Chicago Blackhawks: Defending Brandon Bollig and the 5-Minute Men

Jon FromiSenior Analyst IMarch 9, 2013

Brandon Bollig isn't all his naysayers make him out to be.
Brandon Bollig isn't all his naysayers make him out to be.Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Bollig is not a particularly skilled hockey player. He certainly wasn't an indispensable part of the 'Hawks juggernaut that feasted upon the Western Conference over the past two months.

That said, the guy isn't a worthless hockey player.

Bollig, as an infrequently used fourth-liner/enforcer, is always going to be subject to a degree of ridicule for what he doesn't bring to the table. I'm certain that there are fans cursing him for his part in the 6-2 shellacking at the hands of the Colorado Avalanche that snapped Chicago's point streak.

Bollig's part in the loss: 12 shifts totaling 7 minutes and 55 seconds, all coming at even strength. He did not commit a penalty. He attempted three shots on goal, none of which beat Semyon Varlamov. He was not on the ice for any of the eight goals scored in the game.

Even with the contest out of hand and Patrick Bordeleau in the Colorado lineup, Bollig wasn't involved in an altercation of the pugilistic variety. All in all, it was a pretty uneventful night for the guy.

Without even looking (I looked anyway), I knew that the 7:55 Bollig logged in ice time was his longest stint of the 2013 season.

He is even on the season, having been on the ice for two Blackhawks goals as well as two opposing goals. He has no points on the year and four fighting majors accounting for half of his 40 penalty minutes on the season. He's averaging 5:43 in his 12 appearances.

Looking at an advanced stat like on-ice Corsi, Bollig is fifth out of the 14 forwards that have suited up for Chicago this season. When the quality of the competition is factored in, he drops considerably, but his -1.221 (via Behind The Net) is still better than Andrew Shaw or Viktor Stalberg's ratings.

He is no difference-maker, no question about it. In five minutes a game, though, who is?

Jamal Mayers wins faceoffs, but he has been a shadow of the player he was at times last season. Is that age creeping up on Mayers or is it the drop in ice time from 9:48 to 6:44 per contest?

I make no bones about the fact that I would like to see Ben Smith on this roster. He can skate in a number of situations, get to the net and take faceoffs. However, I wouldn't expect him to flourish in the minutes Bollig receives. The same goes for Jeremy Morin, Jimmy Hayes or any Rockford skater possessing more offensive skill than Bollig.

A guy like Patrick Kane could make something happen in a five-minute role and I damn well hope so. He's being paid over 10 times what Bollig makes.

If coach Joel Quenneville is serious about rolling four lines as he wants us to believe, those fourth-line skaters should be at least pushing the 10-minute mark in terms of playing time most nights. If using Bollig in that capacity results in disaster, feel free to level the criticism.

Bollig isn't an obviously inferior skater, as was the case for John Scott, whose role Bollig has assumed. He has some zip on his shot. He isn't going to keep up with the Viktor Stalbergs of the world, but I seldom see the guy lagging far behind on his shifts.

If I have a dozen minutes to fill and want a skater to fill them, I choose Smith. Pick a prospect of your own to promote to such a role. If he isn't getting a regular shift, don't expect much—Bollig included.

The truth is that Brandon Bollig is not responsible for winning games. At the same time, he isn't responsible for losing them either.