Blame Darryl Sutter for taking all the excitement out of the summer free-agency season. But be sure to credit the Calgary Flames' general manager for moving decisively to acquire the hardiest player in the NHL, Jay Bouwmeester
, to strengthen his team.
Bouwmeester, 25, led the NHL in ice time the past two seasons while playing defense for the Florida Panthers. His streak of 342 consecutive games played is currently the longest in the NHL.
On June 27, Sutter traded defenseman Jordan Leopold and a third-round pick in the '09 Entry Draft to Florida for the rights to Bouwmeester. The Edmonton native signed a five-year deal with Calgary three days later. So much for all that free-agent speculation.
|Playing Alberta Hockey |
|While the Calgary Flames' roster is typical of the NHL in its international flavor, there are nine players from Alberta, including five from Edmonton, five from Saskatchewan, and four from Manitoba. Darryl Sutter promised a team that would play "Alberta hockey" when he became general manager and the Flames certainly have a strong Prairie-hockey flavor. |
"There are a lot of guys that are sort of local, guys from Alberta and Western Canada, at least. Different teams play different styles," defenseman Jay Bouwmeester said.
"I know Brent is the coach and I know his demands. There's going to be structure there, and as long as you're playing within the structure then you're going to have some freedom to do things. People like that kind of hockey. You're skating and moving the puck and it's fun to play and I think it's fun to watch."
Edmonton-born Captain Jarome Iginla has commented several times about growing up in Edmonton and playing for the rival Flames, but Bouwmeester said he has no emotional bond to the Oilers.
"I remember their last Stanley Cup in 1990 but after that there was talk of the team moving and they had some pretty lean years so I was never a die-hard Oilers fan," he said. "I've got a cousin who lives in Calgary and he's a die-hard Edmonton fan, through and through."
-- John McGourty
Bouwmeester is tall and strong at 6-foot-4 and 212 pounds. He's an excellent shotblocker and hard checker, but he is also one of the best-skating defensemen in the NHL and a fine passer. Adding Bouwmeester gives Calgary perhaps the best top four defense in the League with a fine corps of young blueliners looking to crack the lineup.
Bouwmeester will join Dion Phaneuf, Robyn Regehr and Cory Sarich
, a Stanley Cup winner, in the top four. Mark Giordano
, a power-play specialist, has played parts of the past two seasons and will be pressured for a spot by Adam Pardy, who played 60 games last year, and Matt Pelech, a 2005 first-rounder who played five games last year. Anton Stralman and Staffan Kronwall were acquired for depth, while John Negrin, Keith Aulie and Keith Seabrook move from juniors into the professional ranks with good reputations.
Bouwmeester said he hasn't thought about who he wants to play beside in that grouping. He said he agrees that Calgary might have the NHL's best defense.
"Well, it sounds good. They're all going to bring something different, I think, and they'll all mesh together and find the right pairings," he said. "Yes, it is exciting. It is a good group and when you have a good goalie it makes everyone's job easier. It's getting to the point where I want to get going and play with these guys."
Bouwmeester played six seasons in Florida after the Panthers made him the third pick of the 2002 Entry Draft. He has 53 goals, including 18 power-play goals, and 150 assists for 203 points in 471 games, in which he is minus-27. He has also accumulated 329 penalty minutes -- showing a lot of discipline for a physical defenseman.
He said he doesn't expect a difficult transition to joining the Flames and playing for new coach Brent Sutter. Brent's brother Duane was an assistant coach and director of player personnel when Bouwmeester played in Florida, and the Sutters are similar in their approach, he said.
"I'm pretty familiar with Brent Sutter," Bouwmeester said. "He was in Red Deer and I played against him when I was in Medicine Hat in juniors. You kind of know the reputation and the mentalities. You know you're going to have to work hard. It's pretty cut and dried. If you are doing the things that are expected, you're not going to have any problems. I think (the Sutters) are fair and they demand some effort, which is a good thing. It keeps everyone on their toes. I've had some success so I'm pretty excited.
"I don't think there're lots of changes here. There's a whole new coaching staff and everything but it's not like I'm the only new guy so there's no huge pressure to turn the world around. But I want to go and help the team and make a difference. Basically, they saw something they thought worth going after and I just want to go and do the things that I do well."
Author: John McGourty | NHL.com Staff Writer