Defenceman Francis Bouillon and forward Sergei Kostitsyn will return to Montreal for the first time since both left town for the country-and-western climbs of Nashville, with the Canadiens playing host to the Predators tonight.
What kind of welcome will the two get?
In my mind, there’s no question that Bouillon receive, at least initially, a nice round of applause. Bouillon spent parts of eight season with the Canadiens during two stretches: his most recent coming from 2005-2006 to 2008-2009. Not a big man at 5-08, Bouillon, nonetheless, played big, and he played with heart. His time had simply run out here in Montreal, but it was great see one of the real gentlemen of this game hook up with the Predators.
Sergei Kostitsyn? That’s another story. I am completely convinced the Bell Centre faithful will be on Sergei’s case every time he touches the puck. The boo birds will be relentless. They will not let Sergei forget that, despite all the raw talent he brought to the rink as a member of the Canadiens, he was never able to up to all that promise. His sorry-ass attitude didn’t help his cause, either.
What’s particularly frustrating for Habs’ fans is the fact that they watched Sergei begin to scratch the surface with all that talent when he was first called up by the Candadiens, from the American Hockey League’s Hamilton Bulldogs, about 30 games into the 2007-2008 season. He ended up scoring nine goals in 52 games and, equally as important, was able to light a fire under brother Andrei’s butt, at the same time. Big brother was flailing at the time, and although the two rarely played together on the same line, Sergei’s presence in the lineup seemed to spur Andrei on.
It didn’t last.
Sergei just teased us with that 52-game performance and never delivered the goods as a Hab. He was traded to Nashville during the off-season for goalie Dan Ellis, who became a Hab in name only for about 20 minutes, and Dustin Boyd, who has seen most of his action this season from the press box as a healthy scratch. Not much of a return. Still, Canadiens fans were relieved that GM Pierre Gauthier was simply able to rid the Habs of their problem child. The fact that they received some talent, in return, was a bonus.
Personally, I’d like to see Boyd get more of an opportunity to prove himself here in Montreal, but it’s very hard to quibble with the moves that have been made so far this season by head coach Jacques Martin. Boyd, who remains with the big team despite being placed on waivers about a week ago, (there were no takers) is a victim of the numbers game; guys ahead of him on the depth chart who are playing excellent third- and fourth-line hockey. Guys like Jeff Halpern, who, despite having his bell rung by Darroll Powe in Tuesday’s 3-0 win over the Flyers, is expected to be in the lineup tonight. And guys like Travis Moen, who finally, FINALLY, delivered the kind of performance that we have expected of him, in the game against the Flyers. He was mean, he was nasty, and he was skating.
Big picture, Travis Moen has been a disappointment here in Montreal since coming over from Anaheim as an unrestricted free agent two seasons ago. If he was supposed to replace the grit and sandpaper that had been provided by someone like Tom Kostopoulos, before Kostopoulos was set adrift, he hasn’t done that. Not nearly enough.
His performance against the Flyers Tuesday was a huge step in the right direction.
Now, bring on Bouillon, Kostitsyn and the rest of the Nashville Predators.