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.And 48th in power play ice time per game?
A lot of pundits aren't enthralled with what Jay Bouwmeester does on the ice, mainly because the vaunted G + A number never hits the heights they expect it to. But if you look at his versatility, even as a player still with plenty of potential to improve, it's way up there.
How many blueliners play three and a half minutes on both the power play and penalty kill? (Only nine in 2007-08, a list that includes Nick Lidstrom, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.)
How many score 15-plus goals in their fifth NHL season? (Only 10 have done so since Brian Leetch in 1991-92.)
And how many line up against the top offensive weapons on the other team?
I like Bouwmeester's game. I think he's one of the league's top defensive defencemen playing on a perennially weak team, and that, given he's only 24, his offensive totals will increase over time. It's a trend we've seen time and again with quality young defencemen.
The 1991-92 season is a good starting point for evaluating young defencemen, as that's when Lidstrom and Niedermayer first skated in the NHL. If you take the total points defencemen put up in their third, fourth and fifth seasons since 1991-92, Bouwmeester is tied for seventh overall with 125 points in 246 games.
Lidstrom is first with 149 points in 208 games, followed by Rob Blake and Sandis Ozolinsh with 147. Sergei Zubov (145), Tomas Kaberle (131) and Roman Hamrlik (128) also had more.
More telling is who Bouwmeester is ahead of:
Seasons 3 through 5
Brian Rafalski, 224 GP, 123 pts
Wade Redden, 231 GP, 112 pts
Andrei Markov, 215 GP, 111 pts
Kimmo Timonen, 236 GP, 107 pts
Scott Niedermayer, 208 GP, 98 pts
Chris Pronger, 238 GP, 96 pts
Sergei Gonchar, 182 GP, 82 pts
Ed Jovanovski, 228 GP, 76 pts
Bryan McCabe, 230 GP, 70 pts
Zdeno Chara, 222 GP, 43 pts
Brian Campbell, 147 GP, 36 pts
You get the idea.
In other words, who gives a toot if he was "just 24th in points" on a team that was 22nd in the league. He's a keeper — and if he hits the open market next summer at age 25, look out.
ESPN's Scott Burnside has a good take on the situation.
UPDATE Tom Benjamin has more.