The role of enforcers in the NHL is evolving and will certainly have an impact on the game forever going forward. Previously, the legends were tough as nails, but size proved to dominate the enforcers’ culture as the 2000s wore on.
However, the new decade began with the role of the enforcer changing once again. Roster space and a more advanced game pace have rendered true enforcers as a liability rather than an asset. That’s why as this season pushes onward, Chicago Blackhawks fans should be thankful to have Brandon Bollig on the bench, evolving from fighter to an effective fourth-line grinder with potential to move up the bench when needed.
New rules coupled with the Blackhawks’ ideology of a puck-possession offense gave Bollig the motivation to improve his game, where previously fighters were told that hockey could actually be a distraction to their real job.
Yesterday against the Winnipeg Jets, Bollig had himself a career game — the first multi-point game of his still-young career. A goal and an assist to go along with a +3 rating proved that Bollig’s versatility has made him irreplaceable on a fourth line that will be evolving throughout the season with Ben Smith, Marcus Kruger and Brad Mills likely seeing time on the wing going forward.
That being said, Bollig’s 27 penalty minutes are by far the most on the team, most of them coming on penalties such as roughing and boarding as opposed to only one fighting major this season. And while those certainly need to be limited, especially with the Blackhawks league-worst penalty kill, they serve as a reminder that Bollig is by no means a finesse player. That said, he has come a long way from being purely an enforcer.
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