Lance Bouma, injuries, and expectations

When Lance Bouma scored a career-high 16 goals and 34 points last season, expectations evidently went up. He was rewarded for his efforts with a three-year, $2.2 million annual average deal: numbers reflecting an expectation of at least similar production levels.

After all, even though Bouma plays with a ton of heart, he isn’t the only player in the league to do so. Brandon Bollig is a similar guy, and he carries a cap hit of $1.25 million because he is, simply, not as good.

Only this season, in Bouma’s first with his new contract, he hasn’t had the chance to prove he can meet the expectations set the previous year. And it’s not his fault in the slightest.

When somebody plays a game as physical as Bouma does, injuries aren’t exactly surprising. The injuries Bouma has suffered this season, keeping him out for weeks to months at a time, aren’t even really the result of physical play, though; they’re fluke injuries that could have happened to just about anybody.

First, Bouma broke his leg in just the third game of the season off a weird, indirect hit Ryan Reaves delivered. He passed the puck, was looking to continue moving north, and Reaves hit him in a way that resulted in an awkward fall against the boards. 

That was enough to already derail his season, as Bouma missed 30 games early on. It takes time to catch up to the rest of your teammates, particularly when your injury leaves you unable to skate for an extended period of time. Since his return, Bouma was primarily skating fourth line minutes.

At least until he got injured again. Just eight games into his return, Bouma suffered a cut to his leg against the San Jose Sharks. It was another fluke play that could have happened to virtually anybody, but it happened to him – and it’s expected it will keep him out for another 1.5-3 weeks, meaning likely anywhere from 3-10 games.

That’s potentially 40 games Bouma has lost due to injury, and it’ll only be early February if that happens. Half of a season gone, just like that, thanks to two fluke plays. 

Bouma only has one goal through the 11 games he’s been able to play: an empty netter. Through those 11 games, he’s averaged 11:16 on the ice: his lowest since his rookie season, in part because he had to be eased back into a lineup that was playing on without him the first three months of the season. 

There’s virtually no chance he’s able to match his 2014-15 totals, and it’s due to injuries completely out of his control. Consider this year a mulligan for him – what’s important is getting him back to 100%, and ensuring he has a good finish to the season, whether he scores any more points or not.

Not the first time this has happened

The 2012-13 NHL season started off with a lockout, meaning several players spent the end of 2012 in the AHL. Bouma, who had played 27 NHL games in 2011-12 and was probably a good bet to make the NHL team that year, was one of them.

He played just three games for the Abbotsford Heat before his entire season was over due to a hit on the boards that necessitated surgery for both his MCL and ACL. As his teammates returned to the NHL in 2013, he was left with rehab and forced to wait for October of that year.

How did Bouma respond after missing basically an entire year? He played his first full season in the NHL: 78 games throughout 2013-14, scoring five goals and 15 points in a bottom six role. It wasn’t incredible, but it was an indication the kid was officially an NHLer, and potentially, a valuable depth player. That’s not a bad response from someone who had essentially just missed an entire year of development.

Chances are we’ll have to wait until 2016-17 to see if Bouma can take the next step forward, but there’s always a possibility he can surprise through what will be left of early 2016.

Hopefully he can make the best of it – there are still another two years on his contract after this one, after all.

  • KACaribou

    Lance has always been one of the guys you want with you in the foxhole during a war on ice. You can’t get enough guys with that make up.

    He has been unfortunate all his career, which tells you how precarious it is in the NHL, and how you can be one hit from “the end” at any moment.

    Just when Lance started to look like he was going to make the team, he’d get injured. Now just as it looks like he could be an impact player he gets hurt.

    But injuries are like a roll of the dice. He could be prone like this now, then never get hurt again for the rest of his career. You never know.

  • KACaribou

    Should the Flames make a waiver claim on ROb Klinkhammer? The guy’s a possession beast, not much of a scorer but I imagine an upgrade on Bollig overall..

    • PrairieStew

      No. Not really an upgrade. Sending Bollig down doesn’t save his whole salary against the cap – not that this is a concern this year – and really proves nothing other than picking up another contract. Plus, they just might send Granlund back anyway.

      Would rather have space to take on a contract through trade in order to get some other assets.

      • KACaribou

        We have a lot players like this already….lots of heart but limited skill.
        I was fighting to keep Granlund up but he has not shown much lately.
        I don’t think he offers much as a bottom six player but not enough offense for top 6 minutes. He must be feeling the pressure.

    • KACaribou

      Question: if he is such a possession beast, why isn’t he regularly in the Oilers line-up? Unless being a possession beast isn’t that important, and just maybe there is more to being a useful hockey player than this particular analytic.

      My guess is that if he can’t make the Oilers, he probably isn’t going to help the Flames.

      • PrairieStew

        I can’t comment on the Oilers, they’re a gong show.

        Klinkhammer’s analytics all line up for a bottom line role. He was on a line with David Moss for almost 400 minutes over 3 seasons and they scored 73% of the goals.

        This is a guy Treliving is familiar with as Treliving was the AGM there in Phoenix.

    • PrairieStew

      If they had space for another body, and nobody chomping at the bit in the AHL, I would say sure. But if you claim Klinkhammer you have to roster him, and that means nobody in the AHL gets a shot. Plus you have to pay whoever gets waived/demoted to make space, and ownership/management doesn’t really like paying players to warm the bench. If someone gets sent down, it means there is less ice time to go around. Also, It’s another contract, which means less flexibility at the trade deadline.

  • PrairieStew

    Unfortunate for Lance but to me the guy is still good value. The salary cap this year is $70.6 million, with 23 roster spots that works out to just over $3 million to spend per player. When they signed him, the projection was probably for the cap to grow a couple of million per year to perhaps $75 million by the third year. To have a reliable top 9 forward making signficantly less than the average is a good deal. I believe he will bounce back.