What should the Flames do with Lance Bouma?

The game that we all love very much is very much a results based business. The window of opportunity for teams, players, coaches, and management is so finite now that maximizing your window by any means should be key. The problem – among other things – is the salary cap situation for this Calgary Flames team and maximizing results from players before they become a sunk cost.

A portion of that salary cap problem comes from pre-existing contracts that are hurting the team, one of which is Lance Bouma’s contract. Between consistency, health, and on-ice results it’s proving to be quite the disastrous use of money.

Let’s not mince words here: if there was an opportunity to move on, it would be best to act on it.

On-ice results: Could be better

The portrait of Lance Bouma from an on-ice results level is confusing given his contract. One thing that he does do somewhat well is maintain a decent penalty differential. The caveat is he doesn’t draw enough penalties to make a significant impact overall. Coming out ahead in differential is nice, but it isn’t elite by any standards (5v5 data via Corsica Hockey):

Season Penalties Taken Penalties Drawn Penalty Differential Penalties Drawn Per 60(5v5 TOI)
2013-14 11 17 +6 1.3
2014-15 10 17 +7 1.12
2015-16 1 12 +11 1.64

There’s also an element of repeatability in this skill doesn’t get enough attention. Players like Nazem Kadri, Dustin Brown, and even pugilists like Zac Rinaldo have been strong in this category.

So what is Bouma at this point? Is he remotely coming close to breaking even in anything over the past few seasons? Not really, and it’s because of his limited skill set that we see more often than not a forward who struggles to consistently come out on top (5v5 data):

bouma5v5

Year after year in virtually every category we see Bouma getting shelled. This includes the 2014-15 season where his SH% notably spiked and he set his career highs. Even then, when doing so he was still failing to come close to breaking even. If we look at his relative impacts to his peers we see more often than not he struggles:

boumarel5v5

  • Negative results in Rel.CF60 (Relative Corsi For 60) or Rel.FF% (Relative Fenwick For%) are bad. Positive results in Rel.CA60 (Relative Corsi Against 60) are bad (more shots against relative to peers).
  • In 2013-14, Bouma broke ahead in Rel.FF60 and Rel.SF60 which is nice, even if minor. The same could be said in 2014-15 with his Rel.SF60 being slightly better than his peers.
  • Beyond that much of every shot metric measured shows that Bouma struggles consistently at generating and suppressing shots. These are incremental in many cases (FA60, SA60) but noticeable in his CA60. It’s because he spends so much time blocking shots or being on the ice when shots are being blocked.

So if there is any misconception that Bouma is a shot suppression type of guy: he isn’t. In some sense if you want to believe shot blocking suppresses shots you’re missing the forest for the trees. The opposition: a) had the puck and b) elected to shoot.

Going one step further, let’s look at goal metrics and see if Bouma fares any better in suppressing goals (5v5 data):

goalsbouma

  • In 2013-14, relative to his peers he didn’t inherently provide much of an on-ice impact in suppressing or scoring goals. One caveat: his individual expected goals total (ixG) was nearly four goals more than what he scored at 5v5.
  • His 2014-15 season has been summed up nicely already. He really benefited from puck luck and playing with Mikael Backlund, which shows in his ixG results vs actual results.
  • His 2015-16 provided a below average result in virtually every measure of individual performance, expected goals, and relative to his peers. Similarly like in 2013-14, Bouma’s expected results vs actual results in individual product are noticeably off by nearly four goals again.
  • This season is extremely limited so far but there are some positives in terms of xGF% and his Rel.xGF% on a team that has struggled to score but is slowly working towards fixing that.

All of this is to say it’s not as simple as saddling him with more skilled players to get him going in hopes of maximizing whatever value you can find in his contract and game. This idea has been a weirdly ineffective concept floated since the day he was re-signed. Even as a passenger, there are limited contributions that Bouma can and has provided in this capacity.

Right now and probably for the rest of the season barring some strange burst of scoring prowess or major injury it’s infeasible to play him beyond the fourth line. It’s not even worth discussing and historically, we know that his impact on others has been noticeable.

But Mike, can’t he be used on the penalty kill? Is there any value left there?

No, not really. The outputs measured when Bouma is on the ice at 4v5 are some – if not the worst – among forwards on the team for an extended period of time. With Paul Jerrard transitioning the team to a more aggressive, intelligent triangle + 1 system, it doesn’t inherently play to Bouma’s skill set.

