Rene Bourque Up for Grabs?

Darren Dreger started a little bit of a hoopla yesterday on his Insider Trading segment on NHL on TSN.  He suggested that Rene Bourque, and his 3.3 million over the next 5 years, is being asked about by teams around the league. 

This isn't exactly earth-shattering news as, despite being very productive goal-wise, Bourque's hardly the first name to come to mind in the Flames blogosphere as an untouchable.  In fact, he's been a little bit of a whipping boy over the past couple seasons for his possession numbers and general lack of punch.

The fact remains that, on the surface, he is a proven goal-scorer and potentially strong two-way forward who can play in all situations.  He has an excellent shot and good speed.  So, is this something that Feaster should be exploring and what exactly would the team be looking for in return?

For me, the first thought that comes to mind when there's any Flames trade speculation is that, unfortunately, Jay Feaster is going to be the man making this deal.  In his career, Feaster notably overpays for players acquired and undersells the assets he's unloading.  Not a great combination for a GM and his moves so far in Calgary have been somewhat indicative of that notion; pending further development. So, right off the bat I'm a little wary of any trades that could potentially be made by Feaster but at the same time, I'm oddly curious to see if he'll pull off another underwhelming swap.

Bourque was acquired by Daryl Sutter for a 2nd-round pick prior to the 2008-2009 season. At the time, I felt it was a bit of an overpayment for a speedy penalty-killer who could pot 15 goals. However, Bourque would have an incredibly productive season for the Flames and his injury late in the season put a huge damper on their chances of making any noise in the playoffs. He was a menace on the forecheck and penalty kill, used his speed and checking to create havoc and scored 21 goals in 58 games. 

In 09-10, he continued to be productive, netting a career-high 27 goals and then following suit with another 27 goal campaign last year. He's earned a lot of fans in the city, yet gets hammered in the online community. Let's look at the numbers (from Behind The Net)

2008-2009 2009-2010 2010-2011
CORSI 8.01 5.19 -3.87
REL CORSI -4.0 1.9 -9.8
OZ STARTS 57.1 52.4 52.6
QoC 0.037 0.067 0.021
QoT 0.069 -0.033 -0.012
PDO 1050 1011 989

 

Bourque was given quite favorable ice-time and circumstances in his first season with the Flames and was very productive prior to his injury. In year 2, although his zone stars came down he started getting opportunities on the PP and remained a very solid and generally reliable player for the Flames.  Aside from the numbers, his speed and forecheck continued to be a huge factor for the team. 2010-2011 started with a bang, a hat-trick early and 6 goals in 6 games, but it all went downhill from there as you can see by his possession numbers that fell right off.

I'll bring up the comfort factor again that I think many of the Flames veteran's have fell victim to.  2010-2011 was the first year of Bourque's fancy new 6 year, 20 million dollar deal that he signed during the Vancouver Olympics.  His play dropped off noticeably.  We still get glimpses of his speed and tenacity but it seems to have been replaced for the most part by a lot of complacency. I was very excited for last season to see just what Bourque could accomplish.  He was starting to take pieces of Jarome's game and add them to his own; he was starting to look like he could become a legitimate perennial 35-goal scorer... he turned in a hugely disappointing season.

If Bourque is to continue the trend he began last season, then I say, get rid of him while his back-to-back 27 goal seasons can still get you a decent return. The sample size of this season is small, but his current CORSI is -13.95 for this season, FYI. A 2nd-round pick would have to be the starting point as that's what it took to acquire him and that was all based on potential. But, I would expect slightly more, somewhere in the neighborhood of a prospect or young NHLer AND a 2nd-round pick.

However, my personal stance is that he should not be traded because given proper accountability and motivation, Rene Bourque should be able to easily return to the form that he was showing prior to last season.  Look at Todd Bertuzzi; he was the KING of complacency in Calgary.  Mike Babcock has turned him into a very useful player in Detroit. I'm not saying he's putting out a herculean effort or anything, but compared to his effort in Calgary... Look at Dion Phaneuf; slowly but surely he's returning back to the player that we all thought he could be as he gets rid of the bad habits that were plaguing his game in Cowtown.  If Rene Bourque were to be traded to a Pittsburgh or Detroit, you'd see that old Bourque come back.  Do you think Mike Babcock or Dan Bylsma would allow him to float around on shifts?  To not take those hard strides needed to force turnovers or recover defensively?  That's exactly what he's getting away with in Calgary as his comfort level has risen to an all-time high. 

Go ahead and trade Bourque if you like, Feaster.  But, I can guarantee you, the piece that you bring back, should that asset be NHL-ready - would eventually fall into the comfort trap themselves. 

I've kind of painted the picture of a catch-22 here and it's exactly how I feel.  Barring a major change in what's demanded of the players on the ice, which I don't think management or the coaching staff even see as a problem, then Bourque is never going to return to the responsible, goal-scoring power-forward that we all remember.  But, there are coaches and organizations out there that will be able to extract that talent back out of him should Feaster choose to trade him. And, on top of that, the Flames would be saddled with whatever underwhelming return Feaster would be able to muster for him.

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