On Saturday evening, Dave Bolland returns to the United Center.
There is historical significance to Bolland’s return. He will be only the third two-time Stanley Cup champion Blackhawk to play in Chicago with another team. The other two: Louis Trudel (with Montreal) and Elwyn “Doc” Romnes (with Toronto), both of whom came back to Chicago during the 1938-39 season.
But to fans and teammates alike, Bolland is more than a historical footnote.
The Blackhawks selected Bolland in the second round of the 2004 Draft out of the OHL, and then watched him put up 215 points (91 goals, 124 assists) in 125 games with the London Knights over the following two seasons. After his 130-point, 104-penalty minute 2005-06 campaign, the Hawks sent him to Norfolk to begin his professional career.
Bolland made his NHL debut with one game in the 2006-07 season, but came up to stay during the 2007-08 season.
Of course, the 2007-08 season also saw the debuts of Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and will forever be seen as the year the Blackhawks’ renaissance officially began.
Bolland never became the offensive force his junior production may have led some to believe he would be, but he settled in and became an effective third line center. His first full season in the NHL – 2008-09 – was his best, as he totaled a career-best 47 points and scored 19 goals, a total he has reached once since (2011-12).
Back surgery limited Bolland to 39 regular season games during the 2009-10 season, but he was one of the critical pieces to that championship team. He scored eight goals and added eight assists in 22 postseason games as the Hawks captured the Cup for the first time in 49 years.
His chirping with opponents, especially members of the Vancouver Canucks, made him a fan favorite. And his ability to get into the heads of elite opponents made him one of the best agitators in the game.
Unfortunately, his $3.375M cap hit, and the presence of Andrew Shaw, made Bolland expendable this summer. And, with the Hawks looking to add picks in the draft, Bolland was dealt to his hometown Maple Leafs for three picks – a second and fourth in the 2013 Draft, and a fourth in the 2014 Draft.
(The picks the Blackhawks received in the 2013 Draft were used on Carl Dahlstrom and Fredrik Bergvik.)
All of the moves made after the 2010 Cup victory sent players to the Eastern Conference (though the then-Atlanta Thrashers are now the Winnipeg Jets, and are in the Hawks’ division). Indeed, Blackhawks fans did not have the opportunity to thank many of the stars of that team the following season.
I’m sure Bolland will receive a nice ovation on Saturday night. And he should. Bolland was one helluva player in Chicago, and will forever be linked to the organization’s rebirth.