Photo via @Michael_Peake
Amid the frenzy that is the Olympics, it’s a little hard to remember that there are Leafs things still happening ahead of their return game on the 27th. For example, did you know they started practicing yesterday? Yes, while Kulemin, van Riemsdyk, and Kessel continued to chase a shiny circle on a ribbon, the rest of the team hit the ice at the Mastercard Centre and began to get themselves back into gear. Notably on that list? David Bolland, practicing on the third line with Mason Raymond and Troy Bodie.
Bolland has missed 45 games after a laceration to his left ankle on November 2nd, and has been able to take advantage of this Olympic break to rehab without technically missing any more time. He seems to feel confident that he’ll be good to go soon, and be playing at full steam in no more than a couple of games.
BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN?
Realistically, one should keep their expectations tempered. While his great start paired with the Leafs winning gave the impression that he’s the straw that stirs the drink in Toironto, there are zero guarantees that his play will puck up where he left off. His numbers, both standard and underlying, are way above his career norms and I can’t imagine a major injury followed by a three and a half month break is the best means to sustain such a tear.
Even beyond natural statistical regression, injuries like this aren’t exactly an easy thing to come back from. Erik Karlsson is the comparable that people were making in terms of injury length and recovery, and while he was still producing points (he’s Erik Karlsson), sputtered a bit in his all-around game to close out last season. That’s an elite level player playing expected elite hockey, so one can imagine that Bolland might take some time to be fully into it.
The coming weeks and potentially months will be very telling to see how physically capable he is and how much of his first fifteen games were or weren’t just a hot start. The restraint of Leafs management to commit to an extension mid-recovery despite rumours to the contrary is something I like seeing, especially after what happened with John-Michael Liles (signed while recovering from a concussion).
Bolland’s first game back could be as early as February 27th.