Weve all gotten used to seeing Chicago Blackhawks forward Dave Bolland in a certain role: center of the third line, leader of the checkers, aggravator of the Sedins.
But on Sunday, the Blackhawks first day of training camp, Bolland was taking a different role: second-line center, between two scoring snipers. And while line changes are always possible with the Blackhawks, for now its Bollands opportunity to move up one.
Bolland skated between Patrick Sharp and Patrick Kane on the Blackhawks No. 2 line, as team staff is ready to see him spread his scoring wings. Bolland has proven himself as the checking-line center; hes good at it, and good at getting in opposing top line players heads. But theres always been that other side of Bolland, the guy who can get on some scoring streaks, and the Blackhawks are hoping to see that more with this move.
Everybody kind of puts him as a third-line center, in that checking role, and a lot of times that line can be our best line. So having some offensive guys surrounding (Bolland), we think thered be nice production with the three of them plus theres some defensive responsibility, coach Joel Quenneville said. I like the balance that line shows.
General manager Stan Bowman agreed.
Weve talked about giving him an expanded role on our team for some time, and the time is now, Bowman said. On some of our playoff runs, he has ability to do things offensively. In that role, its probably more important that a player has the awareness to play in his own end. We have some high-end offensive players on wings. He doesnt have to surpass them; just play the defensive role on that line and be able to read off them, which Dave can do.
Bolland, who has played that role briefly a few times, is ready for the opportunity.
Playing with Kaner and Sharpie is always a privilege. Its a big role to embrace and I think Im ready for it, said Bolland. For sure, the offense is there. But Ive always been taught that defense is the game and you have to take care of that. Itll be a different mindset, going against different lines out there. But itll be good.
Bolland tallied 19 goals last season, tying a career high set in 2008-09. For Kane, the potential for Bolland to help linemates, and score more himself, is there.
Ive had some success playing with Bolland, and I know other players have in the past, Kane said. Hes a great center. He does a lot of things you want a center to do, moving the puck up ice and doing other things wingers arent supposed to. (His offense) is overlooked. He has all the talent in the world. Hes got a great shot, great hands. And hopefully he can show that.
Sharp said Bollands defensive skills are an added bonus for the line.
Bolleys a great player and weve had success in the past, he said. Theres a lot of talk with him playing with Kaner and myself, but hes still going to play his game. Hes still going to be tough to play against.
Bollands defense will remain. The Blackhawks dont want him to lose that. They just see his scoring potential, and they want to see it more.
Bolland, offensively, has skill. You can argue on any team of the league he could be the second-line center. But we dont expect him to be just in that (checking) role. I think theres more there.