In the wake of yet another disappointing and listless effort from the Flames, positives are as rare to find as a Sutter supporter. I felt it was time to take a look at two positives the Flames have going for them, not only for this current team, but also for a rebuild should that be required.
Perhaps no player has felt more heat, from this writer included, than Jay Bouwmeester. Bouwmeester represents the vision and direction of Darryl Sutter that so many have come to hate. He can be viewed as the piece that replaced Mike Cammalleri, and his 39 goals, on a team that is now starving for goals. He represents a move from being one of the top offensive teams to the bottom in just one season, all at a 6.6 million dollar per year price tag. The relationship has not always been positive, up until now.
Bouwmeester currently sits at 11 points, with 3 goals, 8 assists and a plus 5, all while being right near the top of the league in time on ice. People will look at those stats and likely not be blown away or really at that impressed. At the end of the day, Bouwmeester is on pace for 7 goals and 26 points and all for over 6 million dollars. However, what if one were to take away the first 6 games of the year where there was no question that Bouwmeester struggled. Through the first 6 games of the year he recorded no goals, no points and was a minus 1. Since then, through 27 games, he has recorded 3 goals 11 assists and is a plus 6. Over an 82 game season that pace would result in 9 goals and just over 30 points which is far more impressive and much closer to the pace fans would expect, and would indicate an improvement over last season. At the beginning of the year he was averaging about 2.6 shots/ game, and after that 6 games mark it has fallen to 1.7/game. Last year, Bouwmeester’s average was 1.5 shots/game and during that time he was ridiculed constantly. Many would look at those stats and suggest that he needs to shoot more. However, his shooting percentage has also gone from 2.3 last year up to 5.1% this season and much closer to the 6-9% range he typically recorded in his Florida days. I would suggest that this shows a comfort level he has reached finally as a Flame. He is taking more shots, but also is successful at a higher ratio which would suggest he is more comfortable picking his spots and his opportunities. All while remaining very solid in his defensive game. Is his level at the 6.6 range? That is an arbitrary debate that everyone will fall on different sides of. For now, it provides a much better return on investment, and a player that flames fans should feel very comfortable with long term.
While not his direct partner, Mark Giordano is another defensemen that should have Flames fan very confidence in their future. There has been no “sophomore” slump or any fall in his place especially after his contract. With the improved play of these two dmen, the Flames have two building blocks for now and for the future that are both below the age of 28. Whether it be a rebuild, retool, or stay the course, it’s very clear that defence will not be an issue.