Dave Bolland, a player on one of the most lucrative contracts for the Florida Panthers finally returned to play against the St. Louis Blues after being healthy scratched for three consecutive games.
Bolland, a free agent signing in the summer of 2014, was brought in as a gritty veteran presence with Stanley Cup experience pedigree. With Dale Tallon outbidding the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida landed Bolland for a reported $27.5 million dollar contract for five years.
His first season resulted in 23 points in 53 games. As has been the case for a lot of Bolland’s career, injury derailed his season somewhat. Still, he put respectable but hardly outstanding numbers for his first season in Florida. His play became better when the Panthers were making their final run to make the playoffs. Unfortunately, they just missed out.
This season, he has started with underwhelming offensive output. Of course, Bolland is used primarily as a shutdown centerman against other opponent’s top lines. Still, for a player paid so much, more goals and points would be nice. It would really help a Panthers team struggling for offense.
However, as well as his poor offensive production, his defensive abilities have been suspect so far this season. His faceoff percentage is an alarming 46 percent. And as a gritty player, he commits a lot of unnecessary penalties, which leaves the Panthers shorthanded far too often.
Perhaps this was being noticed before his healthy scratching, as Bolland’s ice team was decreasing significantly, so Gerard Gallant was seeing something he did not like. And fair play to Gallant for scratching Bolland if he was not happy with his on ice performance. Players should be based on their ability and what they bring to the ice, not how much they are paid.
Time for Bolland to Step Up
Hopefully, the three consecutive games that Bolland was healthy scratched for will get him going. Perhaps we can see the Dave Bolland that was a key component for the Chicago Blackhawks. If anything, at least with Bolland back, it will give the young star pivot Aleksander Barkov more time in the offensive zone.
Without Bolland, Barkov is deployed in more of a shutdown role, where he generally excels in. However, with Bolland back, it means Barkov can operate more in the offensive zone. Of course, Barkov will still be used in the defensive zone, but his time will be split more effectively, which should hopefully provide a more balanced system and overall better team.
And with Nick Bjugstad injured, this is the perfect time for Bolland to stake his place in the team, and live up to his contract, and help the Panthers make the playoffs.