In Defense of Jay Bouwmeester



(Freelance writer and Dobber baseball fantasy analyst Mike Schmidt enters the FN contributor fray with a quantitaive defense of the JayBo)

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By: Mike Schmidt**

The final game of the 2010-11 season ended the same way for the Calgary Flames as it did on 29 other occasions during the year – a loss in which defenseman Jay Bouwmeester failed to register a point.

Calgary’s $6.6 million-dollar man logged a team-high 25 minutes, 37 seconds and led the Flames with 30 shifts in the 3-2 overtime home loss to the visiting Vancouver Canucks on April 9. He blocked one shot, skated to a -1 and did not take a shot on goal. It was a fitting end to a statistically underwhelming season for Bouwmeester – the second in the two years since the 27-year-old defenseman first donned a Flames uniform.

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Calgary fans have long since stopped expecting to see reliable offensive production from their favorite squad’s highly-paid “No. 1 defenseman.” The great fanfare and expectations surrounding Bouwmeester’s arrival in Calgary in 2009 has long since subsided and has been replaced by the harsh reality of his underwhelming play.

Much has been made of Bouwmeester’s inability to build upon, or even match, a three-year stretch in which he produced double-digit goals prior to leaving Florida and signing a massive 5-year, $33.4 million contract with the Flames. Two seasons after coming to Calgary, it has become increasingly clear Bouwmeester is no longer a major scoring threat capable of producing a slew of 40-point seasons.

The numbers (so far) have not been pretty. In 164 games since joining the Flames, Bouwmeester has totaled seven goals and 46 assists for a grand total of 53 points. In 2010-11, he posted a -0.2 offensive goals versus threshold, good for second-worst among Flames blueliners (ahead of only Brendan Mikkelson, who saw action in just 19 games). This means Bouwmeester’s offensive performance was less than what a typical replacement-level call-up would have done in the same context.

Furthermore, Bouwmeester’s overall GVT for 2010-11 certainly doesn’t indicate he’s an elite and well-rounded blueliner. At 5.3, he managed to tie such luminaries as New Jersey’s Andy Greene, Tampa Bay’s Eric Brewer (who was with St. Louis last year) and Pittsburgh’s Paul Martin. None of them made $6.6 million in 2010-11.

The Silver Lining

That being said, it can be very easy to overlook Bouwmeester’s contributions to the team. In fact, in some (very specific and limited) ways, Bouwmeester is an irreplaceable defenseman. There are ways in which he can affect the game and contribute to the Flames’ success on the ice better than the vast majority of defensemen currently in the NHL. Consider the following:

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• He finished fourth in the NHL in Defensive GVT.

• He finished second in the NHL in total time on ice in 2010-11.

• He finished second in the league in even-strength TOI this past season.

• He finished sixth in the league in shorthanded TOI.

• No blueliner with a negative Offensive GVT finished with a higher overall GVT than Bouwmeester this past year.

• His quality of competition (relative) was +1.307, second only to blueline partner Robyn Regehr.

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There are a few key takeaways from the above list:

1. Very few blueliners are counted on to eat more minutes on the ice than Bouwmeester. In fact, Chicago’s Duncan Keith is the only player in the NHL who saw more ice time than Bouwmeester did in 2010-11.

2. The Flames lean heavily on Bouwmeester to prevent other squads’ top offensive players from scoring. It’s a tough task, but he has proven more than able to meet the challenge. All things considered, Bouwmeester performs very well in this role. After all, he finished behind three defensemen (Los Angeles’s Drew Doughty, Nashville’s Ryan Suter and Anaheim’s Toni Lydman) in Defensive GVT this year.

