BROSSARD – With just a pair of preseason games remaining on the training camp calendar, Francis Bouillon is still very much in the mix for a spot on the Canadiens’ back end.
On Thursday, the 38-year-old defenseman survived another wave of cuts, as the Habs assigned five players to the Hamilton Bulldogs of the American Hockey League, including blue liners Davis Drewiske and Greg Pateryn. That means that Bouillon is just one of nine rearguards remaining at training camp with a shot at a full-time gig in Montreal in 2014-15.
While many of those defensive spots have already been secured and only one or two are actually up for grabs, the 15-year NHL veteran admits to being pleased by what he’s been able to show the Habs’ brass over the past 15 days, and he’s thrilled to be sticking around. Nevertheless, Bouillon wasn’t taking any joy in seeing the likes of Drewiske and Pateryn sent down after the pair put up a good fight to earn jobs with the CH.
“It’s good news, but at the same time it’s never good news when a player gets cut. You have to capitalize on those opportunities, though. I’m in a battle against a few young guys, a lot of good prospects who are going to play in the NHL in the future. I came here to earn my place. Apart from that, I can only control what I do out there. There are definitely a lot of good young guys at camp. They definitely have a clear future with the Canadiens, but I want to win a job and do what I do best,” offered Bouillon, who is essentially going up against youngsters Nathan Beaulieu, Jarred Tinordi and Darren Dietz in the fight for any defensive roster spots that remain.
“I don’t necessarily look at making another cut as a victory,” added the New York, NY native, who arrived at Canadiens training camp on a professional tryout agreement. “We’ll know more in a few days. Some guys went down, so you’re getting closer to your goal, but at the same time there are still two more days to go before the team is finalized.”
While the final makeup of the Canadiens’ defense corps might still be uncertain, it’s safe to say Bouillon has as good a shot as any of the young guns at donning the bleu-blanc-rouge this season. That’s something head coach Michel Therrien made abundantly clear in his post-practice press conference on Thursday at the Bell Sports Complex, stressing the fact that the Habs already understand full well what Bouillon can offer up in terms of talent and experience.
“In Francis’ case, training camp isn’t an audition. We know exactly what to expect from him, and if there’s one person who knows exactly what to expect out of Francis Bouillon, it’s definitely me,” offered Therrien, who went on to praise Bouillon as both a good person and a good defenseman. “This is about seeing how our young guys play. Then, when we evaluate them, the decisions will be made. That’s the best and most succinct answer I can provide. We are not evaluating Francis Bouillon at all. We want to see how our young guys are developing. We need to know if they’re ready to play in the NHL.”
Based on what Therrien has seen in the five preseason games the Canadiens have contested thus far this year, the veteran bench boss believes some rearguards might have a leg up on their competition at this point in their respective careers.
“Beaulieu’s had a good camp. He played an excellent game against Chicago. We want to give Dietz an opportunity to play at least another game over the weekend against Ottawa. We really like the way that he’s skating. He’s able to start some good transitions. For his part, Tinordi needs to adjust to the tempo of the NHL. He has a physical presence out there, though. He’s a good leader and a real pro. That being said, we haven’t made any decisions yet,” mentioned Therrien, who admitted to being pleasantly surprised by Dietz, in particular, singling out his explosiveness and acceleration as aspects of his game that earned him further consideration.
While Bouillon is clearly up against stiff competition, the father of two continues to go about his business with the same class and professionalism he's exhibited throughout his entire career. Needless to say, that isn't a surprise.
“I’m definitely a little bit nervous to see how things are going to play out, but at the same time, I came here with a good attitude. I don’t really have any expectations. I’m here to win a spot. I’m going to focus on what I do best, and that’s playing hockey,” concluded Bouillon. “I’m going to do the best that I can do to show that I can play in this league. I don’t have control over the rest.”
Matt Cudzinowski is a writer for canadiens.com.
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