Mark Giordano vs Jay Bouwmeester. pic.twitter.com/ip4IpaOvgT
— Kent Wilson (@Kent_Wilson) August 24, 2016
On Wednesday afternoon, it was announced that Chicago Blackhawks defenseman Duncan Keith won’t suit up for Team Canada at the upcoming World Cup of Hockey due to an injury. His replacement? Surprisingly to many, St. Louis Blues (and former Calgary Flames) blueliner Jay Bouwmeester.
Hockey Twitter threw up their hands and shrugged collectively. Many pointed to other left-shot defenders that could have taken the spot instead, notably Flames captain Mark Giordano.
So how come Team Canada tapped Bouwmeester instead of Giordano? The answer may reside in a single word: familiarity.
Let’s get this out of the way first: Giordano is a really good defenseman. Over the past three seasons he has been great for the Flames, putting up 151 points over 207 games – he’s 8th in NHL scoring among defenders over the time period, and everyone above him has played 20+ more games than he has. Bouwmeester is 73rd in defensive scoring over the last three seasons with 69 points.
If you want to talk possession, Giordano’s a 50.59% Corsi For player (on a bad possession team that’s rebuilding) and Bouwmeester is a 51.42% Corsi For player (on a good possession team). I don’t think it’s unfair to think that Giordano’s offensive tendencies make him really attractive to teams during a short, best-on-best tournament – and make up for any minor shortfalls his possession game may have.
But three kinds of familiarity tilt things in Bouwmeester’s favour.
One, Alex Pietrangelo. A right-shooting defender slated for Team Canada, Bouwmeester’s familiarity with his erstwhile defensive partner is massive – which comes in handy because Keith’s injury comes at relatively short notice for Team Canada’s staff, who have probably already worked out lines, pairings and schemes for the event. Bouwmeester has played 1,277 even-strength minutes with him over the past three years, equating to 89% of Bouwmeester’s ice-time. That’s crazy, and it also provides Team Canada management with a good example of what he can bring to the World Cup team.
Second, Mike Babcock. Bouwmeester has twice played under Babcock – at the 2004 World Championship and the 2014 Olympics. Both times he played a lot. Both times he played gold. Babcock has reason to trust him.
Finally, Hockey Canada brass knows Bouwmeester really, really well. He’s suited up for his country 10 times since 2000 – three World Juniors, four World Championships, a World Cup and two Olympics. He’s brought home eight medals in those competitions.
Giordano has never played with Pietrangelo (or with anybody on Team Canada’s blueline). He’s never played for Babcock. He’s got much less experience with Hockey Canada than Bouwmeester, with just a single World Championship (and a Spengler Cup) to his credit. With a decision that had to be made quickly, I can understand Bouwmeester looking good to a bunch of decision-makers that aren’t very familiar with Giordano.
It’s not a very smart decision, mind you, but it makes some sense.
There’s a silver lining, though: at least now Giordano will be rested up for the start of the NHL season on October 12.