He blocks shots because he surrenders a lot of shots against at 4v5. To be a stuck record again: the goal of the penalty kill shouldn’t be survival. It should be suppression and killing time. This season, in just over 27:30 minutes of 4v5 TOI, Bouma is on pace for 115.38 CA60. Unblocked shots? 76.20 FA60 (second worst) and 47.9 SA60 (third worst).

No one besides Matt Stajan, who has played just under 60 minutes prior to last night’s win in Arizona, is close to this, playing double and then some of Bouma’s 4v5 TOI with 107.07 CA60. And within that time while killing penalties, Bouma has surrendered five goals while on ice. Which is at a 10.89 GA60 pace, the worst on the team out of any forward at least 20 minutes of 4v5 TOI.

Summing It Up

The attributes that make up the player that is Lance Bouma can appealing, but are often overvalued. He personifies and embodies hockey culture: a hardened, gritty forward who plays tough minutes and does the little things. But the little things he does well – whether appropriately valued or not – aren’t enough to contribute where it matters most: contributing to the desired outcome of goals that lead to wins.

You can value these characteristics but at the end of the day they’re only a portion of the makeup of a player. With his injury history, continued diminished results in all situations, and sunk contract cost it makes it impossible to feasibly justify his usage beyond anyone who is up and coming.

Obviously there is a divergence between the romanticism of the role and the further pursuits of optimizing teams to be competitive; along with that a shift in analysis on the game that adds to turning of the tide. With that, teams – some who’ve been successful recently – have adapted to more skill across four lines and we see shades of it in Calgary.

In reality the goal night in and night out should be playing the best roster you can assemble. If you try to do that, it gets harder and harder to justify Bouma on it.

  • Bean-counting cowboy

    Small chance Vegas takes him?

    If not, probably a greater chance Benning will take him (they’ll need a lw’er to replace Baertschi when they lose him in the expansion draft after protecting Sutter!

    Last resort… buyout

    • Longshot1977

      The Benning thing actually might be interesting. Lance did play his Junior days out with the Vancouver Giants, so he has a bit of history at least in the city, if that means anything.

  • OKG

    Out of curiosity, Mike Fail, what aside from power play goals does Brouwer do that makes him immune to the (fair) criticisms of Bouma? They strike me as the same damn player, except Brouwer has better quality of teammate.

  • Slowmo

    You know I find it pretty funny every yr there is players that do what Bouma does almost in every instance it is the same thing he blocks alot of shots but the player causes it same was sad about Russel. Look at The Oilers with Russel still blocks a ton of shots Ohh and guess what he also puts up alot of points. You so called analyse need to stop making silly remarks go back to school and learn your craft a little better before you start making knowledgeable false remarks. For instantnce if you look at the team as a whole last yr and most of this yr they were all making silly plays it is a team game and a team mistake for the most part. Don’t forget you all crucified Russel last yr and we sure could us him now so stop making accusations that are unfounded stop with the analytic’s it’s bull

    • Baalzamon

      Don’t forget you all crucified Russel last yr and we sure could us him now so stop making accusations that are unfounded stop with the analytic’s it’s bull

      This is a hilarious post. Especially the part I excised here.

      We could use Russell? Really? So how come the team got better in every possible way when he was replaced with Jyrki Jokipakka (who, by the way, is the very definition of a replacement-level defender)?

      Look into the underlying results. Russell is literally Edmonton’s worst defenseman, by a fair bit.

      Trust me. We don’t miss Russell on the ice at all.

      Bonus points for this:

      Ohh and guess what he also puts up alot of points.

      He has five. That’s one less than Deryk Engelland, and tied with Jokipakka.

    • piscera.infada

      Ohh and guess what he also puts up alot of points.

      He has 5 points in 22 games this season. For a frame of reference, that’s the same as Jyrki Jokipakka in 19 games, and 2 more than Brett Kulak in 15 games.

      For instantnce if you look at the team as a whole last yr and most of this yr they were all making silly plays it is a team game and a team mistake for the most part

      Was Russell not part of that team, and therefore part-and-parcel of those team mistakes? That also belies the reality that yes, there are weak links on a team–those player that routinely lead to the most mistakes. Don’t make it sound like someone can’t analyse whom those players are.

      Don’t forget you all crucified Russel last yr and we sure could us him now

      Based on what excatly, could the Flames “sure use him now”? They’re already so loaded with over-paid, under-performing bottom-two defensemen. If you want to get really technical, do you really see a discernible difference between say, Russell, Wideman, Jokipakka, Kulak, and Engelland in their current iterations? I sure don’t. And moreover, I would surmise that given additional considerations like age, there are a couple players on that list that would make de facto better bets than Russell.

