Now that the Florida Panthers have signed Jay Bouwmeester to a one-year contract, they’re going to bend over backwards to show him the organization is going in the right direction so he’ll be convinced to sign a long-term deal.
So let’s get this straight, shall we? Bouwmeester is now going to sit back and wait to see if the Panthers have improved enough and are on the road to respectability before gracing them with a decision on whether or not he’ll return?
When exactly does Bouwmeester himself begin to accept some of the responsibility for the on-ice fortunes of the Panthers? If he’s supposed to be their undisputed No. 1 defenseman, shouldn’t he be expected to have a major part in leading the way to the Panthers becoming a playoff team? He has been there for five seasons and they haven’t played a playoff game yet. Isn’t he at least partly responsible for that?
Quite frankly, I’ve never understood the fascination with this guy. Ever since he came onto the scene as a 16-year-old he has been surrounded by hype, with much of the pom-pom waving generated by Hockey Canada. When he was a junior player, I kept hearing how great Bouwmeester was, then I watched him have absolutely no effect on any of the games in three straight World Junior Championships. He scored a total of zero goals and four assists in 21 games in those three tournaments and Canada came away with two bronze medals and a silver medal.
Here’s a guy who didn’t play a single playoff game in junior hockey and hasn’t played one as an NHL player. There have been serious concerns about his approach to conditioning and his off-ice lifestyle and he has proven time and again he lacks the take-charge personality required to be a true team leader on and off the ice.
Yes, Bouwmeester has talent. He led all NHL players in ice time last season and tied for fifth among defensemen with 15 goals. However, he was also just 24th in points, not great for a defenseman who was expected to be one of the league’s elite offensive rearguards by this stage of his career.
The book on Bouwmeester is he skates the puck out of his zone well enough, but his first pass, which was supposed to be one of his strengths, is not very good. He’s not terribly physical and doesn’t use his size to shut down opponents.
Bouwmeester has had ample opportunity both in the NHL and the international stage to shine and the only time he has made a tangible contribution to a winning team was in the 2003 World Championship, where he scored three goals and seven points to help lead Canada to the gold medal. He had zero points in the 2006 Olympics, zero points in four games in the 2004 World Cup, zero points at the 2008 World Championship, and, you guessed it, zero points in 18 playoff games for the Chicago Wolves during the lockout.
It seems to me Bouwmeester should be on trial next season just as much as the Panthers are. It would also seem that instead of catering to Bouwmeester, the Panthers would be well served by at least contemplating a trade that would fetch some good roster players and prospects in return.
Then perhaps Bouwmeester will go on to a contending team and prove his worth. There is little doubt Bouwmeester has all the tools to be a very good NHL defenseman, but a star?
Ken Campbell is a senior writer for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog normally appears Tuesdays and Fridays and his column, Campbell's Cuts, appears Mondays.
For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, Subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.