Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Evaluating Bouwmeester

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.

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At 1:48 a.m., July 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Of course Phaneuf, Pitkanen, Weber, Green and Burns might not have fourth and fifth season in books, yet.

How about first three seasons for Pronger, Niedermayer, Bouwmeester, Phaneuf, Pitkanen and Weber?

Maybe this would give another view for this.

At 1:51 a.m., July 30, 2008, Blogger James Mirtle said...

I was really looking to compare him to established players, those like Pronger and Chara who evolved into point producers later in their careers.

There's no question Phaneuf, etc., has produced a ton at an early age, but he's really a much different player than Bouwmeester.

At 2:33 a.m., July 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don’t think bringing Pronger, Niedermayer or Lidstrom in this discussion is fair. They’re different age, different era.

Just looking at fourth and fifth season is, well, twisting with stats.

How about taking some good young defencemen and looking at what they have done so far in the NHL?

You could look at icetime and this and that, but how about just points-per-game average and plus/minus during their career? Plus/minus is a joke but some people like it. PPG is one way to look at things and most likely pretty good one when you’re talking about finances.

Here’s quick look at some young Ds:

Dion Phaneuf – ppg 0.65 / +27
Joni Pitkanen – ppg 0.52 / +7
Shea Weber – ppg 0.43 / +15
Jay Bouwmeester – ppg 0.41 / -25
Mike Green – ppg 0.40 / -12
Brent Burns – ppg 0.33 / +11

I don’t know what this shows but looks like Jay Bouwmeester is right in the middle of these young skilled defencemen.

At 9:16 a.m., July 30, 2008, Blogger Jonathan Willis said...

Bouwmeester gets criticism because he isn't an elite powerplay option and isn't a big-time hitter. Dion Phaneuf gets Norris-trophy nominations because he drives the powerplay and throws big hits.

5-on-5 or 5-on-4, Bouwmeester is the player I'd rather have 10 times out of 10. It would be nice if people could get beyond the statistics in the points box and look at game situations; Bouwmeester is a more complete player than Phaneuf, and will be an elite defenseman for years and years (and no, I'm not saying I'd trade Phaneuf for him; running the powerplay has value).

And as you just pointed out, his offense isn't all that bad either.

At 10:12 a.m., July 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One good test is his play internationally. In various world campaigns, he has played extremely well and a succession of coaches have obviously found him valuable. There's little doubt he will be on the olympic team, and deservedly so.

At 10:35 a.m., July 30, 2008, Blogger MacS said...

Mirtle: Thanks for putting it in perspective. Bouwmeester is something a lot of point producing defenceman aren't - defensively responsible.

Mike Greene may put up the points but if I'm a coach I'm comfortable with Bouwmeester in any situation.

At 12:44 p.m., July 30, 2008, Blogger Dennis Prouse said...

Losing a cornerstone player like Bouwmeester would be a horrific blow to the Panthers. This is why Florida can't win -- they keep giving away their core players (Jovanovski, Luongo, Jokinen), and can't establish any identity as a result. If they are smart, they will start trying to get his signature on a Phaneuf-type long term deal right now, but I'm not holding my breath.

At 12:53 p.m., July 30, 2008, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If he wanted to stay for the long-term, I would think he would have signed a longer deal already. It sounds like he's gone (unless they can start off so quickly that he is convinced the team is on the right track and signs in the season).


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