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Nashville Predators to sign defenseman Francis Bouillon

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RDS and The Tennessean report that the Nashville Predators have agreed to a deal with defenseman Francis Bouillon for a one-year contract worth $750,000. It will be finalized once he passes his physical exam.

A veteran of 9 NHL campaigns (including a 4-game stint with Nashville in 2002-3), Bouillon has tallied 21 goals and 81 assists in 485 regular season games. Jeremy Gover from quoted Preds coach Barry Trotz as saying that on the depth chart, he fits "in that four and a half spot. Sometimes he’ll be probably (number) four and sometimes five." That might appear to place him alongside Dan Hamhuis in most situations, which would make for a somewhat undersized, but agile pairing.

Francis Bouillon

#51 / Nashville Predators



Oct 17, 1975

The dead horse I've been beating all summer is that the Preds need an experienced hand to fill out the blue line, and Bouillon appears to fit the bill. After the jump, I've got some further background on your newest Predator, including insight from our SB Nation man in Montreal, where Bouillon has spent almost all of his NHL career...

First, let's look at his Scouting Report (if you click on his name in the box above, it appears in the upper right of his player page):

  • Demonstrates good work ethic and doesn't shy away from anyone--despite his small stature. Has solid puck-handling skills. Can log a lot of ice time.
  • Doesn't produce enough points. Has trouble handling big forwards in front of the net. Will always be under constant scrutiny because of his small frame.
Career Potential
  • Top six defenseman.

James Mirtle had a post earlier this summer highlighting free agent defenseman, and Bouillon doesn't exactly jump off the page compared to the rest of the market, although his penalty killing results appear to be decent.

Robert Lefebvre of Habs Eyes On The Prize passed along this assessment of Bouillon for us:

Preds fans might not have had time to become acquainted with Bouillon the first time around, but he is a very interesting package. At $750,000, he comes at a bargain price for a third pairing D man with his experience. He's often dismissed due to being all of 5 foot 8, but he weighs 201, and has a body that is chiselled like a middleweight. His skating is excellent, perhaps his best skill. He can play second unit PP minutes. Toughness wise, he hasn't an ounce of fear in him. He's eager to slam up against the big guys, occasionally surprising unsuspecting players with how solid he is. With Montreal, there have often been times where he'll catch a big guy in stride, and raise them right off their feet. Bouillon is also unafraid to drop the gloves, and he can fend for himself pretty well. He's had a couple of good bust ups with Darcy Tucker over the years, and the former Leafs always came out the worst for wear. Defensively, Bouillon is positional if unspectacular. He plays very well within a strict system, and should be a perfect fit on the Nashville D. There must a reason why the Preds have acquired him twice now, and that could have to do with what was mentioned above, and the fact that he is a consumate teammate and professional. The one drawback to his game, is a slightly late read on the game's bigger and faster forwards. If a player gets a head of steam on Frankie and gets around him, his size then becomes an issue. Bouillon was very much liked in Montreal, and had the Habs not signed three superior free agent defensemen, he would still have his place. I think Nashville fans will like him, and there isn't one Canadiens fans that doesn't wish him well.
Incidently, Bouillon's name in French means "broth" and there is a product around these parts called Oxo cubes. Bouillon was often nicknamed "Cube" or "Beef Cube", which is pretty apt if you ever see the build on the guy.

What I'll be very interested to see are Bouillon's puck-moving abilities. If people are looking for a Greg Zanon replacement, Bouillon certainly does not appear to be it (just 55 Blocked Shots last season). However, if Bouillon can jump-start the forwards to at least a moderate extent, he might turn out to be a more effective overall player than Zanon was.

One of the interesting new metrics available at Behind the Net is "Relative Corsi". Recall first that the Corsi number (referred to as "Total Shots" on Predators broadcasts) measures the total of shots attempted, for and against, per 60 minutes of Even Strength play. Since it includes Missed Shots and Blocked Shots along with regular Shots on Goal, it provides a good indicator of which team is getting more offensive opportunities when a given player is on the ice.

Just like with the traditional Plus/Minus figures, however, the team situation can greatly influence the Corsi rating. Heck, even as an overweight over-the-hill beer leaguer, I could probably do OK if I played on Detroit's top line (well, for 10 seconds or so at least). What Relative Corsi does is measure the extent to which the Corsi figure shifts for a given team, based on a player's presence on the ice. In other words, my Corsi might look OK if I played alongside Datsyuk in Detroit, but you can bet that it would look a whole lot worse than the rest of their lineup. Using Relative Corsi, I'd stick out like a sore thumb.

So what does Relative Corsi tell us about Francis Bouillon's prospects for replacing Greg Zanon on Nashville's 2nd defense pair?

I ran a quick screen of all defenseman who played at least 40 games last season, and 10 minutes of even strength ice time per contest, and sorted it by Relative Corsi. Out of the 196 guys who qualified, Bouillon came in at #78, with a Relative value of +1.5. In other words, slightly above average. Zanon, on the other hand? Way down at #179, with a Relative value of -11.4 (meaning that for every 60 minutes of play, the Total Shots For & Against figures shifted by 11.4 against Nashville).***

An ongoing criticism I've had of Zanon is that his high Blocked Shots totals belie the fact that when he's on the ice, it's a virtual shooting gallery in the defensive zone. His lack of offensive ability just meant that once he went down to block a shot and clear the puck, the other team was just going to gather it in and come back again. If Bouillon can settle things down and just make a decent first pass on a consistent basis, there's good reason to believe that the 2nd pairing can be much more effective this season.

*** For the curious, Kevin Klein's Relative Corsi was +2.2, also a very respectable figure. He might well prosper on the 2nd pair with Hamhuis, allowing Buillon to anchor the 3rd pair and work on special teams.