To say the past week was crazy, wild, unpredictable and exciting for Rene Bourque would be both accurate and an understatement.
You could also say the same for Bourque’s 2014-15 season. After a terrific Stanley Cup playoff performance last spring (eight goals in 17 playoff games for the Montreal Canadiens), Bourque was dealt to the Anaheim Ducks in late November. For whatever reason, things didn’t work out in Montreal and he then struggled to find a regular NHL spot with the Ducks.
He began last week as a member of the Ducks, but was placed on waivers over the weekend and cleared at noon Monday. It looked as though Bourque would remain on the NHL roster, but just before the trading deadline (3 p.m. on the east coast), he got a call that put him on the move once again.
The Blue Jackets acquired Bourque in a deadline day deal that sent James Wisniewski to Anaheim, giving him another fresh start and an opportunity to get his NHL career back on track. He was assigned to Springfield (AHL) soon after being acquired by the Jackets, but early Saturday he was on his way to Columbus on emergency recall and suiting up for a third different team this season.
And because of the hectic nature of the week, Bourque was either packing, flying, driving — basically, everything aside from getting on the ice. He played 14:21 in his Blue Jackets debut (a 4-0 loss to Colorado) but was very active, registering four shots and getting himself into high traffic areas.
“(Saturday) was my first game in a couple weeks,” Bourque said. “I haven’t skated much because of the trade, and then had equipment issues (with it) getting lost in Springfield. I was a little rusty in the first, but as the game went on, I felt more comfortable.”
Bourque played on a line with Brandon Dubinsky and Artem Anisimov in his first game as a Blue Jacket, replacing Brian Gibbons, who was sent to Springfield before the game. Bourque showed speed, some good hands and strength along the boards playing with two guys who love the cycle game — and his new coach took notice.
“I still have to see more, but I liked what I saw tonight,” said Blue Jackets coach Todd Richards. “He’s big, strong, has some speed and I’m assuming he’ll just get faster once he gets out and practices and spends more time with the team.
“He shot the puck a couple times down the wing — it looks like he has a great shot (and) great release — but it’s still probably too early to comment. I thought the things he did tonight were positive.”
All things considered, it was an encouraging start for Bourque with his new team, one that he admittedly doesn't know much about yet.
For now, though, he’s going to keep the to-do list fairly short: get up to speed, make a positive contribution and make the most of the opportunity afforded him by the Blue Jackets.
“They a lot of skill and I think there are a lot of lines that have the ability to put the puck in the net,” Bourque said of the Jackets. “Obviously, we have a good goalie. I haven’t watched (the Blue Jackets) play a ton, so I’m still getting used to some of the guys and some of them I didn't know before or hadn't met. I’m just trying to find a spot and work my way into the lineup.
"It’s a new opportunity for me and I need to take advantage of it if I’m going to be up here and getting some games in.”