The Montreal Canadiens will enter training camp for the 2012-13 season with a glaring hole among their top six forwards, one the team hopes can be filled internally.
There aren't too many candidates to fill the need for a fourth scoring option on the wing, but if Rene Bourque can get back to being the player who scored 27 goals in back-to-back seasons with the Calgary Flames, he would fill the bill quite nicely.
Bourque scored five goals in 38 games after he was acquired by the Canadiens in exchange for proven goal-scorer and playoff performer Michael Cammalleri – a trade finalized during the second intermission of a Jan. 12 Habs game in Boston.
New general manager Marc Bergevin was a scout for the Chicago Blackhawks when Bourque cracked the NHL with the team in 2005, and he was in the front office when Bourque was traded to the Flames for a draft pick in 2008.
30 in 30: Montreal Canadiens
Preview: New regime hopes to right ship
By Arpon Basu - NHL.com Correspondent
With new general manager Marc Bergevin and coach Michel Therrien leading the charge, the Montreal Canadiens hope to turn things around in 2012-13. READ MORE ›
But Bergevin was impressed with the numbers Bourque put up in Calgary and remains hopeful he can do the same in Montreal.
"He scored 27 goals two years ago," Bergevin said. "I know he had an off year, but I'm not ready to write him off."
In all likelihood, Bourque will be placed on the left wing of center Tomas Plekanec on the Canadiens' second line, but that pairing was disastrous for Montreal last season. However, the struggles of that line could have been because the right wing spot was a revolving door, with a steady stream of candidates coming in and out. Having team captain Brian Gionta, who missed the last 40 games of last season with a torn bicep muscle, on the line could help a great deal.
Even though Bourque put up great numbers while in Calgary, he was often criticized for having a poor work ethic, a lack of consistency and an unwillingness to use his 6-foot-2, 211-pound frame to its full potential. The same tendencies were seen in Montreal, but they were made even more glaring by his lack of production.
New Canadiens coach Michel Therrien has a zero-tolerance policy for a lack of effort from his players, so perhaps he will be able to coax the necessary hustle out of Bourque. If not, the Canadiens will need to look elsewhere to fill out their top six forwards.