Ray Bourque went straight from being selected in the first round of the 1979 NHL Entry Draft to winning the Calder Trophy for his 65-point 1979-80 campaign.
His son, Chris Bourque, hasn’t enjoyed the same kind of storybook beginning to his NHL career, but at the age of 26, he’s under contract with his father’s old team, the Boston Bruins, and they’re willing to give him a legitimate shot at making the team.
“I told [Chris] that I think he has a good chance of making our team. I told him that he’s just not there to go to Providence,” said Bruins GM Peter Chiarelli. “If he goes to Providence then that’s great, but giving him a one-way deal in the second year speaks to how we feel about Chris. He’s got a couple of areas to work on and I told him that.”
So far Bourque has established himself as a star at the AHL level, but he hasn’t been able to prove himself in the NHL. Of course, he hasn’t really gotten much of a shot lately. He has played in just 33 NHL games, and none over the past two seasons.
In the AHL, he’s known as an offensive juggernaut, but he doesn’t necessarily need to earn a spot on one of Boston’s top two lines to be of value to them.
“He does have the ability to shoot and find seams, but he also has a grit element to his game where he can play lower down in the lineup if he has to,” said Chiarelli. “I told him – among other things – that he needs another quarter-step to maintain it at this level, and he’s a young guy so I think he will.”
He’s inked to a two-year deal at the crossroads of his career. He can still establish himself as a late bloomer like Matt Moulson or he could go down as one of those guys that just can’t quite make the jump like Alexandre Giroux.
Things are bad in Columbus. They’re the last NHL team without a win (0-5-1), James Wisniewski is still suspended (he’ll be back next Tuesday), and Jeff Carter is on IR with a hairline fracture in his foot.
Add that to the talk that teams are calling on players like Antoine Vermette and Derick Brassard for trades and the glut of backup goalie injuries (Mark Dekanich and Curtis Sanford are out for a few weeks with separate ailments while Allen York has a gimpy shoulder) as well as Steve Mason’s shaky play and you’ve got a major quagmire in Columbus.
The Jackets are just six games into the season but should they be hitting the panic button already? History shows that teams that go winless in their first six games can bounce back from bad starts to make the playoffs. Blue Jackets PR man Ryan Holtmann points out that the 2008-2009 Flyers made the postseason after starting in similar horrible fashion, but it’s not a hole teams want to get into right from the start.
For Columbus, getting Wisniewski back in the lineup as well as getting Carter healthy will make differences. Getting everyone else figured out and put in the right place, however, will be tricky. We’ve already seen Cam Atkinson get his shot to be their next scoring winger only to be sent back to the AHL. Alexandre Giroux is getting his chance to do the same now, but no one on Columbus can score regularly.Meanwhile, guys like Brassard, Vermette, and R.J. Umberger are struggling horribly.Add their woes on top of Mason’s in goal and you’ve got a situation that has to change fast. Rick Nash can’t do everything.
This season is a crucial one for the Blue Jackets. After so many years of losing tons of cash, making the postseason this year is viewed as a must. Starting off like this, however, will keep the crowds away in droves. It might not fully be panic time GM Scott Howson and coach Scott Arniel, but it’s inching closer to DEFCON-1 as long as the losses keep coming.
Things aren’t going very well for the Columbus Blue Jackets to start the new season. Through five games they have just one point, getting that in a shootout loss against Colorado. The combination of poor defense and goaltending as well as a lack of supporting offense are helping turn what was a hopeful offseason for the Jackets into yet another season of misery.
If you want to find a silver lining through all this, however, there’s the play of their top line. Jeff Carter, Rick Nash, and Vaclav Prospal have combined for 13 points through their first five games, a total that accounts for half of the team’s points overall. While most teams have two scoring lines, the Jackets are rolling with only one that’s doing it consistently.
Their second line is off to a brutal start with Antoine Vermette having no points and R.J. Umberger scoring just an assist in Columbus’ loss last night. The second line has already seen Cam Atkinson sent back to the AHL scoring just one goal while Alexandre Giroux has taken over adding a goal of his own in his first game.
While Steve Mason is going to take a lot of the heat in goal for his poor play, the Blue Jackets are going to need everyone to step up their offense if they want to win. Otherwise, the losses will pile up and the cannon the team shoots off for goals will stay as quiet as the ones left on Civil War battlefields.
Alexandre Giroux has found a niche for himself as one of the AHL’s greatest scorers. He’s had to, because despite the fact that he scored 60 goals in 69 AHL games in 2008-09, he hasn’t been able to hold down a job in the NHL. Giroux is 30 now and he’s only played in 39 NHL games and, for the most part, he hasn’t gotten much ice time during his brief stints with the New York Rangers, Washington Capitals, and Edmonton Oilers.
That might change on Saturday as the struggling Columbus Blue Jackets have called up Giroux with the intention of using him on their second line against the Dallas Stars. Along with Antoine Vermette and R.J. Umberger, the trio will try to provide the Blue Jackets with some secondary scoring behind the very effective Vinny Prospal, Jeff Carter, and Rick Nash line.
Blue Jackets coach Scott Arniel certainly sounded like a man who believes in Giroux when he talked to the Columbus Dispatch:
Having that size on the wing is going to probably help us. It’s going to help us around the net. Alex doesn’t need many chances to score goals. He’s proven that.
At the AHL level, yes, but he still needs to prove that he can find ways to score against NHL caliber defenses and goaltenders. Still, the Blue Jackets need to shake things up a little after getting off to a 0-3-1 start and maybe Giroux will take advantage of what could be his last good chance to stay in the NHL.