Part of our continuing reporting on last weekend's trip to upstate New York.
GLENS FALLS, N.Y. -- Now that Erik Gustafsson is the preferred defensive call-up, it's easy to forget that Marc-Andre Bourdon was the premier offensive-defenseman on the farm entering last season. At the start of this season, we expected Bourdon to take a big step forward while being pushed by both Gustafsson and Joonas Lehtivuori. Unfortunately, that hasn't happened.
Taken in the third round of the 2008 draft, Bourdon was the smooth skating, offensive defenseman who put up back-to-back 59-point seasons in his Quebec Major Junior career. Big things were expected of him, and with Kevin Marshall (second round in 2007) turning pro at the same time, the two were often inseparable in conversation. There was hope for home-grown defensive talent, fitting both offensive and defensive molds.
Two years later, the two couldn't be further apart. After that 2009-2010 season, Bourdon was labeled a disappointment for only contributing two goals and nineteen points in 61 games. The emergence of Joonas Lehtivuori and the arrival of Erik Gustafsson only pushed Bourdon further from the spotlight, as those two were putting points on the board better than he was.
Despite an impressive camp, Bourdon struggled from the beginning this year. While the Phantoms were off to a miserable 3-20-2 start, Bourdon had 6 assists and was a minus-8 through his first 25 games. Gustafsson, meanwhile, was struggling defensively (minus-22) despite scoring 22 points. Of course, things could have been worse, aswas at a minus-19 with 9 points and would soon be loaned to Europe.
The re-acquisition of Danny Syvret in late November, however, bumped Bourdon right back down. While Bourdon wasn't scoring, there was something new to his game. He was always a physical, aggressive defender, but he was suddenly fighting a lot more frequently. In his rookie season, Bourdon got in three fights. This year, he matched that total in his 15th game of the year. Something had changed.
On New Years Day, Bourdon had registered one goal, six assists, and five fights. Not the point-to-fight ratio the Flyers were expecting out of their offensive defenseman. While the Phantoms were finally starting to turn their season around (they had won as many games in their last six tries as they did through their first 29 games), they played Albany. It was on this day that Bourdon got in his sixth fight of the year:
Bourdon would miss the next 51 days with a concussion. When he made his return on March 4th (in the ECHL), Bourdon notched two assists... and got in a fight. In his third game back, he got in another fight. In total, since returning from a concussion, Bourdon has played 15 games and gotten in four fights.
While there is obvious concern for a guy returning from a concussion, what does it say when he gets in a fight the day he returns? So far this season, Bourdon has 11 points and 10 fights.
Unfortunately, we didn't get a chance to talk with Bourdon while in Glens Falls, but we did ask Coach Paterson about Bourdon's recent penchant for fighting. The response was less than clear, but he did say, "We don't encourage fighting obviously, but it's still part of the game and if you play hard like he does it's going to happen."
We get that. But going from three fights in 61 games to ten fights in 43 games? That's not just playing hard. There could be many reasons for his spike in fights this season, including him simply defending himself like he did last week:
Situations like that could be easily explained. That's only one of ten fights this year though.
Last Saturday, I tracked the Phantoms' big four's ice time, and Bourdon was given less than ten minutes. It's hard not to speculate on why Bourdon has suddenly started fighting a lot more. With his point totals not translating to the AHL and his ice time slipping, it probably isn't a coincidence that his fight totals are increasing. At least not in this organization.