Boston Bruins: Are They Winning the Chris Bourque-Zach Hamill Trade?

Al DanielCorrespondent IIDecember 11, 2012

BUFFALO, NY - DECEMBER 30:  Chris Bourque #65 of the Washington Capitals skates during their NHL game against the Buffalo Sabres on December 30, 2008 at HSBC Arena in Buffalo, New York. The Capitals defeated the Sabres 4-2. (Photo by Rick Stewart/Getty Images)
Rick Stewart/Getty Images

Chris Bourque, the offspring of a Boston Bruins legend, could be kindling a historic first season in Providence and, more importantly, making a gratifying secondhand impact on the organization’s future.

Acquired in late May from the Washington Capitals in exchange for draft bust Zach Hamill, Bourque has stood out, as should logically have been expected of the AHL’s reigning top playmaker.

With a setup on half of the P-Bruins' eight goals this past weekend, including the secondary helper on Kyle MacKinnon’s overtime strike Sunday that completed a sweep of the three-game, three-night itinerary, he has upped his season total to 16 assists in 22 games.

In each of the previous two nights, he had the primary assist on a 2-2 equalizer that set the table for an eventual 3-2 Providence triumph.

Overall, the P-Bruins are 0-6-2 when Bourque is kept pointless and 12-2-0 when he contributes. They have won each of the last 10 games, dating back to Nov. 4, in which Bourque has touched the score sheet.

In the same span, they have otherwise lost in regulation or settled for a shootout point upon failing to put away the Worcester Sharks.

A longtime Hershey Bear before the late-spring swap, Bourque played an integral role in the crash-and-burn conclusion to Providence’s last postseason run in 2009. After a pointless outing in a Game 1 loss, he erupted for two goals and four assists in four straight victories, including a 1-2-3 log in the Game 5 clincher.

With Bourque as their ally, the P-Bruins have a foundation to replenish their relevance and start to foster sharper young talent to be promoted as needed if and when Boston returns to action.

In the three years between their conference finals encounter with Bourque and their parent’s trade for him, the most assists by an individual P-Bruin in a single season was 34 by none other than Hamill in 2010-11.

With his new organization, Hamill is one of three Hershey Bears with a team-high seven goals this season. He had three points, all goals, to his credit in his first 11 games and has since charged up a 4-7-11 log in the last 11.

Hershey is 8-3-0 with Hamill’s input and 3-9-1 otherwise. Having missed two games, Hamill is presently on pace to finish 2012-13 with 47 points (23 goals and 24 assists or vice versa).

Bourque, meanwhile, is on a 76-game pace for 55 assists. That is a seven-point increase from where he was even before this past weekend, when the season was exactly one-quarter over and he was on pace for 48 helpers.

The last time Providence made the playoffs, their three primal playmakers were Martin St. Pierre (51 assists), Johnny Boychuk (46) and Brad Marchand (41).

If Bourque retains his pace―or exceeds it, which is possible given that the team has collectively and exponentially thawed out since early November―it will be the most helpers by a P-Bruin since Randy Robitaille charged up 74 in the franchise’s 1998-99 championship year.

Besides Robitaille, only Tim Sweeney, Jozef Stumpel and Brett Harkins have tallied 55 assists or more in a single season for the Baby Bs.

Could the veteran Bourque make a case for a call-up to Boston with his production rate? That is hardly out of the question.

However, his jutting collection of assists coupled with only two goals appropriately represents what Bourque can do for the Bruins. More than getting his own shot at The Show by filling roster cavities when injuries and illnesses hit Boston regulars, his best potential favor for the franchise will be making younger prospects sharper with his active leadership on the attack.

Consider this breakdown of the logical candidates for regular NHL employment, essentially those who have played fewer than three full professional seasons. Bourque has shared credit for a role in the same scoring play with Ryan Spooner and Craig Cunningham five times apiece.

Forward Carter Camper and defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Torey Krug have each split credit with Bourque on a goal three times. Max Sauve, David Warsofsky and Jordan Caron have joined in twice and relatively recent call-up Tommy Cross once.

Depending on how impactful they are in the NHL and how soon, the likes of Caron, Sauve, Spooner, etc. and the Bruins in general will owe no small part of it to general manager Peter Chiarelli for bringing Bourque on board the farm base.