It’s all good.
Those three words seemed to be a catch phrase for Jay Bouwmeester earlier in the week when talking about his season. They will likely be repeated throughout the weekend in Montreal where Bouwmeester will participate in Saturday evening’s 2009 Honda/NHL SuperSkills competition and Sunday’s All-Star Game.
For Bouwmeester, this will be his third trip to the All-Star Game. He represented the Panthers in the 2006-07 event in Dallas and played in the 2003 YoungStars game his rookie season at BankAtlantic Center.
But this will be the first time he arrives at the annual event on a Panther team with a winning record and in the middle of the playoff hunt. It will also be the first time Bouwmeester goes to the game playing, what GM Jacques Martin called earlier in the week, “his best hockey.”
Bouwmeester, 25 and all ready in his sixth NHL season, is tied for third on the team in goals (10) and tied for fourth in scoring (26 points). He continues to lead the team in on-ice time (second in the league) and will likely break the franchise record for goals by a defenseman (15), which he set just last year.
Yes, it’s all good. Finally. And that’s the rub.
If Bouwmeester and the Panthers don’t agree on a contract, he could be dealt before the March 4 trading deadline. If not, he’ll become an unrestricted free agent come the end of the season.
Martin told reporters earlier in the week, “The closer we get to the trading deadline, it’s an issue we’ll have to resolve.”
Bouwmeester opened up a bit Tuesday afternoon at IncredibleIce about his future, but it wasn’t enough to quell rumors if the two sides don’t agree on a deal before the March deadline.
“I don’t know,” Bouwmeester began. “Obviously, it’s better when you’re winning and things are going good. It’s a lot better (in Florida) than it has been since I’ve been here. I’m not going to make any rash decisions. Whatever happens, happens. I’m not getting into now.”
Fair enough. But things have improved for Bouwmeester this year. The new system under coach Peter DeBoer is allowing Bouwmeester to jump into rushes and get more involved offensively. And unlike previous years when the blue line had the likes of Ivan Majesky, Lance Ward, Igor Ulanov and Pavel Trnka, Bouwmeester is playing on the same line as Bryan McCabe, Keith Ballard, Karlis Skrastins, Nick Boynton and Jassen Cullimore.
When informed Martin thought he was playing his best hockey, Bouwmeester said; “Yeah, probably.
“I don’t think I’m trying to do anything differently,” he added. “I think it’s just kind of experience…maybe you see things a little different, you understand situations a little better and create opportunities. But a lot of that is getting the puck at the right spot at the right time. You have those streaks when things are going well. It’s not always going to be like that, so you try to be consistent.
“I feel pretty good and things have kind of been going good lately, so that makes things more enjoyable. It’s a lot more fun when you’re winning, that’s for sure.”
Part of that enjoyment for Bouwmeester appears to be courtesy of Martin’s decision to bring in rookie head coach Peter DeBoer.
“I think he’s a good coach,” Bouwmeester said. “He’s a younger guy, he’s enthusiastic and doesn’t do things over the top, doesn’t rant and rave. It’s good. He works with guys and kind of lets you know what you need to do, if you need to do something different. He goes about it professionally, and that’s all you can ask.”
Bouwmeester, who will compete Saturday evening in the fastest skater competition, said he’s looking forward to the weekend’s events.
“I was excited about the last one,” he said. “It was something new. It was neat because there were some guys there I looked up to growing up and you got to see those guys and meet them.
“This one is in Montreal, and hockey is what it is there. It’s number one, and the history of the organization. I’m sure there’ll be a lot of stuff going on and I’ll take it all in.”
It will all be good.