The Flames have tweaked Bouwmeester’s role to accent his current strengths as a player. He has relinquished power-play time to Mark Giordano, which is probably for the best considering Bouwmeester’s well-documented offensive struggles. The shift in role can be seen in Bouwmeester’s GVT numbers. Yes, his overall GVT decreased in 2010-11. However, his defensive GVT actually increased this past year. Check out the table below:

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Year Offensive GVT Defensive GVT Shootout GVT Overall GVT
2009-10 1.1 5.1 0.0 6.6
2010-11 -0.2 5.7 -0.2 5.3

While he’s not going to suddenly revert back to being a potent offensive threat or live up to his huge contract, Bouwmeester is a very solid blueliner due to his ability to play a lot of quality minutes against opponents’ top forwards, log copious amounts of ice time and stay durable, Bouwmeester is a critical and ever-valuable contributor to the Flames’ success.

**Mike Schmidt is a professional editor, hockey fan and admitted Wisconsin sports apologist. He is not the Hall-of-Fame third baseman from the Philadelphia Phillies. Feel free to talk hockey, baseball or other sports with him on Twitter @MikeTSchmidt



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  • God stuff.

    The issue of Bouwmeester falling of a cliff in Calgary offense wise was investigated by Robert previously. He suggested drastically different usage on the PP is the cause: in FLA, Bouwmeester used to roam and sneak off the point a lot, leading to a lot of close in shots and back-door tap-ins. In CGY, he’s almost always stuck on the point, where it’s clear he’s not going to do much damage. He’s a big guy, but his shot is fairly average.

  • Matty Franchise Jr


    I might have given it a 9 if there was an explanation of what GVT, goals versus threshold, is. It’s not a long article, so the addition of this wouldn’t have made it seem too long.

  • MikeTSchmidt

    @Kent Wilson That certainly is reflected in Bouwmeester’s shooting percentage (.033 last year and .023 in 2009-10.) It doesn’t help that his shots on goal have decreased in each since 2008-09 (182 to 130 to 121). Not exactly a recipe for padding your offensive statistics.

    @Beeker73 Valid point. I did consider including some language to define goals versus threshold. Clearly I should have.

  • Arik

    Haha, it’s not really a problem- mostly just funny since it is exactly a week later. I’m easily entertained. Plus, the piece I’m working on now is rather bleak, so I needed to laugh at something.

  • BobB

    I marked this article pretty low. Here’s why:

    1. GVT. It’s not explained or linked in the article, many are unfamiliar with it and it’s significance is relied on too heavily, to make the point.

    Here is my beef with Jay and I guess my rebuttal to other points

    TOI really shouldn’t be a stat that is used to measure quality vs the league. Certainly, JBo’s longevity and minutes is worth much to the Flames, however, it may only illustrate how awful the other defenders are and that JBo is playing so much because Sarich, Staois, Mikkel etc. are too awful as minutes options. I do think it’s valuable to point out TOI as a comparison amongst the team, but be wary of what it means. Consider using TOI in defense of Kiprusoff…… it’s valuable, but how much?

    Lastly, what people want to see out of 6.6mil defenders is difference making. Difference making physical play or
    difference making transition and support of offence. Jbo has in two years here has not shown he is elite at either. In fact, his physical game is likely one of the softest in the league.

    youtube search Regehr hit, or Phaneuf hit, then do Bouwmeester hit (you see Jbo getting hit!)

    He’s not scoring (7 goals in 164games), he’s not physical. I think you could grade Jbo’s play all season with “+’s” and “-‘s” and end up with a blank page. He’s the anti-Phaneuf in every way except over-pay!

    Jbo may munch a TON of minutes and play a TON of games, but what he does in those minutes is some of the least-difference-making, safe-vanilla defensive play I’ve ever seen from a 6.6 million dollar defender. He’s gotta start earning a few more “+’s”…actually many more “+’s” because bad luck is happy to give him the “-‘s”

    • ChinookArchYYC

      “youtube search Regehr hit, or Phaneuf hit, then do Bouwmeester hit (you see Jbo getting hit!)”

      If you YouTube Crosby hit, what do you get? Call me old school, but I guess my first concern for a defensemen is the ability to defend. By your measure of a difference maker Babchuck is a better defenseman than Bouwmeester. They’re different players, but I’d take Bo every single time.

