Third in LBC's Season in Review series is center Dave Bolland, who has just finished the first of five years in a Florida Panthers jersey. Dave is a very controversial player down here in South Florida, given that he's paid the big bucks to be the team's shutdown center.
The Eye Test
Bolland does a lot of things right, which is why he looks good to certain general managers, pundits, and fans.
For example: He's can drive to the net, and has the skill to pick up the rebound and bury it.
When given the opportunity, he pushes the puck to the net, and creates scoring chances for his team.
He's got some decent passing skills, and can get the puck through traffic to teammates.
On defense, he bothers the opposition with his stick, and can be ferocious in the corners.
He also gets under the skin of the opposition.
Unfortunately, Bolland's effectiveness as an NHL player is skewered by the fact that he also experiences several "brain farts" a game, where he makes some uh... "Questionable" on ice decisions.
I'm not sure why he drifts behind the net here, as the puck is going in the opposite direction. It wouldn't be that much of an issue if he got back in time, but as you can see, he doesn't re-appear on camera until the very end of the GIF, and even then it's just for a split second at the left hand side of the frame.
This type of play wasn't a one time occurrence, either. It happened often. And once Bolland got back into the defensive zone, things didn't get much better.
I guess he does a good job of bothering Jesper Fast here? Fast still ends up with the puck, and it's ex-Panther Sean Bergenheim who has to poke check it from the Ranger forward. Even then, when Bolland ends up with the puck and has a chance to skate the puck out of the zone, he handcuffs Bergenheim with a questionable pass and it results in a failed breakout.
This one... I don't know. He goes and hits the guy, but then just kind of drifts back into the middle and lets the guy he just hit get a shot off.
When the puck does manage to leave the defensive zone, things don't really improve for the former London Knight.
Scottie Upshall gets hung out to dry along the boards when Bolland cuts behind him.
All he had to do was push to the net. Even if the back-checker locks him off, the middle of the ice opens up for Upshall. The team's highest paid center essentially helps the defense by pushing Upshall down the boards.
I mean... This is the definition of a brain fart. The former Chicago Blackhawk eyeballs the defenseman covering him instead of making a play on the puck. It's almost as though he forgot which zone of the ice he was in.
As I have diagrammed above, there is lots of empty space along the boards. All Bolland has to do is turn to space, and instead he flings it into the corner.
Also, for those who might suggest that he doesn't have the skill to turn and create space for himself... Doesn't that indicate that he shouldn't be taking up a roster spot on a playoff caliber team? I tend to think that the ability to create space is a necessary component of playing a possession-based game.
Overall, Bolland has moments when he's useful. He also has moments when he looks lost, and these can offset the amount of offensive zone time the team gets while he's on the ice. I understand why people can like Dave Bolland; I hope those same people can start to understand why I am not big on his play.
What I will say, however, is that going off of his usage and his dCorsi, he's a very slightly below average third line center, or a decent fourth line option. He's massively overpaid, but he produces at an average rate and can play in a shutdown role.
For those who don't believe what I just wrote, I'll say it again. He's massively overpaid, but he produces at an average rate and can play in a shutdown role.
Sounds like the perfect guy to be the team's fourth line center.
I say a fourth line center above, and that is something that I definitely mean. A team should not consist of several "shutdown" lines that don't have offensive responsibility. Instead, you can have three scoring lines, and one shutdown line. This frees you up to shelter one or two of the scoring lines from tough competition and defensive usage.
Seriously, think about how much production you could get out of Vincent Trocheck, Nick Bjugstad, Brandon Pirri, Reilly Smith, Jussi Jokinen, and possibly Rocco Grimaldi if you gave them tons of offensive zone face-offs and weak competition. Teams would obviously try to matchup against the Barkov line, but then the lower scoring lines would feast on their opponents.
All of that hinges on the fourth line being used in an exclusively defensive role. If they get all of the heavy defensive zone usage, it frees up the rest of the team.
So, to conclude, the statement "Dave Bolland needs to be the team's fourth line center" isn't me devaluing him as a player. It's me trying to construct the best possible roster.
As a final takeaway from this piece, here's all you need to know: Bolland makes a lot of good plays, but also makes a lot of really bad ones. This results in his poor possession numbers. Despite his salary and poor possession numbers, he's a decent option for the team if he plays in a shutdown role, on the fourth line.
(statistics taken from war-on-ice.com. Possession metrics are score adjusted and at 5 on 5)