Many fans of the Chicago Blackhawks have had to brace themselves for a very serious reality here in the early going of the 2013-14 season: Brandon Bollig isn't going anywhere. That's right, Brandon Bollig has established himself as a regular in the lineup for the defending champions. And for some reason, I feel like that may not be the worst thing for the Hawks.
Wait, please don't leave.
What I mean to say is that Brandon Bollig has become rather useful as his short time with the Blackhawks has worn on. He's gone from a guy that was strictly a face puncher, to someone who is actually a serviceable hockey player. That's not to say that he's the type you want out there anywhere near the top nine forwards, but he's actually beginning to serve a purpose.
In 43 games with the Blackhawks prior to the 2013-14 season, Bollig failed to notch a single point. He regularly fell short of the 10 minute mark in terms of his average time on ice, going for 109 penalty minutes and a minus-3 rating over that span.
That's not to say that Bollig has gone out and played 15-17 minutes per game and has been anything resembling an offensive force. Yes, Bollig has appeared in every game for the Blackhawks this season. All 28. He's even contributed seven points to the mix, including a nasty wrist shot past everybody's favorite Mike Smith on Saturday night. He's been trotted out for a bit of penalty kill time as well, though nothing significant.
However, it does help to illustrate the fact that Bollig is becoming somewhat useful in this lineup. Now, there are still some glaring issues in his game. His possession numbers are putrid, he's slow, and, of course, he's nowhere near skilled enough to contribute anywhere other than a bottom line role with this team. That doesn't mean we should simply dismiss him, though, as easy as that's been to do in his first couple of seasons with the team.
Joel Quenneville likes Brandon Bollig and what he brings to the mix. While a skilled team like the Hawks may not necessarily seem to have room for an enforcer like Bollig, he's managed to forge himself a place in this lineup. He's a physical forward capable of dropping the gloves, but he's managed to make his role into something more. His game probably doesn't have any other levels than what it's at right now, but the fact of the matter is that he has made himself into a real hockey player, even if the final result is unspectacular.