I don't normally flaunt predictions that come true, but after I nailed our unofficial, intra-office survey for a Colts-Saints Super Bowl, I couldn't help but look back one projection I made last year.
There's been a lot of hubbub as of late about the Calgary Flames' slide, and that has led some pundits to call out the lackluster play of Jay Bouwmeester.
Chances are you heard plenty about the defenseman last season when he was one of the most targeted free agents. Bouwmeester finished out the year with Florida, matched a career high in goals and fell just shy of doing the same in points. The Panthers, realizing he wouldn't re-sign by July 1, traded his rights to Calgary. The Flames inked him to a five-year, $33 million deal.
What has $6.68 million bought Calgary this season? Two goals and 18 points. He leads the Flames in average time on ice (a little more than 26 minutes per game). He ranks second on the Flames in giveaways (41), second in missed shots (48) and fifth in hits (46). For that kind of ice time, you'd expect more production, no?
Which brings me back to that Hives song. Before last year's trade dealine, I pointed out Bouwmeester isn't all he's cracked up to be , and his departure from Florida wouldn't bury the franchise the same way the Roberto Luongo fiasco did.
[F]or the money [Bouwmeester is] seeking, Florida may be better off parting ways. Not because they're cheap, rather he's not the end-all-be-all in Florida. Bouwmeester is having an outstanding season (offensively), but as a friend put it, "does everyone else not see him enough to know his flaws?"
Bouwmeester is not a Dion Phaneuf- or Chris Pronger-like player who can put up offense and be physical in his own end. Actually, there are a lot of times where the defenseman doesn't use his size. He can be a liability in his own end at times, which is part of the reason why he's paired with Karlis Skrastins , who is about as defensive-minded as you can get.
In Florida's 4-2 loss to the Washington Capitals a couple weeks back, Bouwmeester displayed his lack of physicality clearly. He was matched up against Alexander Ovechkin. There's no question Bouwmeester could keep up with the star (so few can), but on two occasions, he failed to play the body. On one of those, Ovechkin tallied the game-winner. A check or bump by Bouwmeester would have disrupted the play.The Panthers' record is one win and three points off of last year's effort at this same point. The balanced attack from Florida's blueline has continued to some degree, with the Panthers' top four registering at least 16 points. Bouwmeester's departure also opened the door for rookie Dmitri Kulikov, a smooth-skating, puck moving defenseman who has not only been able to hang at the NHL level, but play a significant role. About the only thing Florida is missing from Bouwmeester is the 15 goals he contributed last season. For a team missing its top two goal scorers -- David Booth and Nathan Horton -- that is without question.
On the flip side, the Flames aren't any better either. They are four wins and five points off last year's pace. Bouwmeester's presence alone isn't at fault for Calgary's struggles, yet he is not doing the things expected of him -- and his lofty salary -- that would help the Flames pull themselves out of a rut.
And, while it is absolute speculation , one can't help but wonder what kind of impact Bouwmeester has had on Calgary's defensive corps, Phaneuf specifically. Once lauded as a franchise defenseman, future Norris Trophy contender and absolute Pac-Man when it comes to ice time, Phaneuf has been knocked from the spotlight. Rumors of his unhappines refuse to die down despite endless assurance from Flames GM Darryl Sutter. Calgary may host the Stampede, but in this case, there may not be enough room for two workhorses.
Could the Panthers be better off with Bouwmeester? Possibly. Are they surviving without him? Absolutely.
I do believe I told you so.