      • BobB

        What are you talking about?

        How is Babchuk a better player by “my measure”? What’s “my measure?” (BTW, Crosby isn’t a defenseman)

        My point is that Bouwmeester, as good as he is, doesn’t do any big difference-making skills well. Goals, Puck transitions or Physical Play. I never said anything about his defensive prowess, reach or skating. I think that’s what Peca was getting at, and I’m starting to see it.

        If Jbo scored twice the goals like Lidstrom, or was physical like Phaneuf, or could skate through the three zones like Keith people would complain less about his salary. Or could dominate you physically, shoot the puck through a brick wall AND be a league leader in TOI like Weber….

        Jbo is a very good defender, but he’s not a difference maker as well, and at 6.6million dollars, you need to be a good defenseman AND a difference maker.

        Lidstrom, for example, is an elite defender AND a difference maker, even though he’s not overly physical. Do we think he’s worse than Jbo because he’s 28th in the league in TOI?

        • SmellOfVictory

          Good argument. He’s more of a difference suppressor than a difference maker. That’s not a bad thing to have in a dman, but the one-dimensionality of it means his salary outstrips his ability by a significant margin.

        • ChinookArchYYC


          First, let’s agree that Bouwmeester is overpaid. Now let’s try to forget this in determining his value. If you can’t get beyond the pay, you never see anything more than disappointment.

          By your “difference-maker” measure, you could make the arguement that Babchuck is more valuable becuase he has more goals, and is a threat on the PP. This is true, until you realize he is nothing more than a PP specialist and defensive liability.

          Bouwmeester plays the most, hardest minutes on the team (and in the league). As far as the Flames go, when you need a player or line shut-down, you call on #4, because he gets done, because he is among the best in the league at doing so. Defense is not glamorous when you do it the way Jay Bouwmeester does. No big hits, no smashface attitude, no offensive flair, and not alot of points to show. Instead you get a consistant level of play throughout each game and thought each season. Is TOI important? Maybe not, but don’t blow it off as nothing? If it were that easy, Lidstrom would be on the ice for the whole game.

          PS. My point about Crosby is that just because he got creamed, doesn’t make him a bad player. I value a big hitting defenseman too, but agian I value being defensively responsible more. Denis Gautier is a great case in point. It was fun watching him demolish opposing players, but he got caught doing it all the time and walked off the ice minus one alot.

          • Arik

            I agree with what you say & I have heard a lot of Flame fans say they would love to just see JBO traded to get rid of the cap hit. We cant afford to lose JBO ala the way we lost Phaneuf.
            Unfortunately I dont think JBO would net us much more of a return than what Dion got us, a bunch of over paid middle of the road no impact players. JBO is way more valuable to us playing on our blueline. We need Butler or Brodie to step up and be rock star players at rock star pricing to offset the overpayment to JBO. All I can say is he better bloody well give us an incredible hometown discount when the 3 years are up. 🙂

          • Section205

            By your “difference-maker” measure, you could make the arguement that Babchuck is more valuable becuase he has more goals, …and [he is] defensive liability.

            I’m not saying this, you are misreading/ misunderstanding. I am saying Jbo is a good defender, he doesn’t ALSO do the “difference maker” things well.

            Bouwmeester plays the most, hardest minutes on the team (and in the league).

            This is simply not true. He played 2nd QualComp to Regehr last year, nevermind in the league.

            No big hits, no smashface attitude, no offensive flair, and not alot of points to show. Instead you get a consistant level of play throughout each game and thought each season.

            You don’t get this OR that. He’s a good defender, but he wasn’t consistent last year… he fell off a cliff.

            Whether you want to ignore salary or not, we need a #1 defender to build around who brings more than just… unglamorous, generally steady defense and nothing more.

            I like Jbo on our team. I don’t like his pay or his “far-too-often” vanilla play.