      The rest of the post is just empty ad hominem attacks, and circular logic. It isn’t even worth responding to.

  • Slowmo

    Sorry was suppose to say
    You know I find it pretty funny every yr there is players that do what Bouma does almost in every instance it is the same thing he blocks alot of shots but the player causes it same was sad about Russel. Look at The Oilers with Russel still blocks a ton of shots Ohh and guess what he also puts up alot of points. You so called analyse need to stop making silly remarks go back to school and learn your craft a little better before you start making unknowledgeable false remarks. I guess unknowledgeable is not a word spell check changed it. I will stick with the word works for me.

    • Bean-counting cowboy

      Go read Matt Henderson’s TWO PART series on Oilers Nation, come back and tell me if you STILL want Kris Russell back.

      I hope they sign him for 5 years at 4 million per. Guarantees us the division title for the duration of the contract.

      • Derzie

        Matt ignores the win column as a measure of Kris’s value (although they are falling back to earth now). Kris Russell is the thorn in the worshipers sides. Long live Kris.

  • snotss

    bouma has got to go as soon as someone will take him and his terrible contract…bye bye..you tell me that there is no one down on the farm that can do the exact same thing as bouma has done this year and can do it for half the cost it’s a no brainer!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • redwhiteblack

    Both fancy stats and eye test, he is a liability. There are better options than dressing him.

    Contracts like his a problem. The solution is move him for a stick bag, buy out or send down (Mason Raymond like).

  • The Fall

    The Flames are a good team; they are under the salary cap.

    I dream of a day when we talk about a player’s on ice performance without referencing his contract.

  • Deef

    – Give him a chance to get his performance up and proove hes worth keeping.
    – If not, try to deal him at or just prior to the deadline for something (retain salary).
    – If not, do not protect him at the expansion draft (obviously) and hope he gets nabbed by Vegas.
    – If not, try and trade him in the offseason (retain salary).
    – If not, give thim the ol’ Bollig and bury his salary in the minors for 2017-18

  • freethe flames

    Boy, the Bouma haters are out today. I agree that he is paid too much but let’s put this into perspective; lot’s of guys are paid too much for their production. Until Versteeg gets healthy Bouma is a sound 4th line lw who can kill penalties. Hopefully he plays well enough in that role that maybe someone else likes him enough to trade for him; buying him out with 1 year left is unlikely as his cap hit does not significantly hurt this team.

  • Derzie

    If we are calling out players that are on the ‘not contributing’ side, Alex Chiasson is at the top of my list. Every time the puck is near him, it is turned over. I don’t care to look at his stats (may be good, may be bad, who knows) but he straight up stinks as an NHL player. Bouma is not great but he is not Chaisson- bad.

  • Ole YELLEr

    Ok I’m a buoma fan and he was one of my favorites even before his big year in 14. So I’m biased and I accept that. I don’t feel like arguing about the relative merits of “advanced” stats since that’s entering the realm of politics and religion where both sides are entrenched and unlikely to change.

    What I will say is after Gaudreau’s injury people talked about how the NHL is an entertainment business and how the league didn’t protect one of it’s premier “entertainers”. I am entertained by Buoma and players like him, I spend money, in part to see players like Buoma and his ilk. To me a guy that throws big hits, puts his body on the line, gives it all he has and occasionally chips in points is awesome. He’s doing what I wish I could. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone, listen to a crowd’s reaction to a big hit versus a play involving good body positioning and clever stickwork. I won’t even bother going into the fans response to a fight. We seem to be hitting a point where paying customers are being chastised for liking the wrong thing in an entertainment event they are supporting.

    Beyond that calling Buoma injury prone seems pretty disingenuous from a flames fan. Gio missed many games a couple of years in a row, is he injury prone or unfortunate? To whomever talked about Buoma being slow I’m prety sure he was 4th on the Flames in their superskills competition this year in the fastest skater event. Rant over.

    • Greatsave

      I won’t even bother going into the fans response to a fight. We seem to be hitting a point where paying customers are being chastised for liking the wrong thing in an entertainment event they are supporting.

      Not to be patronizing, but I’m pretty sure most of the “chastising” around this sport has, for years, involved “old-school fans” shaming those who would rather see skills than fist-fights.

      To whomever talked about Buoma being slow I’m prety sure he was 4th on the Flames in their superskills competition this year in the fastest skater event.

      5th out of 6 participants. Ahead of Kulak and behind Shinkaruk and Hathaway. Hardly something to write home about.

