(Freelance writer and Dobber baseball fantasy analyst Mike Schmidt enters the FN contributor fray with a quantitaive defense of the JayBo)
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.
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The great fanfare and expectations surrounding Bouwmeester’s arrival in Calgary in 2009 has long since subsided and has been replaced by the harsh reality of his underwhelming play.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:
• 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.
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:
|Year||Offensive GVT||Defensive GVT||Shootout GVT||Overall GVT|
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