When I read this tweet from fellow writer Dave Lasseter Thursday night, I wondered what the heck he was talking about:
Then I did some reading. Then I hit my head with my my fist. I recovered, and chose to put my thoughts together, and here’s what I’ve come up with.
It’s been four full seasons since Jay Bouwmeester left the Florida Panthers organEYEzation for what he thought would be greener pastures. He did himself no favors on his way out of South Florida as he made it very clear for at least two seasons he had no intention of signing a long term deal with the franchise. It was Jay’s feeling that there wasn’t enough passion, committment, and determination to building a winning culture. Based on the legend in his own mind (and his father’s), Jay was traded to the Calgary Flames for the rights to Jordan Leopold and a third round pick in 2009. That pick has turned out to be Josh Birkholz, and Leopold who played in 61 games for the Panthers was later traded to the Pittsburgh Penguins for a second round pick in 2010, That pick turned out to be Connor Brickley. The Panthers at the NHL level have had very little to show for a return on Jay. However they have saved a humungous amount of salary.
Jay’s first contract after leaving South Florida was for five years to the tune of $33.4 million dollars with the Calgary Flames. General Manager Darryl Sutter was extremely proud of the deal hoping that Jay would be one of the missing pieces leading the Flames to the post season on a consistent basis. The average cap hit of that contract was $6.68 million, with last year paying him a “paltry” $7 million. The Flames underacheived during Jay’s tenure for a multitude of reasons, and fans became increasingly dismayed with Jay’s performance, which was at best, average. He was traded (people wondered what took so long) to the St. Louis Blues for a first round pick in this summers draft and two draft picks. Thursday night it was announced that the St. Louis Blues have extended Jay for another five years. The total value of the package is $27 million, averaging $5.4 million per season. Blues General Manager Doug Armstrong made this quote after the signing:
“We’re entering a new phase in our organization with this current group. Now we’re a place we’re good players want to be.”
As an avid follower of Western Conference hockey, my response to Armstrong’s comment is “Really? What decade do you think they’ll be arriving?” I have watched the St. Louis Blues for years, and I’ve followed Jay’s career closely after he was traded from the Panthers. I’ve seen him play many many games, and can tell you that he was significantly more dominant here than he’s been in Calgary, and for his short stint with the Blues.
Jay Bouwmeester has been in this writers opinion one of the most overrated defenceman in the NHL, and I haven’t been shy about saying so. Currently Jay is one of the top earning defenders in the league with only Shea Weber, Ryan Suter, Drew Doughty, Zdeno Chara and Florida’s Brian Campbell out earning him. Nice company to be in, yet if there was ever a player who’s value was overstated it’s Jay’s. His new contract brings him down a notch, and maybe more in line with where he should be, yet it seems to me that it’s still too much for what he brings to the table.
His most productive season was with the Florida Panthers in 2005-2006 when he had 46 points. Since that season he’s scored 42, 37, 42, 29, 24, 29 and 22 points. Upon leaving Florida it was a well known fact that Jay had a desire to play in the post season. He’s played in six playoff games since he left, and those came last season as a member of the St. Louis Blues.
It’s difficult to understand the love affair with Jay, especially after seeing him play here in South Florida on a nightly basis. I don’t feel he ever reached his full potential with the Panthers, and that could have been due to a number of reasons, including his delicate, and seemingly aloof disposition. Former NHLer Mike Peca described during a TSN telecast a couple years ago that Jay is a soft player that opponents love to play against:
Jay is also riding a consecutive game playing streak. A streak that’s alive because Jay displays with less physicality than the than the calendar sitting on my desk . Jay is a very graceful skater, and at times looks effortless. His skating ability is one of his best qualities, but this isn’t ballet, and a player of his size should be able to play with a touch more sandpaper. Which likely explains why players seem to skate past him at will with the puck, or who can stand in front of the net, eat a hot dog, take a sip of soda, and score a goal, while Jay has that deer in headlights look about him wondering what to do first.
With declining numbers, continued soft play and being in what could be described as anonymity, Jay somehow landed himself another phenomenal contract. While a $5.4 million dollar contract might not be so out of line, if you compare him to other defencemen currently at that level it just may be. Jay’s style of play doesn’t seem to fit the Western Conference, which typically is more physical, and more aggressive than the East. The Blues of late have been playing a very physical game, which they are hoping is a way to stop the Chicago Blackhawks. Obviously that didn’t work as both the Los Angeles Kings and Boston Bruins felt that their brawn would be able to stop the Hawks speed. We know how that ended don’t we? Bouwmeester makes the Blues quicker on defence because of his skating ability, yet with the physical way players crash it’s very unlikely that he makes them better defensively.
Jay’s wish was to leave the Florida Panthers so he could play in the playoffs. He set the record for most games played without appearing in the post season until finally playing six game this past year. Maybe now he’ll set the record for most playoff games without winning a series.
Thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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