Cubs

Blackhawks breakdown: Dave Bolland

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Blackhawks breakdown: Dave Bolland

CSNChicago.com Blackhawks Insider Tracey Myers and PGL host Chris Boden will evaluate the 2011-12 performance of each player on the Hawks roster. One breakdown will occur every weekday in numerical order.

Dave Bolland logged 16 12 minutes per game in 76 games in 2011-12. He matched his career-high with 19 goals and added 18 assists for 37 points. Bolland was one of the few Hawks who really stood out on special teams with a career-high seven power play goals and career-best three shorthanded goals. Bolland was even in plusminus, delivered 58 hits and won 48.4 percent of his faceoffs. He did not score a goal in the playoff series vs. Phoenix, finishing with three assists and an even rating.

Boden's take: The third-line center turns only 26 next week, and his value is highest come playoff time. While he had his healthiest season in three years and matched his career-best goal total (19), he remains somewhat of a riddle to Hawks fans who want to see more impact offensively with the defense and agitation he's usually so good at providing in crunch time. But at that end of the ice, the body of work indicates he won't come close to the 57 goals he amassed six years ago in London (OHL). Part of it has to do with ever-changing linemates he's been playing with. Faceoff consistency is another area the Hawks could use some improvement from him.

Myers' take: The checking-line center enjoyed his healthiest season since 2008-09, although his numbers werent too far off last season, when he played just 61 games. Bolland is still strong at shutting down the oppositions best scorers. He had his share of linemates this season - and played the second-line center position for a brief moment - and defensively, he was fine. Points-wise, he was streaky. Bolland was once again gathering up points at the time of year he usually does: the end of it. But there were some big gaps in there during the season, and the Blackhawks needed he and others to bolster their secondary scoring more.

2012-13 Expectations

Boden: With two years and less than 7 million left on his contract, some may wonder if Bolland could be one of Stan Bowman's moveable parts this off-season if he's looking to shake things up. Adding to the intrigue is the presence of Marcus Kruger -- if Patrick Kane's the second-line center and Jamal Mayers is back in the middle on the fourth line -- there's too many men in the middle. But when all is said and done, they'd have to replace a guy who provides 15-20 goals (sure, you probably wouldn't mind him getting it up to 25), and has been a plus-35 over the past four regular seasons and plus-11 the past four postseasons playing against the opponents top line. Phoenix's leading goal-scorer this season, Radim Vrbata, was held to one assist in the playoff series. If the Hawks do to trade him away, they would need someone who could step in and provide something similar.

Myers: Bolland needs to have another season like the last one in terms of his health. And while it may be a thought to shop Bolland elsewhere, it should remain just that. Yes, they have an extra center or two right now, but Bowman has constantly talked about how you can never have too many of them. So don't get rid of him. Of all of the Blackhawks' role-player types, he has still been the most consistent of that group. The Blackhawks need his checking ability and his presence in that locker room.

How do you feel about this evaluation? As always, be sure to chime in with your thoughts by commenting below and check out highlights of Bolland above.

Up next: Jimmy Hayes

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Can the Cubs clinch the playoff berth or will the Brewers continue to sneak up on them?

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USA TODAY

Baseball Night in Chicago Podcast: Can the Cubs clinch the playoff berth or will the Brewers continue to sneak up on them?

Ozzie Guillén and Scott Podsednik join Leila Rahimi from the studio to talk about the Cubs potential for clinching the playoff berth. Will the Brewers continue to sneak up on the Cubs?

Plus, Is Moncada's season considered a success?

Listen here or in the embedded player below!

Bobby Portis happy with sixth-man role as extension deadline hovers

Bobby Portis happy with sixth-man role as extension deadline hovers

A reserve role suits Bobby Portis so much that his already-wide eyes got bigger when the prospect of entering a season with a defined role was broached following the Bulls’ first practice.

Wide eyes like when he pops off the bench nearing the halfway point of the first quarter. Wide eyes like when he knows shots are coming his way, and this year, those eyes are aiming for a Sixth Man of the Year award.

“It feels good,” Portis said, almost cutting off the query because he was so excited at the notion.

“It kind of made my summer easier. I knew I wasn’t fighting for a starting spot. I knew I wasn’t fighting for minutes. I just worked on my game the most I could and worked on that role.”

The start to his season was marred by his incident with Nikola Mirotic but that’s only the first line in Portis’ story as he developed and matured on the floor into a dependable contributor after languishing behind the likes of Pau Gasol, Taj Gibson, Joakim Noah and Mirotic his first two seasons.

So pardon him if he cuts off a question to express his joy—he doesn’t have to look over his shoulder for the first time in a long time.

“Last year they said it was make or break for me,” Portis said. “Every year I guess is make or break. I’m having fun, enjoying my teammates, trying to be more of a leader this year, lead by example. Do all the little things.”

His 13.2 points and 6.8 rebounds look fine, but even on a lottery team that wasn’t focused on winning Portis established himself as a core piece and a trophy of sorts for the front office as a mark for their player development program.

He went from a power forward who wasn’t athletic enough to a matchup nightmare as a backup center, coming off the bench to launch from any and everywhere, hitting 80 3-pointers at a 36 percent clip.

“I get to come off the bench and score a lot. Who doesn’t like to score the ball? That’s a fun gig,” Portis said. “Coach has trust in me to shoot the shots I want to shoot. It’s a fun gig to have.”

With Zach LaVine, Jabari Parker and Lauri Markkanen expected to have main roles as scorers, one has to wonder if Portis will be as needed offensively—and if he isn’t, the team-first approach will be put to the test.

But this is also someone who volunteered to go to the bench last year when he saw he wasn’t quite a great fit in the first five shortly after the All-Star break.

“We were experimenting with some different lineups,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “And after I think it was after the third game he started and he came and said ‘Coach, can you put me off the bench again?’ You don’t hear that very often at this level.”

That consistency, and Portis’ overall demeanor that can possibly play a big part in this faceless team developing a true identity has led to Portis and the front office entering into discussions about a contract extension before he reaches restricted free agency.

The Bulls have until Oct. 15 to get a deal done with Portis, a prospect very much out of his hands. But the goal of being a sixth man is something very much in his hands, and should he become a top candidate it would surely mean the Bulls are in a better position than most expect.
Just in this decade alone, every award winner has played for a playoff team save for Lou Williams last season for the 42-40 L.A. Clippers.

“I really like that role,” Portis said. “I look at other guys around the league---Eric Gordon, Lou Will, guys like that. They come in and change the game. I feel I can do that for this club. It’s fun doing that.”