When you look back at it, the first round of the 2002 NHL draft is sort of curiously underwhelming. Rick Nash went first overall and he’s a fine player and all but (and I hope to god I’m not writing this about the 2010, 2011 or 2012 drafts in a decade) he’s sort of underwhelming a number one pick. Kari Lehtonen who went at number two, same deal. Joni PItkanen is a sort of notorious flake. Joffrey Lupul’s been up and down. Ben Eager went in the first round of that draft as did, hilariously, Jesse Niinimaki who made his biggest contribution to the Oilers in not being offered an NHL deal and turning into the compensatory pick that turned into Jeff Petry. Just like Kevin Prendergast planned.
If this is true of anyone though, it’s true of Jay Bouwmeester, who’s played a record 742 NHL regular season games without a playoff game. Early in his career, Bouwmeester looked to be following the path of the guys who turn into legendary defencemen – he was picked for the World Cup team in 2004 and then played on the ill-fated 2006 Olympic team. He scored 46 points in 2005-06 and seemed to be on his way to being a new Nick Lidstrom.
Only it never seemed to happen for him. His 46 points in 2005-06 stood as a highwater mark as he wasted his career outside of the hockey world in Miami. Weirdly, in 2007-08, his ES assist total dropped precipitously, although it kind of went unnoticed because you might as well be playing on the moon if you’re playing in Miami and he had some shooting luck that kind of enabled it to be papered over with goals.
At the end of the 2008-09 season, his deal with Florida expired and he was finally free to go somewhere where hockey is relevant and take his rightful place in the consciousness of the hockey world. For whatever reason, he chose Calgary. It’s hard to say that he was bad in Calgary, but the offence dried up even more – in three seasons iwth the Flames, he has yet to crack 30 points. With his contract expiring at the end of next year, he’s been mentioned as a player who would look nice in Edmonton, a puck moving offensive defenceman on the left side. He’s from Edmonton and seems to spend some time there in the summer.
Here’s the thing though: he doesn’t really seem to generate a lot of offence. I wrote about defencemen ES A/GF ratios last week and indicated that I’d be returning to it so I suppose this is the first of that. I pulled together the data for Mark Giordano and Jay Bouwmeester during their three years in Calgary together, 2009-12. After I did that, I realized that it looked like Giordano was a sort of 4/5 type in the 2009-10 season, so I pulled together the 2010-12 data as well.
You can infer from the jump in his GA/60 number that Giordano caught a hot SV% year in 2009-10; the quality of shooters he faced probably didn’t hurt either. Note though that the Flames have scored more over both a two and three year window with Giordano on the ice than with Bouwmeester and that it’s not all S%, which is pretty fickle. There’s a difference in zone start but it’s pretty slight and doesn’t come close to explaining the shot differences.
Just to unpack that a bit, over the past three years, Giordano’s started a shift with a faceoff in the offensive zone 18.4 times per 60 minutes of ES play. Bouwmeester has started there 17.3 times per 60 minutes of ES play. You’re going to lose half your faceoffs (more if you’re an Edmonton Oiler). So Giordano gets an extra 0.5 faceoff wins per 60 minutes of play and has a 2.2 SF/60 edge over Bouwmeester. That doesn’t explain it.
When I wrote my first post on this, Woodguy questioned this statement:
”In the case of top four defencemen, who tend to play with top six forwards but not with one exclusive line, I doubt that quality of teammates would be the explanation.”
I took the time to go through and gather what percentage of their TOI Bouwmeester and Giordano spent with each forward with whom JBo’s played at least 300 minutes over the past three years and then again for the last two years.
You can see that the numbers are pretty close; there are no Russian Fives anymore. Let’s look at their Corsi shares with those teammates with whom JBo played at least 300 minutes, again in the three year and two year format.
Fifteen of the sixteen guys who played at least 300 minutes with Bouwmeester between 2009-12 had a better Corsi share when they were on the ice with Giordano. Twelve of the thirteen guys who played at least 300 minutes with Bouwmeester between 2010-12 had a better Corsi share when they were on the ice with Giordano.
Maybe it’s something to do with who these guys are facing? I picked one guy off each Western Conference team to represent their top six forwards and went through and calculated how much each of Giordano and Bouwmeester played against him and the Corsi. I then did a weighted Corsi share, which appears at the bottom of the table.
Of note: Giordano missed 21 games last year that held his time down. This is pretty interesting though: the Flames have got about 2.5 points more of the shot attempts over the the past two or three years against star calibre opponents when Giordano is on the ice than they have when Bouwmeester is on the ice. I don’t have an easy way to get into the possibility that maybe Giordano gets a lot of star forward support when he’s on the ice against the other team’s best but when you cross-reference this fact with the fact of the Flames almost universally doing better with Giordano on the ice than they do with Bouwmeester in terms of Corsi share, well, it gets tougher to find an explanation.
All of which is to say, I’m not entirely convinced that Jay Bouwmeester is a puck moving defenceman. He certainly soaks up a lot of minutes but they’re offensively dry minutes for the Flames. His teammate, Giordano, sees the Flames generate more shots overall when he’s on the ice, creating a scoring edge that isn’t simply shooting percentage.
It’s possible that there’s an explanation for this but this, I think, is another example in which data can be a useful check in terms of evaluating players. If I was the fellow signing the cheques in Calgary, I’d want to know why it is that Bouwmeester appears to be getting outperformed by a fellow who went undrafted in 2002 when he was eligible. If I was the guy signing the cheques in Edmonton and considering adding Bouwmeester to the team in 2014, I’d want to understand why there hasn’t been a ton of offence from him and why the Flames score more with Giordano on the ice. It’s a puzzling fact but looking at it from different angles doesn’t seem to provide alternative explanations on the basis of the data available; maybe teams with access to better data and specialized software have more insight into it.Email Tyler Dellow at firstname.lastname@example.org