  • MikeTSchmidt

    Yeah, I wrote the article and suggested the headline two weeks ago. I suggested that headline over “Yes, Jay Bouwmeester Has a Pulse” and “No. 4 Is (Almost) No. 1 (In Total Ice Time).”

    @Rain Dogs I understand and agree with many of the things you say. Bouwmeester isn’t worth his salary, nor is he an elite, well-rounded defenseman. However, I’ll argue that being able to remain healthy and effective while logging the ice time and facing the kind of competition Bouwmeester does has value to the Flames. I believe comparing ice time between players of different teams is an acceptable method of measuring value. It speaks to Bouwmeester’s durability and how much the Flames lean on him. Would he log as much ice time on certain other teams in the league? Absolutely not. But the Flames need him in the lineup, as they don’t have a more suitable option on the current roster.

    • BobB

      I agree completely that it has value to the Flames, and said as much, but to measure it against a team rich in talent on “D” who don’t have to lean on one guy so heavily… isn’t an indication of his talent, just his necessity.

      Kiprusoff vs Thomas…. TOI tells me Kipper is a far superior goalie. I doubt that very much. It also tells me he is one of the best, if not the best goalie in the league. Doubtful.

      BUT,I doubt less Kipper’s value to the Flames.

      Same with Jbo. I also believe that Flames have a poor “D” core-6 for a cap team, so why wouldn’t Jbo play a ton?

      • SmellOfVictory

        TOI works as a way of measuring the effectiveness of skaters because they’re actually competing for it with a sizeable number of other players(for the most part there’s a positive correlation between how long the coaches put them out and how good they are). With goalies, it’s generally between a starter and a backup, and it’s thus a lot less useful aside from letting us know which of the two is better; in this case, Kipper was considered decidedly better than Karlsson; the same can’t be said of Thomas vs Rask.

  • SmellOfVictory

    Performance versus expectation & compensation is pretty well the crutch of any JBO discussions. If JBO earned the same money as Gio, we would be thrilled with JBO on our team and locked up for 3 more years. The tough minutes he logs is huge. Problem is, he’s paid like a franchise player you build a team around. Someone like a Scott Niedermeyer or Duncan Keith or Doughty or Lidstrom. These players win games themselves. The put the team on their backs and will the team to a win like Iggy used to. In 2 years who can say JBO carried the team & won a game for us? Name me a spectacular play that changed the outcome of a game. 6.68Million should buy an organiztion that. You cant trade him because these potlicking GM’s would make us throw a draft pick and treat the deal like a salary dump.We have to keep him. Imagine(if JBO had a Regehr or Gio contract) if we had that extra 2.6mill & instead of signing Babchuk at 2.5mill we offer sheet or swing a deal for Begosian at 4.0mil.
    We complain of no number 1 centre to play with Jerome but part of the reason we never had that for Iggy is because we have so many players over paid for what they do & bring to our team. Performance versus salary & expectation. I think the Flames would rate in the bottom 5 teams of the league in that ratio despite the steals of Tanguay & Morrison last year.

    • ChinookArchYYC

      “performance versus salary & expectation. I think the Flames would rate in the bottom 5 teams of the league in that ratio despite the steals of Tanguay & Morrison last year”.

      Sadly, your are dead right.

      • Greg

        That should be fairly easy to measure by taking all teams points earned divided by their cap hit last year. I’m too lazy to do the math, but it wouldn’t shock me if the flames came in dead last by that measure.

  • ChinookArchYYC

    Short, but well written.

    I’m not sure if this is a response to Andrew Walker’s rating of Bouwmeester, on the radio last week. Unlike Walker’s clearly uneducated view, this article shows some balance. The funny thing is, Walker claimed that his view was outside the fact that JBo makes $6.6M a year. I think that you have correctly identified the reason for the bad buzz around this player. First, he was expected to put up points and does not, second he makes a lot of money and is a cap hog. I believe there is a there is a third reason. Fan’s don’t attribute the label “elite” to defensive defensemen, so it doesn’t matter how well JBo plays, if he doesn’t end up on the scoresheet regularly, fans will consider him a bust.

