Bollig is basically a younger, better version of Kevin Westgarth. Westgarth’s 30, has 16 points in 169 NHL games and has a Stanley Cup ring. Bollig is 27, has 14 points in 125 games and has a Stanley Cup ring. Westgarth played zero games during LA’s Cup run. Bollig played 15 in a checking role.
Kevin Westgarth was a spare part in Calgary, though often praised by teammates for being “good in the room.” Bollig’s a little bit smaller than Westgarth (6’2″, 220 instead of 6’4″, 230) and didn’t go to an Ivy League school, but otherwise he’s an upgrade on Westgarth in almost every way.
BOLLIG’S 2013-14 NUMBERS
Last season was Bollig’s first full season in the NHL after yo-yoing between the Blackhawks and the AHL’s Rockford Ice Hogs for a few years. He primarily played with Ben Smith and Marcus Kruger in a checking role. Of the seven players he played more than 200 even-strength minutes with, only one (Kruger) didn’t have better possession numbers without him. Here’s why.
Bollig’s actually a pretty good hockey player, granted he’s only played one full season in the bigs. His tandem with Smith and Kruger regularly got second-line opposition (only Patrick Kane’s line faced tougher opponents) and were absolutely buried alive in terms of zone starts, with Bollig starting just 18% of his shifts in the offensive zone. Given these circumstances, that he had his head above water possession-wise at even-strength is a minor miracle.
If you use Michael Parkatti’s adjusted Corsi metric – which allows for comparisons by adjusting for Quality of Competition, Quality of Teammates and Zone Starts – Bollig comes in at an Adjusted Corsi of 2.19, which would be about the same as Jiri Hudler. Granted, Bollig was on a stacked team, so even if you downgrade Bollig slightly due to this advantage, his first full year compares (possession-wise) to Joe Colborne. Well, minus the offense: Kruger (27) and Smith (24) both had significantly more point production at even-strength than Bollig (14).
Bollig’s a perfectly fine hockey player and seemed to work reasonably well for Chicago given his role. But he was obviously a piece they felt they could go forward without given their salary cap constraints.
Bollig was thrown to the wolves in Chicago and kept his head (ever-so-slightly) above water. Part of that was due to his linemates – Smith and Kruger are both pretty good players given their roles.
If I’m Bob Hartley, I look at Brandon Bollig as a useful player. The Flames have plenty of young players that will need the high ground in terms of zone starts and to be protected by playing against the lesser lights of other teams. And for the low, low price of a third round pick, the Flames got a player that doesn’t have a lot of offensive upside but can eat up minutes against the other team’s better players while being completely adequate at driving the play. Granted, Bollig probably won’t get the same kind of line-mate support he got in Chicago, but if he’s out there with Stajan and David Jones, for instance, I don’t think people will complain too much, as it means guys like Monahan and Gaudreau will get more opportunities in the O-zone.
Brian McGrattan is Calgary’s heavyweight dancing bear. He needs to get offensive zone starts and very few minutes. Brandon Bollig is Calgary’s middleweight, but he is likely much more useful because of his ability to start in the defensive zone, move the puck up the ice (or at least not give up ground) and give the coaching staff the ability to deploy the offensively-talented players more often in the offensive zone. If Bollig gets 15 points next season, I think the Flames will be happy as long as the kids make the most of the O-zone starts Bollig helps provides them with.