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Lance Bouma and Mikael Backlund, the impact a quality centre makes

Part one of a two part look at Lance Bouma, and trying to gauge the value of his pending contract. We'll start with the obvious: Mikael Backlund, and to an extent, David Jones', impact on the pending RFA grinder.

Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

The main underlying concern with Bouma's sudden rise to prominence is whether or not it is repeatable. Most folks outside of Calgary would say no with legitimate rationale. I mention this because it's incredibly crucial to look at this without rose-tinted glasses. Specifically, on the basis of a number of clear indicators in regards to Bouma's career performance.

A lot of CHL players who are below a PPG (point per game) pace at junior very rarely find above-average success producing at the NHL level. This is something that the Flames need to logically examine: the fact that Bouma's season is very likely an aberration.

Continuing with this it's worth noting and pointing out his on-ice shooting percentage: a stat a large number of the Calgary Flames saw an overwhelming spike in this season. A 9.3% jump from last season's 6.1% on just 82 shots is a HUGE anomaly.

"But Mike, he scored 16 goals and had a career year! The stats can't be everything!"

- Everyone

You're right, the stats aren't everything. I wanted to thoroughly examine Lance Bouma's goals after he played regularly with Backlund. I broke down each goal to see the direct or indirect impact of them playing together. It was a huge driver of the success the Flames had this season and it was worth noting how predictable the results ended up being.


Goals Impact Backlund Point Notes
16th Indirect No Backlund on ice but no impact to goal
15th Direct Yes - Primary Assist Causes turnover in NZ
14th No No Backlund on ice but no impact on goal
13th Direct Yes - Secondary Assist Takeaway in NZ
12th No No Backlund on ice but no impact on goal
11th Direct Yes - Secondary Assist Pass on DZ breakout
10th Direct No Zone Exit -> zone entry -> shot on net
9th Direct No Faceoff win in OZ
8th Direct Yes - Secondary Assist Pass interception in NZ -> zone entry
7th Direct Yes - Primary Assist Gains possession in NZ-> zone entry

Further breakdown:

  • All of Backlund's zone entries are clean carry-ins that led to goals.
  • Assist totals are narrowly secondary assists over primary. Though it doesn't matter, as Backlund is key on a lot of the plays leading to goals.
  • Unsurprisingly, strong NZ play from Backlund was a key contributor to the Bouma goals. Only one goal in the offensive zone and one relating to the defensive zone.
  • The fact that despite not having an assist (primary or secondary) on two goals, Backlund did play a key role in two goals for Bouma is a huge testament to how Backlund can do things that often go undetected.
WOWY factor - Top Six Forward Lance Bouma is born

Bouma and Backlund played 363:57 together at even strength. The only forward who logged more time with Bouma was linemate to the pair David Jones at 380:18. Right away we have a great sample to examine the WOWY of the pair. All of this starts painting a picture that Bouma received a boost in his performance when playing with a decent player. Funny how that happens sometimes.

Going through Lance Bouma's TOI data you first see his usage increase around the beginning of January this year. By January 21st, we start seeing the makings of the Bouma, Backlund, Jones line. Prior to that they had limited time together, but at this point, we start seeing them together regularly.

In a span of 14 games from January 21st to February 24th we see a spike in Bouma's CF% shoot up to 48.16% at 5v5, right around Backlund's 48.98% CF. Other factors do contribute to this but a key point can be illustrated with the SuperWOWY tool: Backlund and Bouma together within that time are breaking in at 50.2% CF.

This continues to manifest and with all the data accumulated from the regular season we can see a few glaring oddities appear in the following data from SuperWOWY.

Backlund and Bouma together this season at 5v5:

  • The first and foremost thing is the CF% together and individually. Bouma receives a nearly insurmountable boost with Backlund. Is it chemistry or is it others on the ice driving play? The latter when examining game footage is very clear. Especially when examining all of Bouma's goals.
  • Backlund takes a small dip in his CF% and sees his overall PDO (on-ice SH% + SV%) increase. All related to Bouma's SH%.
  • Noticeably as well you see CF60 (Corsi For/60) and CA60 (Corsi Against/60) impacts, which showcase huge gains for Bouma's performance thanks to Mikael Backlund.
  • The boost in SH% is minimal, but more importantly, it's worth highlighting Bouma took 57 shots at even strength between January 21st and the end of the season, and 63 if we include all situations. More TOI, more time with Backlund/Jones, and other systemic factors played into this.
  • Examining a specific time frame of his even strength shooting percentage from January 21st to the end of the season has him at an astronomical 15.79%. In this period he tallied 17 points at ES overall.

It wouldn't be fair to exclude David Jones and a three-way WOWY to showcase the line itself. The line worked pretty well relative to other lines Bob Hartley employed this year. All data is 5v5 only:

There are still a plethora of cases to be made for and against Bouma's usage. Primarily in even strength situations, it's his possession stats. Whether you're for or against the stats themselves, if a player is consistently out there in his own end being outshot or out-chanced it is a problem. That said, due to injuries and coaching decisions we saw over-usage of Bouma in a top six role.

This is where it's painfully obvious that his contract and role need to be cemented going into next season. Tomorrow we take a deep look at Lance Bouma and attempting to project what he could be paid.

Stats and material sourced from: NHL.comWar On IcePuckalyticsHockey AnalysisNatural Stat Trick