      • Ole YELLEr

        If you think I like Buoma because of fist fights, I don’t think we’ve been watching the same player. Buoma is physical he’s not really a fighter most of his fights are a result of a usually clean hit. Perhaps the previous chastising was by the old guard, the new guard is no better. Skill and fisticuffs are not mutually exclusive. I’m going off of memory but I think Bennet was 5th after Buoma in the skills competion.

        Plus using stats from the start of this season means little to me. Many lauded players on this site were wrotten in the time referenced in this article.

          • Ole YELLEr

            Did you imply Buoma was a fighter? Not directly, you did say something about people wanting to see skills vs fist fights in your reply to my comments about Buoma so I thought that applied to Buoma, my bad I guess.

            I checked your link my memory is as faulty as I expected. Good news Bennet is faster than Buoma, he can stay. Sadly Kulak is slower than Buoma so I guess his skating is no longer a strength.

            If you want to butcher the context of “stats that mean little to me” you shouldn’t include my full quote. It’s fair by you but it kills your point. I know you like stats but Buoma was hurt in what game 7? (Again my memory, no I won’t look it it up I don’t care that much). I’m pretty sure that’s too small of a sample to be relevant.

          • Greatsave

            Read your own comments, buddy. You brought up fights first.

            Did I bring up stats about Bouma? Like, at all? No. So I don’t know what you were even objecting to when you said, “using stats from the start of this season means little to me.”

            If you think the analytics nerds around here are anti-Bouma solely because of the 13 games at the start of this season (I won’t bore you with the minor detail of his injury coming after 13 games, since you don’t care that much), then you’re missing their point.

            And for a self-professed Bouma fan, you’ve done him quite a disservice by misspelling his name 14 times now.

          • Ole YELLEr

            For the record some beer may have been consumed today. Yes I brought up fights as a thing fans in the arenas tend to enjoy. I misinterpreted your comments about that to relate to Bouma. No you didn’t quote stats I guess that was an unnecessary premptive strike by me.

            Yup I’m a bad Bouma fan because I spelled his name wrong. I thought I liked him maybe my subconscious disagrees. I also added a w to rotten for some unknown reason (beer?) thanks for not pointing that out.

            I’m fully aware the analytics crowd’s issues with Bouma predate this season. While I’m relatively new to posting here I’ve been reading articles and comments here for a long while.

            In the end I stand by my original point which is essentially if I watch a game and appreciate a certain player I’m not going to check his fancy stats to see if I should continue liking him or not.
            Because ultimately while I and presumably you and the majority of the posters here want the flames to succeed I primarily watch hockey for entertainment.

  • cjc

    Re. Chiasson. For what the Flames are paying him he’s done a perfectly acceptable job this year. It’s not his fault he’s been miscast as a top 6 forward. He’s been above water in terms of possession. He has one less shot, one fewer goals, and 2 fewer points than Brouwer despite getting way fewer minutes.

  • The Sultan

    Here’s some news: Karri Ramo signed a PTO with the Marlies on Tuesday and made 33 saves in a losing effort. The Leafs traded Peter Holland to the Coyotes so they now have the cap room and contract space to sign Ramo. Lol.

  • Tundradog

    It always amazes me that stats get used to bash you over the head when it is convenient. It is the proof a player is bad when you don’t like the player, but doesn’t even get used when the player is a favorite and the stats are bad.

    Is Lance over paid – yup. But the $2.2 mill and one more season doesn’t look that bad when I keep seeing contracts extending out into the end of time for 2 and even 3 times what he is being paid.

    Tell me at the end of the 19/20 season what you think we should do with Gios contract. There will still be 2 years left at $6.75 mill.

    I know you will say it was the cost to sign him back in 2015, and you are right. And Bouma looked like a good signing for $2.2 when he got the deal. It is not a bargain, but it is not horrible either. $2.2 is not going to be the problem in meeting the cap.

    I look at Stajan’s deal as a nightmare. That thing just keeps going, and we are talking about a 4th line centre, that has always really only been a 4th line centre. Bouma looks like a bargain in comparison. And by the way, since the stats were thrown at Bouma, have a look at Stajan for the past few years. Yes, Stajans stats are better this year, but history says Stajan is worse than Bouma, statistically speaking of coarse.

  • Tundradog

    Now that you read the post above, I will say this. We all get to use advanced stats to evaluate the Flames players, coaches, and management. Why? Because they fired Hartley based on advanced stats (and the PP and PK).

      • Tundradog

        At some point we will all realize that the advanced stats say that this team, despite the recent run of wins is still playing poorly – and that the play of Johnson is almost solely responsible for the recent wins. Take away a 6 minute stretch against Anaheim when 5 goals were scored and the offensive numbers during this recent run are also horrific.

