Last year, the Calgary Flames traded for Jay Bouwmeester’s negotiating rights two days before the free agency period had opened and subsequently signed him to a 5-year deal with a cap hit of $6.68 million dollars per season.
Jay Bouwmeester WAS the biggest off-season acquisition of last summer. A big ticket, free-wheeling defenceman who could quarterback a power play and move the puck up ice were his key attributes.
He proceeded to flounder for most of the season and drastically fell short of most expectations.
He had all of 29 points last year; a far cry from the four straight seasons of 35+. He did stay consistent with his assists total in having 26 helpers, but it was his goal total of three that had most people scratching their heads. Especially for a player that just signed an extremely lucrative contract in a city that doesn’t put up with underachievers very well. Well, let me re-phrase that. The Flames FANS cannot stand underachievers, but it seems the Flames as an organization love to either trade for or sign them to contracts (ala Kotalik, ala Jokinen, etc), but I digress.
He was expected to be a catalyst for the Flames power play; something the Flames have had problems with since the beginning of time. Not exactly the story that played out. Now to be fair, the Flames defence went through some vast changes during the season as everybody is well aware of. The man in the middle of everything, the man who helped force these cosmic like shifts in the defensive landscape was Mark Giordano. Giordano emerged as an offensive threat and reliable force on the blue line, which took away ample opportunity and ice time from Jay. Gio’s coming out party paved the way for Dion to be traded and pushed Bouw back down the depth chart when it came to offensive opportunities; which further compiled the issue of his low numbers.
Still, was it the new system? Was it the pressure of being in a Canadian city, which is a far cry from the friendly hockey confines of South Florida? Most believe that Jay will bounce back with a better 2010-11 season. Given a year to get accustomed to the system, acclimated to the city, and better in tune with his teammates Jay is bound to produce on a higher level this year, right? But are these even justifiable excuses? The answer is no. A player making that kind of money needs to produce, period!
What makes a player worth so much money in the first place is what I am wondering? Yes, he is talented. Yes, he skates like a taller version of Scott Niedermayer, and yes he was a sneeze away from playing on the Olympic team, but how do you give a guy such a commitment that has never even played in games that really matter. A total of ZERO playoff games appear on his resume. It must be a Flames trait because they insist on giving guys who have not played many meaningful (post-season) hockey games lucrative contracts (Matt Stajan: 3 total playoffs games. Played seven games with the Flames before being signing to 4 year deal worth $3.5 per year. Just an example.). $33.4 million over 5 years; I think the Flames overpaid, but that is neither here nor there.
Bouwmeester is a quality defenceman, don’t get me wrong, and I fully expect him to bounce back this season. Simply put, the Flames desperately need Jay to be the ‘Guy’ that they thought they signed. In my humble opinion, with the Gio letting loose, Jay wasn’t given enough of a chance to spread his wings and fly, so to speak. Only on the rare occasion would we see #4 swiftly moving through the neutral zone and gaining the blue line with his speed, yet we knew he encompasses the skill to do that more regularly.
With Bouwmeester and Giordano this year, the Flames should have that threat from the back end that can be so valuable when executed properly.
One final note on Jay is that until he arrived in Calgary I never imagined a worse interview then an interview with Dion Phaneuf, but then Jay blew the city away with his unimaginative personality. Face it, he has the charisma of a lawn chair. I just hope this year his game doesn’t emulate his personality like it did for so much of last year.