RFA Profiles – Lance Bouma and Paul Byron

Killer Bee

This summer, all of the high profile Calgary Flames restricted free agents have last names starting with the letter B. As we start our case studies on Calgary’s pending free agents, we’re going to focus in on two of them. I don’t really need to go too in depth into Mikael Backlund’s case, because you know I love him and it’s also been previously covered. The Flames have two other killer bees who need contracts, though, in Lance Bouma and Paul Byron. As it turns out, both of their negotiations should be extremely interesting.

Bouma and Byron prove to be very interesting for different reasons. Bouma is coming off by far the best season he’s ever had as a professional, or as a junior for that matter. Byron, on the other hand, was plagued by injuries and a negative perception that wasn’t necessarily earned. The interest in the former lies in what his contract will end up looking like. Intriguing with the latter, however, is whether he’ll get a contract at all.

Lance Bouma

2014-2015 stats: 78 GP, 16 G, 18 A, 34 PTS, 54 PIM, +10

2014-2015 cap hit: $775,000

Bouma was perhaps the biggest surprise of the entire 2014-2015 campaign. I don’t think anyone saw his 16 goals or 34 points coming, and I don’t think anyone had him penciled in to be averaging 14:00 per night. He was one of, oh, seemingly every player to have a career season, but Bouma’s came far more out of thin air than anyone else. For a guy who’s career WHL year in Vancouver was 14 goals and 43 points, this past NHL season didn’t fit the script in any way, shape, or form.

And that is precisely why the Flames have to be very careful with this next contract extension. Bouma absolutely deserves a new deal and a raise, but Calgary has to very much guard against signing a contract based on loyalty and intangibles. A steady dose of those cold, hard facts has to be administered as well.

Offensively, Bouma had an outlier season, plain and simple. To look at his 16 goals this season and then extrapolate that as a benchmark total going forward would be extremely premature and rather unfair to the player. Bouma’s shooting percentage of 15.4% was third on the Flames and about seven percentage points higher than the league average. That’s an extremely large variance and the largest explanation as to why his goal total took such a massive leap.

Even more telling is Bouma’s professional numbers in the same category. Prior to this season, his NHL shooting percentage sat at 5.1%. His career AHL shooting percentage over parts of three seasons was 9.0%, a number far more in line with the norm. 5.1% is low for a legit NHLer, which I believe Bouma is, so I’m not saying that’s your all-telling number, either. I guess what I’m saying is, there’s nothing to suggest Bouma has any Jiri Hudler or Alex Tanguay in him. Those guys are career double digit shooters, so they’re no fluke. It’s far easier to believe Bouma’s numbers this season were far more related to good fortune than anything else.

Bouma’s possession numbers won’t knock your socks off either. The numbers are misleading, however. Bouma had the second lowest offensive zone start on the team at 34.6%, so his Corsi for percentage of 41.69% isn’t all telling. Whatever the circumstance, though, a raw Corsi number of -18.27 just doesn’t translate to 16 goals without a lot of help from the percentages.

The guy is a warrior, I’m definitely not going to undersell his importance to the team. He was sixth in the league among forwards with 82 blocked shots, he sells out for his teammates, and he’s one of the most popular guys in the locker room. I think Bouma is a solid bottom six forward in this league right now and will continue to be for a number of years to come. To sign him to a deal with the words “top six” in the conversation, though, is a mistake. That’s what Calgary has to make sure they don’t do.

Verdict: I’d give Bouma a two year deal at around $2.5 million total, for an average cap hit of $1.25 million. He’s earned more than a one year deal, but to be giving a ton of term right now isn’t the way to go. Could you go three years or bump the cap hit a little bit? Yeah, there’s a little wiggle room there, but not a ton. I love what Bouma brings, but he’s not the only hard working, heart and soul guy in the league. The Flames have to remember that during this negotiation.

Paul Byron

2014-2015 stats: 57 GP, 6 G, 13 A, 19 PTS, 8 PIM, -2

2014-2015 cap hit: $600,000

Ahh yes, Paul Byron. This is a player who’s always been one of my favourites, but I sometimes find myself on an island with fellow media folk when talking about him. I think Byron is a quality NHL forward, I think he helps you win hockey games, and I think Calgary needs to re-sign him. Unfortunately, some unfounded negative perceptions and the lack of an extra foot in the height department might make that a difficult sell for some, including the people that matter.

