Chris Bourque thought he had a couple of good training camps with the Washington Capitals. The closest he came to making the Caps’ opening night roster was in 2009 when he was claimed on waivers by the Pittsburgh Penguins.
This September won’t be another trial in that same fire after Bourque, an impending unrestricted free agent, was traded to the Boston Bruins over the weekend for forward Zach Hamill. Bourque, whose father, Ray, played most of his Hall of Fame career with the Bruins, voiced excitement in the move but was also left to ponder why he never got much of a shot in the NHL with Washington.
“Sometimes it just doesn’t work out in certain places,” he said in a phone interview Monday. “In Hershey they had good winning teams and maybe they felt I was better off playing in Hershey and helping them win Calder Cups. I don’t know. It’s a question that I’ve asked myself obviously before.”
Ultimately it came down to something the 26-year-old admitted: that the Caps have been deep at forward and it was hard to crack the top six. Generously listed at 5-foot-8, it’s hard for Bourque to be a factor as a third-line checker, and his offensive talents aren’t suited to a fourth-line energy role.
The 2004 second-round pick (33rd overall) knew he wasn’t going to be back with the Caps next season.
“I think it was just I needed a change of scenery. It didn’t seem like I was going to get much of a chance to play in Washington. I still want to play in the NHL; it’s my dream still,” he said. “I knew that I was probably going to have to go somewhere else to get an opportunity. That’s kind of what it came down to. It wasn’t so much that I didn’t want to come back. It was just that I kind of need to move on.”
Moving on means going home, a positive for Bourque the summer after getting married and just weeks after his wife, Kim, gave birth to their first child, Kingston. Friends and family are in the area, so the comfort level remains.
Bourque has just 33 games of NHL experience, 20 of which came with the Penguins. His whirlwind career has also included a stint in Russia’s Kontinental Hockey League and the Swiss Elite League, before he returned to North America last year.
He recognizes it’s not getting any easier in the quest to earn a roster spot with the Bruins.
“I’m well-aware of the group of forwards that they have here. Obviously they’re coming off winning a Stanley Cup last year. I know that they have a lot of depth at forward,” said Bourque, who spoke to GM Peter Chiarelli briefly since the Bruins acquired his rights. “Obviously if they traded for me, they see something in me where maybe I can come in and compete for a job come training camp. That’s all I can ask for is a chance to earn a spot.”
Bourque, pending the Bruins signing him, will get a chance in training camp and could end up in Boston or with Providence of the American Hockey League. The high-scoring forward is a minor league star, having put up 395 points in 398 AHL games.
But Bourque wants to be with the big league Bruins, knowing and embracing the pressure that comes with his pedigree, especially with No. 77 hanging in the rafters.
“I think I’ve had pressure wherever I’ve played just because of the last name. Obviously coming to Boston, it’s going to be a little bit more pressure, I guess,” Bourque said. “But I always put a lot of pressure on myself to perform. The pressure a lot of people are going to be putting on me isn’t going to be close to the pressure that I put on myself.”