Dave Bolland Trade: What it Means for the Maple Leafs
By Lukas Hardonk (@LukasHardonk)
You may not have known who Dave Bolland was a few weeks ago but you probably found out about him shortly after he scored the game winning goal in Game Six of the Stanley Cup Final this month.
Now he's a Toronto Maple Leaf.
The Leafs made another big splash in the trade market during the NHL Entry Draft on Sunday when they acquired Bolland from the Chicago Blackhawks for three draft picks including a second round pick this year.
Bolland, 27, doesn't have the biggest frame but plays with a ton of grit. As TCL's Ron Guillet notes here, Bolland plays mostly "tough, defensive minutes." However he still produces offence (15-20 goals when healthy) and is your typical third line player.
Many have been calling for Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis to bring in a star centre who can log top offensive minutes and score goals or help setup Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul. Bolland most certainly is not that type of player but he does help solidify the Leafs' centre ice position for the time being.
The Maple Leafs now have a nice group of players to lineup down the middle. Mikhail Grabovski would anchor the top line if the season was to start today, with Nazem Kadri on the second line and Bolland and Jay McClement rounding out the lineup on the third and fourth trios respectively.
Without Bolland's addition we can only imagine that Grabovski would split time between the first and third lines while Joe Colborne found his way to the major leagues. Now that the Leafs have added the perfect guy to fill the third line role ─ assuming Bolland continues to play the defensive minutes he did in Chicago ─ Grabovski, who played significantly less minutes in 2013 than seasons past, is likely to see the ice time he needs to maximize his potential.
Grabovski's potential, as we know, could even be north of 30 goals. Keep in mind that he notched 29 goals during the 2010-2011 campaign while averaging 19:21 of ice time per game, 3:47 more than he averaged this season.
Now that the Leafs can allow Grabovski to play top minutes it has become less important for Nonis and his staff to aggressively search for a number one centre. Rather, they can now use left over cap money to focus on improving a shaky group of defencemen and find help for captain Dion Phaneuf, something that I believed to be number one on the team's list of priorities heading into the summer.
How could the Leafs not move on an rebuild the weakest part of the roster when they just traded for who Nonis believes to be someone the Leafs will be able to count on moving forward and someone who solidifies what now used to be a soft spot in the lineup?
"...I think he's [Randy Carlyle's] type of player," Nonis said. "He can play up and down the lineup. He's got enough skill that he can play with really good players. He's got grit and can play against really good players. I think he's going to be given a pretty significant role with us."
By no means if Dave Bolland the Maple Leafs' saving grace when it comes to improving at centre and becoming an offensively deadly team; he is a 15-20 goal scorer who plays tough defensive minutes. However he is someone who gives the team confidence at centre and allows management to worry about accomplishing other things before finding that rare first line centre.
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