The NHL lists Byron at 5’7 and 153 pounds. That’s a problem on any team, but on a Flames team that has frequently mentioned getting bigger, it’s an even bigger obstacle. Throw in ridiculous perceptions like “Byron can’t score on breakaways” and “he skates around but accomplishes nothing”, and you can see why there are detractors out there. These false observations and his true lack of NHL size don’t change the most important fact, though: he’s an effective player.

First off, let’s dispel this breakaway thing. Yeah, Byron had a bunch of golden opportunities in alone this season and he didn’t score on them. No, that doesn’t mean he lacks “breakaway skill” or the killer instinct to finish goals. Sometimes guys just have weird seasons where certain things don’t go for them. Byron had one of those this season in those situations. Oh, and let’s not forget…continually putting yourself in those spots to even be having this conversation is inherently a good thing.

Byron is never going to put up mind blowing offensive numbers, but his six goals and 19 points were respectable totals, especially when you consider his bargain price. But it’s the things that don’t show up on the scoresheet that really win the day for me.

Once again, his possession numbers were amongst the best on the team. At 46.39%, his Corsi for rating was fourth best on the team, behind only Josh Jooris, Jiri Hudler, and Johnny Gaudreau. He was third in the same category during the 2013-2014 season, too. Furthermore, Byron is also an above average penalty killer. This past season, Byron averaged 1:18 of penalty kill time per game, which put him third among Flames forwards. He’s speedy and can create separation from defenders with his strong burst ability.

Johnny Gaudreau and Patrick Kane are small NHL forwards who make you forget about that with their incredibly high level skill. Just because Byron doesn’t have those same gifts doesn’t mean he’s too small to play the NHL game, though. Cam Atkinson and Nathan Gerbe are both solid players who contribute by being smart, aware, and quietly effective. I think Byron is in that very same mold and has a decent NHL career ahead of him. The question is, will the Flames factor in as that career progresses?

Verdict: Here’s the best part about Byron: you don’t have to pay him much or harness yourself to a long contract. He made $600,000 last year after not being qualified by the team and signing back as a UFA. The same deal, or one extremely close to it, is very much in the cards. My question is, why the hell not? At best, he gives you solid NHL minutes on a very affordable, one year deal. If I’m totally, completely, horrifyingly wrong with my assessment on Byron, then you have a veteran playing in the AHL for one more year. So I’ll ask again…why the hell not?

  • TheRealPoc

    In a year when we weren’t really expected to do anything, Byron’s ice cold run might actually turn out to be a massive boon for this club. Every dollar counts as we approach Cappageddon 2016, and we already know Byron’s a damn fine play driver, despite the lack of boxcar numbers. If you can bring Paulie back into the fold at a 6-figure number for more than one season, isn’t that an automatic snap-call for this FO?

    Regardless, great test for Treliving early on. Bouma’s a beauty but this isn’t his true production, while Byron’s probably a safe bet to see more pucks go in next year. Both guys should be kept, but hopefully for the right reasons – and I think Tre’s reasoning will be reflected in both the AAV and term for both guys.

    • In a year when we weren’t really expected to do anything, Byron’s ice cold run might actually turn out to be a massive boon for this club. Every dollar counts as we approach Cappageddon 2016, and we already know Byron’s a damn fine play driver, despite the lack of boxcar numbers. If you can bring Paulie back into the fold at a 6-figure number for more than one season, isn’t that an automatic snap-call for this FO?

      This is exactly where I’m at with Byron. He kind of has the same syndrome that Backlund had a few years back…counting numbers aren’t great, but underlying numbers show he’s an effective player. It kept Backlund’s cap hit down and made him a bargain for quite some time.

      That’s a good thing for the team. Cheap, effective players are something teams need. Why on earth wouldn’t they bring Byron back?

  • Reidja

    Agree on both counts Pat. Both have proven to be solid bottom six NHL contributors, both set a good example for the younger guys, and retaining them maintains a significant amount of competition for forward spots coming into camp next season.

    These two could be in or out based on how prepared some of our prospects are. If they are in, I feel comfortable with that. If they are pushed out, I would be ecstatic because it would mean that younger guys are taking significant steps.

  • OKG

    Bouma just put up better offensive numbers than Yakupov even though he doesn’t play pp. I don’t see how we can get him for half of what the Oilers gave Yak. Hopefully we have younger and bigger options ready so Byron can be let go.

