Well, Stage 1 of this week’s offseason circus is now in the books. What are we left with?
The big news is obviously the trades of Dave Bolland and Michael Frolik for five picks. Bolland comes as no shock. He’d become to expensive for the role he had, and there are many options as replacements. Frolik was a bit of a surprise, just because it felt like he would have slotted perfectly into Viktor Stalberg’s role on the 3rd line. But again, a $2.2 million 4th liner is not a luxury you can afford for long. Frolik has been an underrated asset, sometimes criminally so, as he’s always driven possession no matter what role he was asked to play. And he’s been asked to play a lot of them in his time here.
All of this allowed the Hawks to re-sign Bryan Bickell for four years at $4m per. It’s a high number, I really wanted him at closer to 3. But considering what might have been thrown at him on the open market, that was probably a pipe dream.
What makes the difference is that there’s no one immediately ready to take that 3rd line size role, or even sizable winger role. I hear the name Jimmy Hayes a lot from people. But Hayes is being shifted to center at Rockford specifically because he hasn’t shown any willingness to be a physical winger. Essentially, Hayes wanted to be what Bickell once was, a floating, big sniper, and without Bicks’s defensive awareness. After Hayes, there just isn’t a lot in the system that can do it.
What I hope for is that no one is going to lose their minds when Bickell immediately doesn’t pour in 25 goals. Though he finished the year on the top line, let’s be honest and say that’s not what he is at all. He’s a third liner, maybe maxes out at a 2nd. I assume they’ll start him on the top line again next year, and probably swap him with Saad. But Bicks most likely is just going to be what he was for most of this year, a kick ass checking winger who chips in with goals here and there. And though that might not seem to justify the price tag, that’d be all right with me. But I do hope he continues to grow his game and becomes a true power forward. I’m just not banking on it.
So where are the holes now? It’s hard to say that they have a hole at 3rd and 4th center without Bolland when Kruger and Shaw are to return (likely in Kruger’s case), as well as any possible cheap, veteran signing (Boyd Gordon Boyd Gordon Boyd Gordon). Quite simply, the Hawks are more than prepared to move on with Fabulous Weapon (I’m actually quite excited to see how Kruger’s game grows from here).
Frolik’s absence is a little harder to fill. Ben Smith is obviously the first name you come up with to play on the 4th line — and could even center it as he was a decent face off guy in Rockford. Smith doesn’t have Fro’s speed, though he isn’t a plodder. He might even be a little more physical than Fro, however no one should doubt Frolik’s determination to get engaged even though he wasn’t the biggest guy. Smith can also kill penalties, and has a similar IQ to Frolik, and a lot of Kruger’s and Fro’s success on the kill came from between the ears. It’ll be something of a drop off, but not a huge one.
Jeremy Morin is another, and he’s added some grit to his game where you could see him on the 4th line for a time. That’s where he was in his brief stint up this past season. But his biggest asset is his nose for the net, so you feel like he needs to be higher up in the lineup. But with Bicks back, the left side has Saad, Sharp, and Bicks, and the right side has Hossa and Kane. Maybe Morin just has to settle.
The wildcard here is Phillip Danault. I’m sure the Hawks want him to spend the whole year at Rockford, and that would be best. But Danault does have a 4th line winger/energy aspect to his game, and if he tears it up for half a season in the A he could come up for air. Same could be said for Mark McNeill, I suppose. Or maybe even Garrett Ross?
As for the picks themselves, Ryan Hartman is an interesting pick in that much like a catcher in baseball, pests always seem to find a home in the NHL. It’ll take a while, but he’s got a part to his game that GMs and coaches love. However, as a 1st round pick – even as the last one — he’s got to have some offensive juice to justify that status. Going to take time with that.
Hawks went only down the middle and on the blue line from there, and some size. Carl Dahlstrom is intriguing, as the Hawks are very short on big d-men in the system behind Dylan Olsen (with Stephen Johns looking for all the world like he’s going to pull a Justin Schultz act and not be here). We’ll just have to see about the rest.
Farewell, Fabulous Weapon
This is the first time we’ve had to say goodbye to a member of the core, or at least one that was once considered part of it. Though it makes total sense and everyone saw it coming, there’s still a pang of sadness to see Dave Bolland go.
As you longtime readers know, there’s been no bigger fan of Bolland than me. During that first, torturous year out of the first lockout this century, it was Bolland’s numbers at London that kept me believing (I didn’t know back then that everyone put up numbers at London then).
From the moment he arrived here in Chicago, you could see a guy with a pretty stiff hockey IQ and pretty unpleasant to play against. But the thing with Bolls is that he always seemed capable of more. The 20-goal seasons I was sure were coming never arrived. A somewhat slick power play point-man never materialized, even though he was the best on the team at making plays from the goal line when he rotated down there. He had more vision than he showed. He had a bigger shot than he showed.
But of course he always saved it for when it counted. He drove the Sedins nuts. Or did he benefit from Seabrook and Keith nullifying them? He was close to dominant throughout all of the 2010’s run, and came up with huge goals against San Jose and Philadelphia when Toews stopped scoring. He was the inspiration for the near miracle comeback against Vancouver the next year. He was actually pretty damn good against Phoenix too, as he and Frolik were just about everywhere. And though this spring he slipped, he still had his moments — setting up the winner against Scum was first. The Cup winner next. And at least because of that, anyone who has a Bolland jersey can be comforted by it now being timeless.
But mostly, Bolland was just a lot of fun to have around. He was weird, at times scary, at times disappointing, but he was rarely boring. But he provided so many moments we’ll remember for a long time. He seems genuinely excited to go home and play for the Leafs, and I’m happy for him. It feels like a good transition for both sides.
It’s been a blast Dave, thanks for everything.