BROSSARD – After three seasons in Music City, Francis Bouillon is back with the Canadiens.
At 36 years of age, the once and future Habs blue-liner is making the leap back to Montreal and the Eastern Conference. It will be a double-dose of déjà-vu for Bouillon as he’ll not only be reunited with his former organization, but his former coach at the same time.
“Michel Therrien’s arrival and the changes in the Montreal organization played a big role in my decision. I had Therrien as a coach for six years, going all the way back to my days in the Juniors,” pointed out Bouillon, who was contacted by the Habs’ bench boss when the free agent market opened for business on July 1. “When Michel called me on Sunday afternoon I already knew I wanted to come back. Since I came home from Nashville, a lot of Quebecers were asking me about the possibility of returning to Montreal. It was definitely a priority for me, and I always made that clear.”
Bouillon skated under Therrien for three seasons as a member of the Canadiens between 2000-01 and 2002-03. Prior to that, the two had already shared a history from their days with the Fredricton Canadiens, where Bouillon, after being passed over at the draft, first got his start in pro hockey when he received a call-up from Therrien. Before even that, the two were members of the Granby Predators organization, with whom they won the Memorial Cup in 1996.
“He was my assistant coach during my first year in the QMJHL. He was always there to give me a hand and allowed me to improve in so many areas of my game. He helped me a lot,” explained Bouillon, admitting that the advice he received from the coach extended well beyond the confines of the rink. “I owe him a lot. Michel helped me make a lot of good decisions in my life. When you’re young, you have many options available to you and it can be easy to pick the wrong one. He was there to help me make the right choices.”
Known for his intense style of play and quickness on the ice, Bouillon laced up for his first nine seasons in the NHL as a member of the Canadiens, with only a short stint of four games with the Predators in 2002-03. He enjoyed his best season in the league with Montreal in 2005-06, netting 22 points in 67 games.
“I feel like I’m entering familiar territory here when I look at the coaching staff. I’ve already had Michel [Therrien] as a head coach and Clement Jodoin as an assistant coach. There are a few new faces, but there are also guys like Patrice Brisebois and Martin Lapointe who I’ve played with in the past. It all feels very familiar, but at the same time, I’m not taking anything for granted,” stated the veteran rearguard, who plans to bring everything he can to training camp in September. “I consider myself a character player and I’m going to be sure to arrive at camp ready to take on anything. I want to play a leadership role here.”
Listening to Bouillon talk about his place within the Canadiens’ lineup, it’s clear he has no intentions of taking it easy in his return to Montreal. He’s looking instead to make a difference on a daily basis.
“My goal is to play every game. I didn’t sign in Montreal telling myself that it was going to be my last year and that I was just along to help out the younger guys and play maybe one of every two games,” claimed the 676-game veteran. “I still have some good seasons of hockey in me. I’m not coming to Montreal to take a step backward, but a step forward. I’m here to play well and help this team bounce back.”
Justin Fragapane is a writer for canadiens.com.
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