    • If you’re willing to shell out big bucks for one year of production that far exceeds anything the guy has ever done, then all the power to you. I don’t think that’s the way to go about your business if you’re the Flames, specifically because far more important guys need contracts and the team needs to save all the dollars they can.

  • TheRealPoc

    Bouma can play in my bottom 6 anytime. Guy is the epitome of what makes up winning teams. He has taken the short term deals & now its time to give him some length. But…. that will be bottom 6 type of terms, so I like 3-4 years at 1.8mill per would be a good raise for him & some security & a cap friendly deal for the Flames.

    Byron… sorry if we sign him fine & if we don’t I won’t lose any sleep.

  • Reidja

    Let’s get Bouma signed for the next 3 years.

    Flames definitely need to get bigger and heavier as this was obvious in Duck series. Brian Burke has reconfirmed the Flames need to do this….How do the Flames expect to get bigger if we sign players like Byron?? Bye bye Byron….

    • The Chicago Blackhawks have 4 regular players over the height of 6’1. Two of them are Jonathan Toews and Niklas Hjalmarsson, who aren’t what we’d call physically imposing. Why is there this need to talk about the Flames getting bigger?

      The Hawks were 29th in the NHL in hits, but they win hockey games because they have a deep roster with skill, speed, and effective players.

      Byron is an effective player who fits the way the Flames want to play. His size really shouldn’t factor into this conversation.

  • OKG

    I will laugh at the “riding a hot percentage” people when Bouma has a 20 goal season next year and sustains his percentages. The release on his shot now is nothing like it was before.

    • SmellOfVictory

      I won’t laugh, but I will smirk knowingly when his goal total drops down to 5-10 and his shooting percentage regresses closer to normal.

      I cannot fathom that someone would legitimately try to defend Lance Bouma, the definition of a grinder, having a shooting percentage at the level of Steven Stamkos.

      • OKG

        A grinder who can skate, shoot, tip, and even occasionally dangle..

        The difference between Bouma and Stamkos is volume. If Bouma shot Stamkos volume he wouldn’t even be close to Stamkos percentages. But he shoots his own tiny volume which is mostly comprised of high quality setups, usually on breakaways (which correlates to his bad corsi, BTW).

        Also, Bouma moved from playing 4th line center (where he’s ill suited) to 2nd/3rd line LW (where he fits much better).

    • You make it sound like there’s no past history or reasoning behind our claims. This isn’t voodoo stuff with no foundation.

      Guys with -18.27 Corsi ratings don’t go hand in hand with career seasons. There was undoubtedly some good fortune that went into Bouma’s campaign.

      I’m not saying he’s not a good player, but to extrapolate a 20 goal season NEXT year based on this season because your eyes tell you his shot is better and his release is quicker isn’t sound logic.

      • OKG

        Without context, the corsi numbers you’re pointing out are useless. Context like “Bouma is the player who is out there the most when the Flames are trying to protect a lead and gets hammered by score effects” or “There were times Lance Bouma was deployed on 5-man units with Bollig, Smid, and Engelland at the same time, but most of his goals came when he was deployed with Giordano, Jones, Backlund etc” The corsi numbers do adequately tell us that Bouma as 4th line center is not the way to go forward (and shouldn’t need to be, as we’re very deep at C), but they don’t tell us that Bouma was riding a flukey percentage… that’s just people failing to put two-and-two together.

        M&G has some actual context for you:

        http://www.matchsticksandgasoline.com/2015/5/18/8621833/lance-bouma-and-mikael-backlund-the-impact-a-quality-centre-makes

        Writing it off as a fluke year “because corsi” is half-assed analysis.

        As for my eyes telling me his shot is better and his release is quicker, it’s not just my eyes. Tim Turk seems to think he’s made actual strides:

        http://www.calgarysun.com/2015/02/21/flames-winger-lance-bouma-credits-tim-tuk-with-helping-develop-goal-scoring-touch

        …But what does Mike Camalleri’s shot doctor know? Corsicorsicorsi!

        • I provided plenty of context. He was defensively deployed which makes the numbers themselves misleading. However to say that a guy with a negative possession number that deep over 78 games didn’t need some help to have a career year in goals is you ignoring fact.

