Former Vancouver Canucks forward Alexandre Bolduc is finding success this season with the Portland Pirates, the American Hockey League affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, after leaving the Canucks organization in 2011.
After appearing in the Stanley Cup Finals with the Canucks in 2011 (albeit for a minute and thirty-nine seconds), Bolduc became an unrestricted free agent and opted to sign with the Coyotes over returning to the Canucks.
The decision to dress Bolduc over prized prospect Cody Hodgson in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals drew the ire of fans. Prior to Game 1, Hodgson had dressed for eight of the team’s previous nine games. Vigneault, opting for size and speed against the Bruins, chose to dress Bolduc.
Like Aaron Rome, fans frequently referred him as head coach Alain Vigneault’s “lovechild” given the supposed preferential treatment Bolduc received. He wasn’t a very popular player in Vancouver even though he exhibited many likable qualities.
A meats and potatoes type of player, Bolduc’s highlight in a Canucks uniform came on January 13, 2010 against the Minnesota Wild. Bolduc dropped the gloves against Minnesota Wild behemoth John Scott, lost decisively, and received a shoulder injury that still bothers him today. Bolduc was forced to modify his faceoff technique as a result of the injury.
It was a move that took guts and courage. The fight earned points with the Canucks coaching staff and his teammates, but never did with fans.
“He was talking to me about sticking around and getting in a fight, but I was a little concerned,” said then-Canucks defenceman Shane O’Brien. “Scott didn’t let up on him.”
Ryan Johnson, who Bolduc was summoned from the minors to replace, was due to return to the lineup the following game at the time. He was facing the likelihood of being dispatched to the minors immediately after the game and wanted to show the Canucks coaching staff he had “major league heart” (as the Vancouver Sun’s Elliott Pap put it).
“Fighting him wasn’t my first option but I was willing to do anything,” explained Bolduc. “You have to do whatever you can do to try and stay up.”
“I just wanted to show everyone, show the players, I’m willing to do anything for the team.”
Now, Bolduc finds himself as captain of the Pirates. He was named captain at the beginning of the season and is on a tear to start the season with six goals and 11 points in seven games. He is the leading scorer for his team and is one point shy for a tie in the league lead.
“He’s our captain and he leads by example. He’s been really good for us,” said Pirates head coach Ray Edwards. “He wanted to come back (to Portland) this year and be with this young group. He chose to come back. He knew we were going to be young but he wanted to be here because he feels that these young players drive him. He wants to get back to the NHL.”
Speaking to Dave Vest of the Coyotes website, Bolduc was quick to credit his teammates for his success.
“It’s definitely gone well for me, and for a lot of guys on the team,” Bolduc said. “It’s easy (to play well) when everyone is firing on all cylinders. It’s fun to watch and be part of.”
“I’m just playing the game the way I usually play it and fortunately goals are coming.”
Bolduc’s best season as a professional came in 2007-08 with the Manitoba Moose when he put up a modest 18 goals and 37 points. Will we see him eclipse those numbers and have a career year? Seems likely.