and the Hawks will just have to hope that he finds his game. If the Hawks stay healthy and the "Three 6 Mafia" line of Bolland, Pisani, and Bickell can remain together and are given a specific line a night to go pin down, there's a good chance of that happening. But knowing what we do about this team this year, basing long-term core-related personnel decisions on those conditions may end up being folly.