          The negative Corsi number is not indicative of Bouma’s play, and I never said it was. However, it is a very telling sign that Bouma rode some percentages to see his goal total as high as it was. I don’t see how you can write that off as your condescending “Corsicorsicorsi” stuff.

          Yes, Bouma was better when playing with better players…but that doesn’t mean he should be a top six option for the team. Nor does it mean he should be paid like one. That’s my point.

          • OKG

            No, it’s not me ignoring fact, it’s you misusing Corsi.

            When a team has strong possession numbers, they spend more time in their offensive zone. That also means defenses are more well-set and so percentages drop. When a player has poor possession numbers, they spend less time in their offensive zone, and so when they break out of their zone, have superior scoring chances.

            The Kings are a perfect example. They’re easily the best possession team in the NHL. But look at Doughty, Kopitar, pretty much anyone’s goal scoring on that team and it’s been worse since Sutter improved their possession. That doesn’t mean possession teams are worse at scoring goals – obviously with more possession they get balanced scoring throughout the lineup. But players on high possession teams score at a worse pace with worse percentages.

            Look at Marian Hossa, he was an absolute beast for Pittsburgh in the 2008 playoffs – 12 goals, 14 assists in 20 games on 15.8% shooting that year. You generate better opportunities for individuals off the rush, and that’s how that Pittsburgh team scored – they were not a strong possession team. His career as a Blackhawk isn’t even remotely close scoring-wise to that one playoff run in Pittsburgh because they’re a very strong possession team.

            It’s this same reason that Patrice Bergeron is not an amazing powerplay guy, but can light you up on the PK. (for instance 2011 playoffs – 2 SH goals, 0 PP goals).

            Treating a sport like hockey as a game of roulette where one year a player “rides hot percentages” and another year “regresses” ignores the actual game being played on the ice. Is there variance from year to year? Absolutely. There’s no guaruntee Bouma scores 16 goals next year. But likewise, your base assumption that he will score less because this year he was hot is flawed. Marty St. Louis was Bouma’s age when we bought him out, and he proceeded to go have a hall of fame career.

            Bouma shot an impressive 15.4 this season. That doesn’t mean he’s going to “regress to 6%” next season. Nor does it mean he’s going to shoot 15.4% next season. That’s especially true for a forward, where offensive chances are more easily defined than for a defenseman. Dmen can be victims or beneficiaries of percentages because of their consistently limited shot quality. Forwards’ success hinges more on the shot quality itself.

            The cheaper we lock Bouma up the better, but don’t just assume he won’t have another strong season next year. He’ll continue to be on Backlund’s line, whether that’s the 2nd or 3rd depends on Bennett’s progression. And he’ll continue to be solid in that role because when you watch him play, he’s solid in that role.

          • Robear

            I’d like to see Bouma signed, and I’m glad to hear that he’s been working on his game, I’m a big believer in putting in the work to learn your craft. But there is LOTS of anecdotal evidence that he wont repeat either his points, goals or his shooting percentage (Junior #s, previous NHL numbers, corsi).

            Taking his counting stats as gospel to be repeated going forward in the face of contrary evidence AND signing him as a top 6 guy based on that is just as foolish as assuming that he will Never hit double digits again and signing him like an exclusive 4th liner

            If he feels he’s a legit 15 goal-35 pt top 6 option, he’ll still have to prove this year isnt a flash in the pan.

          • When a team has strong possession numbers, they spend more time in their own zone. That also means defenses are more well-set and so percentages drop. When a player has poor possession numbers, they spend less time in their own zone, and so when they break out of their zone, have superior scoring chances.

            This is wrong. Strong possession teams spend more time in the offensive zone, not their own zone. That’s what Corsi measures, time in the offensive zone. Don’t know if that’s what you meant or not, but the way you wrote it is inaccurate.

            The cheaper we lock Bouma up the better, but don’t just assume he won’t have another strong season next year. He’ll continue to be on Backlund’s line, whether that’s the 2nd or 3rd depends on Bennett’s progression. And he’ll continue to be solid in that role because when you watch him play, he’s solid in that role.

            I’m not guaranteeing he’ll regress, but to say I’m ignoring what happens on the ice is also wrong. Guys have career seasons for a reason and far more often than not a season like Bouma’s isn’t repeated. I like him, I say sign him, I just don’t think you give long term or big dollars.

          • OKG

            “This is wrong. Strong possession teams spend more time in the offensive zone.”

            That is what I meant.

