Sunday, 12 August 2012

Welcome (back) to Montreal: Francis Bouillon

Earlier this month we started looking at new Habs GM Marc Bergevin's work on Canada day 2012. We discussed free-agent prize Brandon Prust.

Bergevin also brought in Colby Armstrong, and brought back Francis Bouillon. There are many commonalities among the three players - the main being that they are hard workers who will bleed for the logo on their jersey. In the case of Bouillon and Armstrong however, they also have familiarity with Head Coach Michel Therrien.

Bringing Armstrong and Bouillon in to the Habs dressing room cements that the new relationship being forged between Head Coach and General Manager is one built on strong communication - both in the Press Box and in the dressing room.

The history between Bouillon and Therrien is long and strong. They first worked together in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. From 1992-1995 Therrien coached the rugged defenseman for 3 seasons with the Laval Titan before both moved to the Granby Predateurs for the 1995/1996 season. Therrien coached that Granby Predateurs team to it's first Memorial Cup victory in 25 years. As Captain of the team, Bouillon was the first player to parade around the Memorial Cup.

When Michel Therrien took over as Head Coach of the Canadiens (the first time) in November 2000, he was instrumental in getting Bouillon his first taste of NHL action. Bouillon played 74 games that season. 

In a 2005 interview with the Montral Gazette's Stu Cowan, Therrien (then coaching the Penguins' AHL affiliate in Wilkes-Barre/Scranton) said that his one big regret in leaving Montreal was "that I was not able to coach Francis Bouillon (more) when I was there.”

Bouillon is a hard working defensive defenseman. Last season with Nashville, he threw 103 hits in 66 games. Bouillon will always give you everything he has. "It was the biggest disappointment of my career to leave the Canadiens. It happened a little weirdly, but I do not blame anyone today and I'm looking towards the future" Bouillon told RDS after news of his signing broke. He received a 1 year, $1.5 million dollar contract from the Habs. 

When asked about reuniting with Michel Therrien, Bouillon was very candid, "Michel and I've had some great moments together during my career. I was very happy with his re-hiring by the Canadiens and I am very excited to return to his team."

"It's going to be team first," he said. "He's going to give a lot to the guys who work their ass off. He doesn't like the lazy guys or the guys who think they have good skill and they don't have to work. He like the rough game, and if you don't play rough or don't show up and want to win, he's going to play somebody else."

"He's pretty intense in everything he does....he wants to win," Bouillon added. "He was my pick (for Habs coach). He's got the character, and I think right now what they need to bring that team back on the right track  is  a coach who has character and who's going to put all the boys together and believe in his team."

The last time Bouillon played in Montreal was during the playoffs of the disastrous Centennial Season. Bouillon came back early from injury, didn't look great, and wasn't re-signed in the off-season.

Unless something has changed since he was last in Montreal, I see Bouillon as a capable bottom pairing defenseman. Probably a 6/7 on most teams, who may play more minutes with Montreal (if he's healthy) due to his work ethic and familiarity with the coach.

Admittedly, I have only seen Bouillon play a few games since leaving Montreal in 2009 so I reached out to some people who have seen much of "Le Pettite Geurrier" during his time in Nashville.

Amanda DiPaolo is an Assistant Professor in the Faculty of Political Science at Middle Tennessee State University - but her true passion lies in Hockey. DiPaolo runs Inside - a Nashville Predators blog, similar to the Breakdown. Inside Smashville is a great resource for reading Amanada's take on all things Predators.

In speaking with Amanda, I discovered that like the coach Amanda has a history with "The Cube" (as he was affectionately known in Nashville). "Since (Bouillon) spent most of his time in Montreal, I doubt there is anything that fans in Montreal don't know... and of course since coming to Nashville already a seasoned veteran, I don't think his style evolved any."

"I used to live in Fredericton, New Brunswick and so I've been familiar with Bouillon from his American Hockey League days!"

DiPaolo also spoke fondly of Bouillon's hard work, team play and leadership. "As fans in Montreal must know, Bouillon is not only an excellent defensive defenseman who is tough on the ice, but he is a real team player off the ice. During Nashville's recent playoff run, defenseman Kevin Klein started a trend in the locker room. He cut his hair into a mohawk. Other players followed suit, including former Habs Hal Gill and Bouillon. But the veteran defenseman who has recently rejoined the Canadiens took it one step further, Bouillon's young boys also started sporting mohawks in support of their dad."

Charlie Saunier hosts the Prednecknation  Radio show on and has been covering the Nashville Predators for various outlets for over a decade. I went a little more in depth with Charlie on Bouillon starting with his health.

"Francis Bouillon recovered nicely from the injury he had when he first joined the Preds & stayed healthy over his tenure in Nashville, except for a concussion that cost him the end of the 2010-2011 season. While out during that stretch, he was missed quite a bit."

Bouillon, like in Montreal, was never a flashy player just a blue collar worker who "he answered the bell nightly and gave it his all every shift."

I asked Saunier if anything stuck out in particular about Bouillon during his tenure in Music city. "He never took a minute of his ice time for granted. He played so much bigger than his size and was willing to play the "Predator" way as Head Coach Barrt Trotz loves to say. He hit, fought, and chipped in on offense when he could. His defense was solid and made it very easy for his partners to take more offensive risks."

"He never dominated the stat sheet or made headlines, but was solid every time he came over the boards."

Saunier expanded that much like in Montreal Bouillion was noticed for what he brings to the table.
"You would hear a good bit of chatter about him throughout the stands. The Predator way is a huge thing here and when Bouillon bought in right away, it was easy to recognize and appreciate."

Hard worker. Willing to fight for teammates. Perfect team guy. Sounds like a good fit.

Saunier was puzzled as well why Nashville General Manager David Poile made no attempt to keep Bouillon - a popular figure in Nashville with the team. "This is an odd one for sure. Bouillon was a solid 2nd pair D-man and very affordable at this point in his career. With his level of experience, it was expected he would be brought back, but that was not to be and no word has been given by GM Poile as to why a contract was not offered. In my opinion, it was a depth issue on the prospect side of the ledger. Roman Josi had a great rookie campaign and is expected to make a run at the 1st pair with Shea Weber this season. Ryan Ellis is also expected to make the roster this season and could be a 3rd pair guy with Hal Gill and a Power Play specialist. Jon Blum spent much of last year in the AHL, but is expected to be back with Preds this year and if he's back to his form of 2 seasons ago, he will fill that 2nd D-pair slot with Kevin Klein. I know GM Poile has wanted these prospects to take over and it seems as if they will have the chance this training camp. Even with Ryan Suter leaving, the D-corps is still quite stocked."

Francis Bouillon typifies a depth defenseman. He'll put his hard hat and working boots on before every shift of every game and dig in for a long night's work. He's the type of gritty player Michel Therrien loves to have, he's the kind of guy teammates love, and he's the kind of guy who will bleed for the  logo in the front, not the name on the back.

Welcome back to Montreal Francis Bouillon.

For more from Stu Cowan, read him in the Montreal Gazette and follow him on Twitter @StuCowan1

For more from Amanda DiPaolo, read her on Inside and follow her on Twitter @adpreds

For more from Charlie Saunier tune in to the Prednecknation Radio show  and follow him on Twitter @crazycharlie615

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