  • Vintage Flame

    It’ll be interesting to see how Bouwmeester plays this year because he will take on an even bigger role than last year. He no longer has Regher to help him out and will have to play better knowing he doesn’t have Regher around. I liked j-bo’s game last year until the last stretch when he was brutal (the SanJose game comes to mind). He is overpaid but has tremendous value for this team. His offensive game will never be the same as it was in Florida, but if he plays a strong defensive game that makes up for it in my opinion.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I realize there’s always a premium on the top UFAs of a given offseason, but if he’d gone UFA with the counting stats he’s put up in Calgary as his most recent results as opposed to what he had from Florida, I don’t think he gets over 6 million. Teams overpay for offensive stats, not defensive stalwartness.

      • Vintage Flame

        I don’t necessarily agree with this. Look at the money that Erhoff got? $10 Mil for 14 goals, 50 pts and +19.

        J-Bo in his last year in FLA had 15 goals, 42 pts and granted was a -2, but then again look at the difference between Van and FLA? Enough said?

        So is J-bo overpaid? Is Erhoff? Granted Jay’s numbers in Calgary haven’t been stellar, but then again.. not even Calgary has high-insight clauses in their contracts.

        I know you were more referring to his numbers in Calgary and NOT Florida, but if this last free agency period was ANY indication of over-payment, J-Bo might have received at least a similar deal to the one he got coming here.

  • Section205

    Jay is a workhorse, and I am pleasantly surprised to read he had the 4th highest defensive GVT (I confess I am not an expert in this stat).

    If we gave away Bouwmeester there would be a huge whole to fill…probably $4 or $5 M to replace him on the open market is my guess. So he is probably overpaid $1.5 to $2M.

    Unfortunately, both his $6.68 cap hit plus his Florida numbers have raised my expectations for him. Not sure if he can meet my expectation by scoring 15G and 35A while maintaining his performance at the defensive end.

    Thanks Mike, for adding your perspective.

  • Simple solution for our Bouwmeester problem: trade him to Nashville for Shea Weber.

    They get a good, steady defenceman who is signed for a couple seasons at a (more reasonable than Weber) rate. We get an excellent defenceman who gets a little closer to his home, can score AND play defence. Sign him for his $7.5 billion or whatever he wants, and move on from there.

    …not going to happen, but wishful thinking is certainly allowed.

  • SmellOfVictory

    I’m sure everyone has heard about the tragic death of Rick Rypien. I know some of his family and I know that they are devastated. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family and friends. RIP Rick

  • Love watching the man skate, hated watching him drop off at crunch time last season. From thinking he was gonna be Paul Coffey to realizing he’s a fawn still leaves a mark. I like the player but he needs to stop being stood up for. With the amount of ice time he gets he needs to step up his scoring chances chew on some sand and earn his contract. Room him with Tim Jackman and feed him raw meat.

  • I am not a subscriber to the detailed technical analysis (pvt, gst, rko. . .), but respect those who take the time and make the effort to do so.

    JBo has not contributed the numbers that were expected, that cannot be denied. But what has surprised me, as not a casual observer of the Flames, is his ability to play against some of the top lines of other teams. Granted, he needs to be partnered with a more physical partner (Hannan this year?) to be most effective in this role, but, in my opinion, he has done a decent job on clearing the zone most nights.

    I would submit that JBo might be better off, offensively, if there were a more ‘balanced’ partner for him in 5 on 5 situations. First reaction would be to put Gio with him, however, I think Chris Butler might also fit the role. Play the body, make a good outlet pass. . . As for the power play, I agree about his shot, so its better you get him out there to feed Iggy or Babchuk.

    In hindsight, JBo’s acquisition cost the team the ability to retain Mike Cammalleri, a series of events that would not be done today. But, like a lot of others in Flames livery, this season will be measured and monitored very, very closely.