            “Guys have career seasons for a reason and far more often than not a season like Bouma’s isn’t repeated. “

            And guys that repeat multiple career seasons can totally fall off the map too, like Semin or Setoguchi or Heatly. You can never predict what a player will do the next year. But you assertion that Bouma rode percentages is inadequate because in Hockey percentages never tell the whole story.

            Overpaying Bouma would be a poor move. But I’d still bet my money he will continue his scoring pace if he stays on the Backlund line.

            I’d bet my money that he will outscore Backlund on the Backlund line in goals (but not assists).

          • I’m not playing a clairvoyant and trying to predict.

            I’m just saying to pay him for what he MIGHT do is wrong. That’s been my only point. Pay him prudently for what he has done, which is have one season with far higher output than we’ve ever seen from him.

  • Good write up on these two players.

    I for one was concerned and disappointed on how long it took to sign Bouma last summer. They should have signed him to a 2yr deal then for 1.2M per year. Now it will cost the Flames more ( Good on Bouma ) and he will have another great season anyway. Maybe the Bollig deal did not sit well with Bouma and his agent at the time and he had to settle for another wait and see contract ? This guy now can get 1.5 to 2.5M per multi year deal.

    As for Byron he was trusted by Hartley in different situations this year over other regular players. He will sign a low risk contract (at a deal for the Flames ) who have really very little to lose by signing him to such a deal.

  • i love how Byron’s 46.3 CF% is 4th on the team. That’s enlighteningly scary. That Byron is 4th best and his CF% isn’t even 50/50.

    I think the biggest probelm with the Flames moving forward is the redunancy in the players we do have. We got a lot of middle of the row line up guys. Byron is merely just another one of those. Compared to the Flames his 46.3%CF is top half of the lineup for us. Compared to the league he’s a bottom 6 guy and we need to get BETTER. I just hope they’re not taking away opportunities from players who might you know actually bring a CF% of 49 or 50% going forward.

    If I were Treliving. I’d be looking at that… Lets say you keep Byron and resign him, which i’m fine with because he’s cheap and by far a better winger option than playing colborne or arnold there. Then you need to look at moving a guy like Colborne out to give a guy like Arnold a chance. Let’s make room for guys like Arnold and Shore and Granlund. Let’s try and drive posession forward.

    Trelviing has to make some hard choices this summer and cut some of the deadweight. Streamline the forwards. Make room for young guys who improve the club and bring in young UFAs who improve the hockey club. Reinhart, Colborne, Byron, Raymond, Bolig, they’ve shown us what they can do. We know where they’re at and what they bring. Now is time to see if you can find better options, what about wolf? what about shore? arnold? agostino? Poirier? Klimchuk is coming in to Stockton next year..

  • Craig

    I like Byron, I actually think he complements Backlund really well and that they make a pretty good pair, both possession driving forwards. I think you put Bouma and ferland and on a line with Jooris and have a great crash and bang third line.

    I agree though that both of these players should be on relatively small deals, Bouma’s will be higher but truly shouldn’t be that much higher.

  • Loved what both of these guys brought to the team this year, and I have to agree with Pat on his assessment of their relative values.

    Re: Bouma, I love the warrior, but anything more than 1.25 mill per season is out of line…

    Re Byron, I understand the need to get bigger and stronger, but it kills me that the same people that ridicule Burke for his “big and truculent” mindset always seem to want to dump Byron because he’s “too small”

    I have always been a big fan of a guy like Byron who may be five foot whatever but plays every shift like a 6’5″ power forward. He was trusted by Hartley because he earned it… Give him a bit of a raise and by all means sign him.

    If someone beats him out, all the more power to them, but I wouldn’t bet the farm on it…

  • Gotta say I love the back & forth here because this is where the stats will be coming to a crossroads, trying to interpret & utilize the numbers for prediction purposes. This will be handy for not only cap management but also for player asset utilization. Thanks guys, Im enjoying this.

    My only peon observation is that from my eye test, Bouma passed a lot of tough situations, his playing style was part of the successful formula that supported the progress our more talented young forwards flourished in & was very much a glue keeping this team tight. He’s a keeper. Like Pat says, he is a very undervalued asset right now & to lock him up for 3-4 years at around a 1.8mill cap hit would be huge for the team, the cap structure & reward the player with some $$$ & term. JMO.
    Thanks again guys!