The most confusing move made by Marc Bergevin this summer was the signing of Francis Bouillon. Sure, he's pretty much universally liked as a Montreal Canadien for the way he fought through adversity and played like a pit bull, but with the amount of bottom pairing defenders the Canadiens have available, why bring in a 36, going on 37 in October defenseman?
Depth on defense is never a bad idea, and without moving Scott Gomez, Tomas Kaberle or Rene Bourque it's understandable that the Habs had cap constraints, so a top 4 D was probably out of the question. So Bouillon returns to don the sacred flannel for a 3rd time after his second stint with the Nashville Predators.
How does Bouillon fit then? Well it's an unspoken bonus that he speaks French, and he fits the mold Bergevin seems to be working with as a player who lays it all on the table for the crest on his jersey. The trouble with Bouillon's playing style however is that it's broken down his body big time over the years, so don't expect him to top the 60 game mark.
What is confusing though is what role Bouillon will be expected to play. The top two left handed wingers will be Josh Gorges and Andrei Markov without a doubt, and Tomas Kaberle is still on the team and might be better than Bouillon by virtue of PP prowess alone. I know there are always injuries, but Frederic St-Denis filled in on the 3rd pairing admirably last season. Perhaps the plan is to move Kaberle, but since we haven't heard a peep, it's no good to be assuming things like that.
So does Bouillon improve the Canadiens defense next year? Let's examine the stats once again.
It's clear from Bouillon's career and his age that he wasn't brought in for top 4 responsibilities. He's not the insurance if Markov goes down, so he's a depth guy. This means he'll be pushing Kaberle for ice time on the left side, and replacing Chris Campoli. So how does he compare to those two? For explanations of the stats used, please refer to the glossary of analytical terms. All statistics used are even strength only and are courtesy of Behind the Net and Time on Ice.
|Francis Bouillon||Name||Tomas Kaberle||Chris Campoli|
|46.5||Off Zone Start%||53.1||48.3|
|47.2||Off Zone Finish%||50.2||52.6|
|-0.352||Rel Corsi QoC||-0.581||-0.229|
|-0.389||Rel Corsi QoT||1.162||0.624|
|465||Shot % [close]||420||442|
|462||Fenwick % [close]||430||458|
|457||Corsi % [close]||437||467|
Bouillon's comparables are a lot more interesting than the other two when it comes to possession. Both Kaberle and Campoli are better overall possession players relative to their team, but Bouillon is superior when the score is close, which may be more important. Bouillon will not be counted on to produce offense like Kaberle is, and likely won't match last year's output considering his far above average 9.43 on-ice shooting percentage. Bouillon was counted on more than the other two were, playing more minutes, and tougher minutes at that both by competition and zone starts. Bouillon also played with weaker teammates supporting him, so it seems like at even strength at least, he may be superior to Kaberle and Campoli.
But can the older Bouillon maintain his superior even strength play over his younger and more talented comparables? Let's break down his recent career. Gaps in the chart are due to games Bouillon did not play.
Click to enlarge
Perhaps I'm alone in this, but I find this chart shocking. Bouillon hasn't ever been a possession monster during the last 5 years, but from ages 31 to 36 he has taken consistently tougher situations and barely declined at all. There doesn't seem to be much risk in the one year contract Bergevin and Bouillon agreed to, as it doesn't seem like Bouillon is about to step into the elevator shaft.
As much as I don't personally like the term or cash value of Brandon Prust's deal, he, Colby Armstrong and Francis Bouillon seem to provide a significant upgrade to the depth of the Montreal Canadiens, which was a legitimate problem last season. Thus far we haven't landed the top 6 capable left winger that the Habs desperately need, nor do the Canadiens have a backup plan in case Andrei Markov goes down, but it's difficult not to give Bergevin a passing grade in the end, since the moves are a positive overall, with minimal risk down the line.