Much has been made of Jay Bouwmeester's offensive failings recently--so much so that he's been called a 'bust' in some parts and the local MSM is calling for him to step it up. For the most part, people don't consider the fact that he faces tough minutes against some of the opposition's best on most nights, and his teammates haven't always done a great job of driving possession and outshooting the opposition, as pointed out by Robert in his two-post series earlier this season ( here and here).
In the off-season, RO did a great deal of analysis of Bouwmeester's stats, essentially proving that on a bad Florida team, Bouwmeester faced off against the toughest competition, had the toughest zone starts of any defenceman, still managed to put up good numbers (15G, 24A, 42P) and ranked third out of all Florida defencemen in terms of AdjCorsi/60 during 5v5 play. More after the jump...
When Bouwmeester signed with the Flames in the summer, it was generally believed that improved circumstances--better quality of teammates, fewer defensive zone starts, etc.--would improve his numbers even further and allow him to garner the recognition for being one of the league's premier shutdown defencemen that he never received in Florida.
Basic stats will show you that Bouw has two goals and twenty-four assists for a grand total of twenty-six points in seventy-three games, and without considering the circumstances, it would be easy to assume that he's underachieving, as is the majority of Calgary's roster this season. Two of those assists came in last night's game, when Jay led the team in ice time but didn't see the Ducks' top line as much as the pairing of Regehr and White and was actually on the ice for more neutral and offensive zone draws than defensive. I thought I'd try to do something of a follow-up analysis since the season is almost over (possible playoffs nonwithstanding) by comparing these numbers to his last season in Florida. I'm new to most of these advanced stats, so please bear with me.
Looking at Bouwmeester's QualComp rating in 08/09 with the Panthers, he had the highest rating at 0.07 , which means he faced the toughest competition. I haven't been tracking Bouwmeester's stats all season nor those of other Flames defencemen, but from what I've gathered through 71 games he is fourth in QualComp rating on the Flames at -0.009. I'm not sure how much stock to put into that since Steve Staios is ahead of him at -0.004 but has only played 48 games. Regehr and White are first and second in QualComp ratings, which I assume means that they routinely face tougher minutes against the opposition's best despite averaging less ice time than Bouwmeester.
I'm not sure whether or not this includes White's time in Toronto as I couldn't figure out how to compare a player's numbers with two different teams in one season. Up next is the QualTeam metric or Quality of Teammates, which I understand is not extremely reliable and I'm not really sure how to interpret it, but for what it's worth, Bouwmeester was ranked at the top of the chart with a 0.12 in Florida and clocks in at 0.031 with the Flames, third behind Adam Pardy and Robyn Regehr.
When it comes to Zone Starts, Bouwmeester was one the ice for 161 more defensive zone faceoffs than offensive zone faceoffs, the most of any Florida player, last season. This season, he has been on the ice 195 times for a win in a defensive zone draw and 222 times for a loss, as opposed to 168 times for an offensive zone win and 197 after an offensive zone loss. He has been on the ice the most of any Flames defenceman for a neutral zone loss at 240 times. What I gather from this is that he was deployed in situations that could potentially lead to a scoring chance or a goal by the opposition and not in situations that could potentially lead to a scoring chance or a goal for the Flames, at least at 5v5. He has been on the ice for the lowest percentage of offensive draws at 46.7%. Ian White has the most offensive zone starts and the most neutral zone starts of all Flames defencemen.
Looking at Corsi is where I get sort of confused. Bouwmeester is ranked fourth of all Flames D in terms of Corsi relative to Quality of Competition. Again, Staios is ranked ahead of him which is likely inaccurate when Adjusted Corsi is calculated, but I'm not quite at that level of understanding yet. He is second in terms of Corsi relative to Quality of Teammates, behind only Robyn Regehr, and is second last in overall Corsi rating behind Steve Staios, which probably makes more sense given the quality of competition he faces, the amount of defensive zone starts he gets, and the fact that they have been paired together since Staios' arrival in Calgary. He was in similar circumstances in Florida last season with his D partner Karlis Skrastins. Regehr and White are ranked ahead of Bouwmeester in Corsi and they probably get similar if not tougher minutes, although Bo's are likely more spread out.
In a further comparison between Bouwmeester's numbers from last season and this one, it would appear that his circumstances are very similar. Last season with Florida, he was on the ice for 2.36 goals/60 and 2.44 goals against. This season, both have been reduced. Bo has seen an average of 2.08 goals for/60 and 2.22 goals against/60 at 5v5. The Flames have scored 45 goals with him on the ice and allowed 48 at 5v5, which would put him at -3 at even stength. In both seasons, goals for/60 and goals against/60 increased and decreased, respectively, when Bouwmeester wasn't on the ice at 5v5. This is probably more a function of his circumstances than a testament to his skills as a player. Counting his numbers on the powerplay and on the penalty kill would likely alter these results, but I can't imagine it would be to too great an extent given the Flames' powerplay percentages and penalty killing efficiency.
So what does all this mean? While Bouwmeester's offensive numbers are largely underwhelming, expectations for him to increase his offensive output while facing some of the highest quality opposition, arguably higher on average than what he faced with Florida, over the course of the season were and are somewhat unreasonable. At 26 years old, Bouwmeester still has plenty of upside and potential to improve, and his best years as a defenceman are still ahead. Could he benefit from playing a little more physical, from taking a few more chances offensively? Maybe, but there's no way of proving that.
I certainly would have liked to retain Cammalleri and agree that the Flames have probably overcommitted to defence salary-cap wise (some of which was temporarily alleviated by trading Phaneuf) but I don't know if I agree with the assertion that the dollars put towards Bouwmeester's contract would have been better spent elsewhere and that a cheaper replacement UFA defenceman could have filled the void. There's no guarantee that the team wouldn't be in the same position with Cammalleri and Jokinen or another forward and without Bouwmeester. Some things have gone right for the Flames this season--like Kipper's improved play, the play of Giordano and Bourque--but others have gone the other way--Jokinen's play, Iginla's inconsistency, some coaching/management decisions--and there's no way to estimate whether or not those things would have changed if the makeup of this team was different.
In relation to his salary, other players of his ilk, and expectations coming in, saying Bouwmeester has underachieved is not an outrageous statement, but taken in context with the circumstances he is used in every game and combined with the fact that the majority of the team, save a few players, have churned out uninspiring performances for much of the season, it is not necessarily an accurate one.
For an alternative take on the issue, visit the guys at Dome Beers.
What are everybody else's thoughts?