Same old, same old for Bourque

Canadiens forward Rene Bourque during a game against the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome in...

Canadiens forward Rene Bourque during a game against the Flames at the Scotiabank Saddledome in Calgary, Alta., March 6, 2012. (AL CHAREST/QMI Agency)

ERIC FRANCIS, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 3:35 AM ET

CALGARY - If you weren’t previously convinced the Calgary Flames got the better of the Michael Cammalleri/Rene Bourque swap, you ought to be now.

Seeing Bourque return to the Saddledome for the first time since the mid-January trade reminded fans of just how invisible the 30-year-old winger can be with shocking regularity.

Perhaps Bourque’s showing last night was best summed up by the fact he had the same effect on the game as Cammalleri — even though ol’ Cammy didn’t even suit up due to injury.

“It has worked out well so far,” said Bourque, bending the truth a bit when asked Tuesday morning about the change of surroundings since the trade earlier this season that saw him dealt to the Montreal Canadiens for Cammalleri.

“I haven’t been playing as well as I’d like so far, but as far as fitting in with the team and getting used to the city, I love living there. It’s been a good change so far.”

In 22 games with the Habs, Bourque has four goals and two helpers in 23 outings, posting a minus-14 on what is possibly the worst team in the league, save for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

And that’s a good change?

Indifference is the polite word long attached to the talented product of Lac La Biche, Alta.

Typically reserved TV broadcaster Kelly Hrudey put it best on an early-season Hockey Night in Canada broadcast when he ripped into Bourque for wasting his talents by way of a ‘give-a-crap metre’ stuck at zero.

While some thought or hoped his surprising trade would spur him on to greater heights, it’s clear he still has Cadillac potential with all the accessories but no key for the ignition.

As one Montreal scribe joked during the game, “It’s Super Tuesday in the U.S. — and with Bourque it’s ‘Four more years…’”

Yes, four more years and US$13.3 million.

Asked how the trade was received in Montreal, another beat writer pointed out the fans in La Belle Province “fell out of love” with Cammalleri and felt he was selfish.

Well … there’s little worry they’ll have their hearts broken by Bourque as he’d first have to show signs of life before winning their affection.

He said in the morning he hoped the fans wouldn’t boo him upon his return to Calgary.

They didn’t, which likely had more to do with the fact they didn’t notice him.

If all this sounds nit-picky or harsh, keep in mind how gifted Bourque is and how easily he could elevate career-best totals that recently saw him scrape together back-to-back 27-goal seasons.

Fact is last night, he had every reason to be jacked up. But instead of showing up with rare motivation, he was once again an enigma.

Hours earlier, Bourque paid lip service — as he so often did here — to being amped for a game that should mean plenty to anyone who was given up by his former squad.

“There’s nothing better than I’d like to beat my old team, obviously,” Bourque said after the morning skate.

“Hopefully, the guys come ready to play. It’s a big game for us, too. We’ve been struggling, and we want to get this road trip off to a good start.”

So much for that as the Eastern Conference bottom-dwellers fell behind to the Flames 2-0 by the 12-minute mark.

Residing on the third line in Montreal for most of his 23 games for the Bleu, Blanc et Rouge, Bourque skated with Tomas Plekanec and Louis Leblanc last night. He was on the ice for Plekanec’s goal with three seconds left in the first period but was the only Habs player on the ice who wan’t involved in the play.

“There are obviously some ups and downs, just like there was here,” Bourque said when asked to assess his play in Montreal. “I’m trying to find my game. Hopefully, it starts here.”

It didn’t. In a 5-4 loss, he finished minus-2 with no shots on goal, no missed shots and no blocked shots in 18 minutes of icetime.

Yes, Cammalleri comes with a pricey $6-million salary-cap hit each of the next two years, and it may still be too early to declare the Flames winners of the sizeable swap.

But last night was further evidence perhaps the results so far will remain conclusive and Bourque will have a hard time living up to his end of the bargain.

eric.francis@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @ericfrancis

- Eric Francis appears regularly as a panellist on CBC’s Hockey Night in Canada.


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