The game that we all love very much is very much a results based business. The window of opportunity for teams, players, coaches, and management is so finite now that maximizing your window by any means should be key. The problem – among other things – is the salary cap situation for this Calgary Flames team and maximizing results from players before they become a sunk cost.
A portion of that salary cap problem comes from pre-existing contracts that are hurting the team, one of which is Lance Bouma’s contract. Between consistency, health, and on-ice results it’s proving to be quite the disastrous use of money.
Let’s not mince words here: if there was an opportunity to move on, it would be best to act on it.
On-ice results: Could be better
The portrait of Lance Bouma from an on-ice results level is confusing given his contract. One thing that he does do somewhat well is maintain a decent penalty differential. The caveat is he doesn’t draw enough penalties to make a significant impact overall. Coming out ahead in differential is nice, but it isn’t elite by any standards (5v5 data via Corsica Hockey):
|Season||Penalties Taken||Penalties Drawn||Penalty Differential||Penalties Drawn Per 60(5v5 TOI)|
So what is Bouma at this point? Is he remotely coming close to breaking even in anything over the past few seasons? Not really, and it’s because of his limited skill set that we see more often than not a forward who struggles to consistently come out on top (5v5 data):
Year after year in virtually every category we see Bouma getting shelled. This includes the 2014-15 season where his SH% notably spiked and he set his career highs. Even then, when doing so he was still failing to come close to breaking even. If we look at his relative impacts to his peers we see more often than not he struggles:
- Negative results in Rel.CF60 (Relative Corsi For 60) or Rel.FF% (Relative Fenwick For%) are bad. Positive results in Rel.CA60 (Relative Corsi Against 60) are bad (more shots against relative to peers).
- In 2013-14, Bouma broke ahead in Rel.FF60 and Rel.SF60 which is nice, even if minor. The same could be said in 2014-15 with his Rel.SF60 being slightly better than his peers.
- Beyond that much of every shot metric measured shows that Bouma struggles consistently at generating and suppressing shots. These are incremental in many cases (FA60, SA60) but noticeable in his CA60. It’s because he spends so much time blocking shots or being on the ice when shots are being blocked.
So if there is any misconception that Bouma is a shot suppression type of guy: he isn’t. In some sense if you want to believe shot blocking suppresses shots you’re missing the forest for the trees. The opposition: a) had the puck and b) elected to shoot.
Going one step further, let’s look at goal metrics and see if Bouma fares any better in suppressing goals (5v5 data):
- In 2013-14, relative to his peers he didn’t inherently provide much of an on-ice impact in suppressing or scoring goals. One caveat: his individual expected goals total (ixG) was nearly four goals more than what he scored at 5v5.
- His 2014-15 season has been summed up nicely already. He really benefited from puck luck and playing with Mikael Backlund, which shows in his ixG results vs actual results.
- His 2015-16 provided a below average result in virtually every measure of individual performance, expected goals, and relative to his peers. Similarly like in 2013-14, Bouma’s expected results vs actual results in individual product are noticeably off by nearly four goals again.
- This season is extremely limited so far but there are some positives in terms of xGF% and his Rel.xGF% on a team that has struggled to score but is slowly working towards fixing that.
All of this is to say it’s not as simple as saddling him with more skilled players to get him going in hopes of maximizing whatever value you can find in his contract and game. This idea has been a weirdly ineffective concept floated since the day he was re-signed. Even as a passenger, there are limited contributions that Bouma can and has provided in this capacity.
Right now and probably for the rest of the season barring some strange burst of scoring prowess or major injury it’s infeasible to play him beyond the fourth line. It’s not even worth discussing and historically, we know that his impact on others has been noticeable.
But Mike, can’t he be used on the penalty kill? Is there any value left there?
No, not really. The outputs measured when Bouma is on the ice at 4v5 are some – if not the worst – among forwards on the team for an extended period of time. With Paul Jerrard transitioning the team to a more aggressive, intelligent triangle + 1 system, it doesn’t inherently play to Bouma’s skill set.
He blocks shots because he surrenders a lot of shots against at 4v5. To be a stuck record again: the goal of the penalty kill shouldn’t be survival. It should be suppression and killing time. This season, in just over 27:30 minutes of 4v5 TOI, Bouma is on pace for 115.38 CA60. Unblocked shots? 76.20 FA60 (second worst) and 47.9 SA60 (third worst).
No one besides Matt Stajan, who has played just under 60 minutes prior to last night’s win in Arizona, is close to this, playing double and then some of Bouma’s 4v5 TOI with 107.07 CA60. And within that time while killing penalties, Bouma has surrendered five goals while on ice. Which is at a 10.89 GA60 pace, the worst on the team out of any forward at least 20 minutes of 4v5 TOI.
Summing It Up
The attributes that make up the player that is Lance Bouma can appealing, but are often overvalued. He personifies and embodies hockey culture: a hardened, gritty forward who plays tough minutes and does the little things. But the little things he does well – whether appropriately valued or not – aren’t enough to contribute where it matters most: contributing to the desired outcome of goals that lead to wins.
You can value these characteristics but at the end of the day they’re only a portion of the makeup of a player. With his injury history, continued diminished results in all situations, and sunk contract cost it makes it impossible to feasibly justify his usage beyond anyone who is up and coming.
Obviously there is a divergence between the romanticism of the role and the further pursuits of optimizing teams to be competitive; along with that a shift in analysis on the game that adds to turning of the tide. With that, teams – some who’ve been successful recently – have adapted to more skill across four lines and we see shades of it in Calgary.
In reality the goal night in and night out should be playing the best roster you can assemble. If you try to do that, it gets harder and harder to justify Bouma on it.