The Rat returns to the United Center Saturday night when his new team, the Toronto Maple Leafs, visits Chicago. The reception Bolland receives should be befitting of a conquering hero, and I'm sure the full house at the Madhouse won't disappoint.
After sneaking around the net to knock in the goal that won Chicago the 2012-13 Stanley Cup, Bolland was traded to the Maple Leafs for draft picks mere days after the victory parade. The Ontario native is now working in a Toronto sweater and trying to live up to the expectations of that proud fanbase.
Not that Bolland is a stranger to high expectations.
Bolland attained near mythical status as a shutdown center in the postseason. The Blackhawks gave him a shot at the second line last year hoping to see his offense bloom. The result was seven goals and seven assists in 35 regular-season games. Bolland was also an uncharacteristic minus-seven for the shortened season.
Come summer, a choice needed to be made by management. With Marcus Kruger developing into a quality stopper and talent in the pipeline, Bolland's $3.375 million salary was shipped north.
It's difficult not to justify the trade, as Bolland's health has been an issue in recent seasons. He missed 13 of 48 games in 2012-13 due to a parade of nagging injuries. He had what I consider to be a sufficient chance to center Marian Hossa and Patrick Sharp and didn't overwhelm in that capacity.
It stung a little to see a player who helped win two Stanley Cups in his six-plus years with the 'Hawks moving on. However, it is going to work out for both sides.
General manager Stan Bowman got three draft picks—a second- and fourth-round pick this past summer and a fourth-rounder in 2014. The Maple Leafs get an experienced center who is capable of playing a very effective two-way game.
The Maple Leafs come to Chicago with Bolland centering the second line to the tune of six points (3 G, 3 A) in eight games. He has two game-winners already this season for a Toronto club that is 6-2 heading into the contest.
Bolland is well-deserving of the reception he should receive before the game. Once the puck drops, however, the 'Hawks need to be all business. Chicago is still looking to put together a 60-minute effort. It would be fine by me if the first one this season comes at the expense of the Rat.
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