Lance Bouma had a bad season. That much is indisputable. It wasn’t entirely his fault, though; multiple freak injuries wiped out nearly half of it. When he was able to play, he only averaged 12:02 a game, his lowest totals since his rookie season. He scored two goals, one of which was an empty netter, and had seven points total.
It wasn’t a great year by any standards, but just how bad it was got compounded by it being the first year of Bouma’s three-year, $2.2 million annual average value deal. Regardless of external factors that kept Bouma from succeeding – of which injuries were definitely a part – seven points from a player with a cap hit north of $2 million just isn’t good enough.
Bouma needs to be better this season, everyone can probably agree on that. So what counts as a successful season for him?
One of the things that made Bouma so much fun to watch in the 2014-15 season was that he scored 16 goals: more than he’d ever scored in a single season of junior. How can you not root for a guy doing that? That’s awesome.
Fun does not always translate to repeatable, though. Bouma was sniping left and right with a 15.4 shooting percentage: a major anomaly for him. His career shooting percentage is 8.9%, skewed in part thanks to that one year; his career high in NHL goals before that one year was five, when he shot at 6.1%.
One of those seems more likely to repeat than the other. Relatedly, it seems unlikely we’ll see Bouma hit the 30 point mark ever again.
That doesn’t mean he’s doomed to another meagre two goals and seven point season, though. His key to improvement is being able to dress for more games.
Prior to his 34-point year, Bouma’s best season was a five-goal, 15-point season over 78 games in 2013-14. For a fourth liner, that’s not bad at all! He had 82 shots on net – a little over a shot per game – and had that 6.1 shooting percentage, which is certainly more likely to be replicated than his career year.
I’m still not a fan of the cap hit, but my personal feeling is if Bouma can repeat his 2013-14 – a year in which he scored 15 points from the fourth line, averaging 12:36 a game – then he’ll have achieved a successful bounce back season within his abilities. More would be fantastic, but Bouma isn’t a player who should be averaging much more than 12 and a half minutes, and there’s only so much players can create with that amount of ice time.
Fact is, though, that the Flames are collecting more players with greater resumes who should get that ice time ahead of Bouma, or have younger kids with greater potential who will likely earn greater ice time and the linemates that go with it.
Bouma’s function should be to provide a physical presence from the backend of the lineup that will occasionally get on the scoresheet. He’s better at this than Bollig – even in his bad season, he was just two points back of what Bollig has achieved through two seasons of being a Flame – but likely isn’t on the same level as Micheal Ferland (Ferland nearly had a 50 goal season in the WHL, and if you can score at the junior level, you’re much more likely to score as a professional).
If he can do that much and hit double digits in points – even if they’re low double digits – then that’s a solid bounce back season for him, in my opinion. It’ll be disappointing compared to his 34-point year, but it’s going to take absolutely everything going Bouma’s way to achieve that again.
And sure, it’s possible that happens; if the puck goes his way and he ends up with Mikael Backlund centring him again (say the Tkachuk – Bennett – Brouwer line stays together and Ferland gets to play up on the top line and shoots at more than 3.3% this time, and nobody else impresses enough to disrupt the third line left wing spot), then he could put together another comparatively fantastic year.
But in the more likely event that doesn’t all happen, what do you consider a good season for Bouma? The cap hit is done with and can’t be fixed (unless he’s traded, of course); it’s much better to focus on the realm of possibility now.
The starting point will be if Bouma can stay healthy throughout the year. Hopefully he does. The rest will be determined from there.