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Smooth as silk

by Mike Board / Calgary Flames
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When the Calgary Flames traded for and then signed Jay Bouwmeester in the summer there was little doubt he was a top end player. But Flames fans might not have been as familiar with Bouwmeester because be played across the continent with the Florida Panthers for six seasons in relative anonymity.

Now that Bouwmeester is in Calgary, it's easy to see that the scouting reports about his skating, his game sense, his size and his reach were all correct.

The 26-year-old Edmonton native is logging major ice time, second in the NHL in average ice time (26:56), behind only Philadelphia's Chris Pronger (27:15). He plays in all situations -- power play, penalty-kill, five-on-five. He darts in and out of the play with his strong skating, is a plus player, blocks shots and moves and skates the puck with ease. He is, as advertised, one of best all-around defencemen in the game.

"He plays a very, very consistent all-around game," said Flames assistant coach Ryan McGill, who works daily with the Flames defencemen. "His biggest asset is he can get the puck out of the zone whether he skates it or whether he makes first pass tape-to-tape."

Rarely is Bouwmeester out of position and, if he is, he takes a couple of strides, utilizes his long reach and is suddenly back in position. He might not have the flash and dash of other NHL defencemen and you don't see him making big, open ice hits. But he is one of the most effective players on the ice. It's like you don't notice him -- and that's not always a bad thing.

"That's a good thing," explained McGill. "You don't really want to notice him every night. When you do notice him is when he gets into foot races. He has the ability to go from first gear to fourth gear quickly. You notice that dynamic in him. It's incredible to see. He can chase people down -- when you think that they have a step or two steps he is right there."

Bouwmeester, a strong candidate for Canada's Olympic team and a long-time international competitor, is one of the Flames wearing an assistant captain letter for the month of November. He wears an A on the road while Craig Conroy wears an A at home. Jarome Iginla and Robyn Regehr have permanent letters as captain and assistant captain respectively. The rotating A's are a way for the coaching staff to spread the leadership around the Flames room.

Bouwmeester is certainly a leader, but not a loud one.

"Ultimately, it doesn't change anything -- and it shouldn't,"Bouwmeester said of wearing the A. "I've played long enough, I know the deal and I know how I have to lead. For myself, I'm not a rant-and-raver or anything like that. But the things you do out there -- being solid, working hard -- that's the example you want to set."

Setting an example is something Bouwmeester, who currently has the NHL Ironman streak for consecutive games at 367, is doing.

Through 22 games he had 12 points, was plus eight while logging anywhere from 28 to 38 shifts a game. He had a four-game point-streak (1 goal, 4 assists) come to an end on Monday in a 3-2 shootout loss to Anaheim. A couple of days earlier he fed one of those beautiful cross-ice passes from the point toe Jarome Iginla for a picture perfect goal against Los Angeles.

"He has the ability to be that third or fourth guy on the attack and also, at the same time, if the puck gets turned over, he has the ability to get back and he has done that several times already," said McGill.

A former teammate in Florida and current Flame, Olli Jokinen, isn't surprised at what Bouwmeester brings to the Flames.

"If he would have been in this market for the last two or three years he would have been a Norris Trophy candidate," Jokinen told Blaze Magazine, the Flames in-game program, in a recent article. "The way he has been playing hasn't been a shock to me at all."

Speed, good puck skills, responsible at both ends of the ice, calm under pressure, Bouwmeester has all that and more.

"I have seen guys that can skate like that but I have never seen a guy that can skate and think like that," said McGill of Bouwmeester.
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