Bourque went without a goal and posted a minus-9 over the course of 13 games early in the current campaign and that wasn’t good enough for the Habs. He was a healthy scratch the past two games and Jiri Sekac took his place on the third line.
Bourque is in the fifth year of a six year deal with the Canadiens and has a cap hit of $3.3 million on the contract he initially inked with the Flames. If Bourque stays with the Bulldogs for the rest of the season, the Habs will save $925,000.
“We believe that we gave him an opportunity. He was having a hard time to find his game,” Montreal head coach Michel Therrien said. “The biggest reason why the organization decided to send him down to Hamilton is to try and find his game back, the way he’s supposed to play. We’re not closing any doors, but he needs to go out there and perform the way he’s supposed to perform.”
Last season, Bourque posted nine goals to go with seven assists in a 63-game campaign. The upshot came in the post-season, when he led the Canadiens with eight goals and led the charge to the Eastern Conference Final.
Right from the bell at training camp, Bourque was paired with Lars Eller to try to recreate some of the magic from the playoffs. Unfortunately, the Habs saw Bourque drag Eller down and they wound up facing tough assignments on the ice. The offensive production wasn’t there and something had to be done, which eventually led to Monday’s demotion for Bourque.
With 39 points in 141 regular season games with the Canadiens, one has to wonder where exactly expectations lie for Bourque. The playoff performance clearly wasn’t the norm, yet there is a sense that anything less than recreating that buzz is going to fall short. Are the Habs being too hard on him or is there a point in expecting such high offensive output?
Bourque, by most accounts, seems to be a streaky player capable of great things but incapable of sustaining those great things over the long haul. He’s a prototypical NHL power forward, as many have put it, and he has the size and ability to get some things done. But those things aren’t necessarily aligned with what expectations have been of him and some retooling may be in order.
Maybe this demotion will get the job done for the 32-year-old. Or maybe it will serve as an opportunity for someone younger and more consistent to come up and fill in the gaps for the Habs. Smart money is on the latter.