        Over the last 14 games they are playing worse statistically than the 2015/16 Hartley team, but goaltending has saved the day.

        At some point – Johnson will play average, and when he does, the wins will come to a crashing halt.

        They were supposed to be a possession team under GG. That’s not happening. GG’s history is not that of a positive possession coach. And guys like Bouma are getting hammered for GG’s failings.

        • piscera.infada

          Over the last 14 games they are playing worse statistically.

          They were supposed to be a possession team under GG. That’s not happening. GG’s history is not that of a positive possession coach.

          Speaking in terms of possession metrics, GG’s team is better than any of Hartley’s teams. You are correct that they are not scoring as much, nor are they getting as many shots relative to league as they did under Hartley.

          I will say that I’m not going to judge long-term trends either way regarding Gulutzan’s ability to coach based on the first 30 games of his tenure. I won’t dispute the fact that Johnson’s excellent play has been the primary factor in the team’s turn-around, just as I don’t think you can dispute the fact that quite simply, the best players at generating offense played well below expected levels for a substantial portion of the season thus far. I’m not sure you can blame the latter on solely “coaching”, or “systems”–that seems unfair to Gulutzan.

          I have never once (emphatically, or otherwise) argued that Gulutzan is the coach of the future for the organisation, but I have several times argued (very emphatically) that is too early to conclude that he is not–or that he’s a “bad” coach as you seem to elude to above. It is simply too early to draw any sort of conclusion–and I think at the time, that’s all that can be said about Gulutzan’s ability.

          I don’t buy the argument that you can further glean anything from “GG’s history” positive or negative. He had a grand total of two seasons (his second was the lockout shortened half-season) as head coach of a Stars team that included a third-year Jamie Benn, Mike Ribiero, Loui Eriksson, Michael Ryder, and no one else. If part of his “history” includes his time in Vancouver, how do you reconcile that with the success of the other assistant coach during that epoch (Mike Sullivan)?

          Look, I’m not arguing that concerns are unfounded. It just seems entirely capricious to jump to one extreme, or the other–something posters on this blog are all too eager to do. I will say, based on the aggregate of your comments here, you dislike Gulutzan–you probably were against the hire from the outset, and nothing will change your mind on that. That’s fine, that’s your prerogative. Just come with something a little bit more than “everything is Gulutzan’s fault, because I say so”.

          I will say in regard to Bouma, that I’m not sure he’s getting hammered for “Gulutzan’s failings”, because he was hammered before Gulutzan even became coach. I’m not as against Bouma as many here either. I liked him in junior. When he plays his gritty style, I do think there’s some value there. I also however, agree with the author that Bouma is over-valued by some as a penalty killer, because the numbers quite simply don’t support that he’s great at it. I think the narrative is easy to buy for the lay-fan because it’s easy to remember his big shot-blocks, and limping off the ice in pain–it’s memorable, and respectable.

          I see him in a similar vein to Wideman, actually. Overpaid? Yes. Completely useless? Not really. But I do think they are made redundant by younger, cheaper options all of which have the potential for more upside. I would argue that’s where a certain amount of the anti-Bouma narrative comes from. It’s difficult to square that when we’ve essentially seen Hathaway be the exact same player for less than a third of the price.

  • Flames Fan in Edmonchuck

    Lance “the dance” is far from our biggest problem. A forth line guy who makes a million too much per year, for a year longer than he should is not ideal, and you don’t want too many of them, but it is not tragic. Matt Stajan, and Dennis Wiedeman’s contracts are tragic….. those two deals cost 9 million dollars, for a forth line center and a number 6 defenseman… and they have for the past 3 or 4 seasons…. THATS a problem….

  • Toofun

    Great debate although a bit one sided due to Bouma’s performance as of late.

    Not a great contract but nobody could have been surprised that Burke would want him and ultimately pay up to keep him. Is he a disaster like his advanced stats suggest or is he a character guy that helps your team win, particularly through the playoffs?

    If Calgary keeps up their good play and makes it into the playoffs, maybe we’ll see him step up. Until then, I’m still willing to give him a chance to get back in the lineup and make the team better.

    If he doesn’t play as well as Hathaway, then he will sit and watch from the press box and his contract isn’t really terrible enough to be an anchor.

    I’d like to see him succeed, both for his and the team’s sake.

  • RKD

    Bouma is a good guy but he got paid for one good year. Lance rode the coattails of Backlund, he can’t stay healthy nowadays and is missing the offensive touch he had back then.