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Lance Bouma, his upcoming contract, and what to make of his season

Yesterday we covered the impact his most common linemates, Mikael Backlund and David Jones. Today we assess Lance Bouma, his role, and what he might cost.

Derek Leung/Getty Images

Top-six forward Lance Bouma is a cult hero for Calgary this season. If Lance Bouma was a song, I'm 100% certain he would be Rush's "Working Man". He is the pinnacle of the "blue collar" players who, in the eyes of fans, embody the ever important intangibles. If Don Cherry ever talked about Bouma, it would be a loud recitation of scripture devout in the necessity of these players.

Considering that, the cap situation of the Calgary Flames is going to be an intriguing situation. The organization needs to correctly assess and pay Bouma accordingly to avoid cap era pitfalls. Is he really as good as a lot of media and fans regard him as being? And more importantly, what the hell are the Flames going to pay him?

A breakout season no one expected

Season Goals Assists Points Blocked Shots Hits PIMs ES SH% GP
Previous seasons combined 6 13 19 87 181 41 9.5% 121
2014-2015 16 18 34 82 264 54 16.13% 78

The former Vancouver Giants captain has set a mark in his second full-time season with the Flames. Statistically in almost every "main" NHL category he is putting up numbers well above his expectations and previous seasons. Is it all him? The work of a great linemate inflating things? Or is it his emergence and evolution from a capable bottom six forward to playing in a second line role?

Bouma was projected to a bottom six grinder type forward utilized to eat tough minutes and play on the PK. He has done that and then some. The elevation in his statistical output this year was the byproduct of usage by Bob Hartley. Though it paid off with Bouma scoring a career high in every category, it also produced a number of questions.

Possession and underlying numbers

Reminder if you haven't looked at yesterday's analysis piece it's located right here.

This is the wheelhouse of discussion when it comes to Lance Bouma this season: his possession stats. Here are Lance's 5v5 stats from this season:

  • Relative to the team in every category Lance is in the bottom of the forward group with a minimum of 200 minutes played. This is not a mistake, this is not a lie, and this is not exaggerated in any regard.
  • Also inescapable is his impact on and off the ice. Off the ice, the team has its shot attempt generation increase, as well as scoring chances for increase. Also not a mistake/lie/exaggeration.
  • Positives: Lance was sixth at ES in forwards with a minimum of 200 minutes in Corsi generation. His 161 iCF was higher than Backlund's. Bouma was fifth on the team in the same filters at Fenwick generation with 136 iFF events. Finally, he was fifth on the team with 105 individual scoring chances.
So right now we have an alarm light on. How can a guy who is a negative impact be performing so above average in these areas? For starters, manual tracking on microstats that can remove grey area/noise is needed. If we look at Backlund's impact on his goals, we can see a clear indication that linemates played a factor in his individual numbers.

Conversely, it's worth noting that his play style, skill, and tools he has to do his job aren't built for the usage he received. More TOI for Bouma typically resulted in more defensive zone time for the team, where they often were peppered with shots and scoring chances against, as well as being forced to block large swaths of shots.

The statistical measurement and data are one side of it. They add additional context and understanding to analyzing a player. All of this should lead you to conclude that if he is re-signed, usage and deployment are HUGE factors in seeing how positively or negatively Bouma affects the team while on the ice.

PK Usage

This is the area that fans will argue until the death: the idea that Bouma is an effective penalty killer. Where shot blocking is a critical and an often-used attribute when killing a penalty, it should be one of several tools used. In many cases we see other forwards and defensemen using puck movement, forcing turnovers, and the works to eliminate scoring chances.

Bouma has size and he can block shots. He can jump up in the rush at times on the kill as shown on the Giordano shorthanded goal here. He also has been able to score shorthanded in the past as well:

He does eat quite a bit of time while shorthanded, leading the team this year with 138:22 on the PK. His SH TOI/GP (average SH TOI per game) also placed him first on the team with 1:46, with 20 seconds more than Backlund and 25 seconds more than stalwart centre Matt Stajan.

The given here is trying to determine whether or not his skills benefit a team, or if they hinder them. Most will differ to goal differential or a questionably biased eye-test that may or may not tell the whole story. Examining his goal differential - which ended up being -17 -  would also indicate he wasn't that effective.

His sacrificial heroics can provide a benefit, though the real key is and always will be possessing the puck and dictating the pace of the opponent's power play. At times he can do that, though other forwards/defense capable of moving the puck are also doing this.

Beyond that we can look at scoring chances against, which yield scary results filtered by SCA60:

  • Extensive usage may have been a huge driver in the differential. Penalty kill usage can take several seasons of consistent analysis to really get an idea of a particular player's impact. Over the course of next season we'll closely examine special teams to continue to learn more.
  • Bouma was tied for third on the team with sophomore Sean Monahan for individual scoring chances on the PK. More on the rush and breakout situations over stationary shot blocking can only benefit the team.

Bouma is very much the byproduct of an old design in a penalty killer. If he can work on adding more to his repertoire this off-season, and is signed for an appropriate amount the Flames could see their special teams improve. Special teams did have an impact on their post-season, so it's an important area to look at.

So, what to make of it all?

The biggest factor in all of this is the initial contract offer and how acceptable it is to Bouma and his agent. The dilemma with all of this is the production aspect. Sixteen goals at the NHL level, regardless of how you look at it, is still 16 goals. The key is in accurate evaluation and knowing what kind of player Lance Bouma is going to be. At 25, with his skill set and abilities, he probably won't improve beyond this one-off season.

Brad Treliving can throw him a deal similar to the likes of Derek Dorsett, which is the most recent signing comparable to Bouma. That said, Dorsett's four-year, $10.6M ($2.65M cap hit) deal is asinine and if a deal like this transpired it would do a few things to the Flames:

  • Create further short-term dead weight on the cap (Deryk Engelland, Brandon Bollig, Ladislav Smid).
  • Clearly indicate that Brad Treliving isn't the penny pincher who got his start in Phoenix Arizona learning to work with little.
  • Indicate the team is not focused on fixing and addressing the possession woes that dogged them this season.
  • Create issues with the cap situation. As mentioned earlier, KEY players that are not Lance Bouma require new contracts in the next year or two.
  • Make it very difficult to move him if he regresses back to where we expect him to be, and where he has been most of his playing career.
IF Calgary's management team can negotiate a contract of three years at $1.5M to just under $2M then it might be okay. If things drag out and go to arbitration it's best to walk away. As much as I enjoy seeing Bouma crush folks, wince heroically in pain from a courageous shot block, or score goals, it wouldn't be worth it for the team to pay money for an one-off season.

With kids like Micheal Ferland, Josh Jooris, Markus Granlund, and many of which are still in the AHL there may be capable youth who can step in for a bottom six role and provide puck movement along with special teams skills.

It's not to say I don't see a future for Lance Bouma in Calgary, it's just there are other much more important factors to consider before a potential over-payment. He got a one-year "show me" contract and he showed us something. Now let's see if he can continue to produce at an above-projected level.