By Joe Haggerty
CSNNE.com Bruins Insider Follow @hackswithhaggs
WILMINGTON At the conclusion of last years playoff series with the Canadiens, rangy winger Benoit Pouliot might have been voted the Montreal player least likely to ever don a Bruins sweater.
Pouliot had dropped the gloves and split open David Krejcis mouth during the regular season, was benched in the playoffs after he attempted to clean out Johnny Boychuk in the corner with a cheap elbow to the head, and suffered the verbal barrage of NESNs Jack Edwards in full rage after the attempted cheap shot on Boychuk.
Who could ever forget Edwards labeling Pouliot a chump and one of the greatest disappointments of talent in National Hockey League history and nobody could really call Edwards wrong in his assessment. Pouliot has a little bit of grit, ideal size and good offensive skills to go along with the cachet of being a No. 4 overall draft pick in the 2005 draft.
Pouliot has lugged the potential tag around with him at his previous stops in Minnesota and Montreal, but its never materialized beyond potting a combined 17 goals for the Wild and Habs two years ago. The 24-year-old winger didnt pull any punches in his first conversation about his final season with the Bleu, Blanc and Rouge, and appeared to have some Cool Hand Luke style communication failures with Jacques Martin.
A new start is always fun. I think my fresh start in Montreal went really good. My two years were definitely good and a lot more positive than negative, said Pouliot. Maybe there was a little bit of a slip there at the end. Coming to a new team youve got to earn the trust of the players and the coaches, and youve really got to just go out and do your own thing.
Its a business. Things happen. Ive just got to play the way that Im capable of. Ive got a couple of strengths for shooting and skating, and Im a pretty big guy. I can go into the corners very easily.
So what went wrong in Montreal?
I dont know. I think there was a little bit of a lack of trust there between me and the coach . . . maybe in the end, said Pouliot. When I first got there things were going well and he was playing me 16 or 17 minutes a game, but things went downhill after that. Last year I had a good year on the third and fourth line and played a full season. So that was good.
Pouliot actually sought out Krejci upon his arrival to smooth things over, but hockey fights and hard hits are usually forgiven and forgotten in the NHL when players become teammates. Hell also likely be competing with rookie Jordan Caron for a starting wing position on one of the bottom two lines with the Bruins, but that should make for a competitive situation in training camp.
The bigger deal might be the acceptance from a Bruins fan base thats looked at Pouliot as the enemy over the last two seasons, but the winger said hes on the right side of the equation now.
Its not easy being a new guy on the team especially when there arent many new guys at all.
The Pouliot signing might have been a curious one at first, but its also a move with very little downside for a team that could take advantage of a motivated forward that crapped out with the Wild and Canadiens. The Bruins themselves have several times used the Nathan Horton parallel when discussing Pouliot, and feel like the Boston hockey atmosphere could bring the best out of the perennial underachiever.
Pouliot is a big player with high end skill. We hope he comes into camp and does what we anticipate him doing or for example what Nathan Horton did last year, said Claude Julien. The knock on Pouliot has been inconsistency. But in the middle of the season to the end of the year Horton was as consistent as you would want him to be. You get a lot of those players that grow in those roles, and that happens because youve got a lot of players in that dressing room that know what accountability is. They make everybody that comes in here accountable.
Then as a group we seem to get the most out of these guys as players. Thats what were hoping to get out of Joe Corvo and Pouliot. Those are guys that are going to be vying for a spot.
Its all up to a player thats still young enough to start realizing his considerable puck potential, but old enough that hes not going to get too many more cracks at the NHL better than the one opening up for him in Boston.