In last Tuesday’s game against Arizona, Lance Bouma dove in front of a slap shot that hit him square in the chest. Grimacing in pain, he hobbled off the ice—a scene not uncommon to Flames fans—and went straight to the dressing room. This alone did not worry me: Somehow Bouma’s body has been able to withstand an inordinate amount of damage this season, and each time the 25 year old Alberta native has been hit, he’s managed to return seemingly unscathed. That he missed Thursday’s pivotal game against the Kings, and that his status is still uncertain—the reticent Flames staff have him listed as day-to-day—does bother me.
Bouma has been crucial to Calgary’s success this season. Whether it’s fearlessly throwing his body in front of a shot, or crashing into the boards for a check (sometimes successfully contacting the other player)
there seems to come a point during every flames game when one can spot Bouma limping off the ice; at the next whistle, more often than not, the broadcast director will switch to a shot of Bouma nursing one of his limbs with an excruciating look on his face.
In many ways Bouma seems to embody the flames’ philosophy—unrelenting, pesky, unyielding— and his unexpected success mirrors that of the team’s. Calgary was supposed to rank near the bottom of the league in scoring; after 81 games they’re ranked fifth with an average of 2.91 goals per game. Lance Bouma was a player who people did not expect to notice; assuming he doesn’t play in Saturday’s game, he’ll finish the season with 16 goals—the most he’s scored in one season at any level since entering the WHL. He’s presently ranked sixth among NHL forwards in blocked shots with 82. Beyond his statistics, his work ethic is unparalleled.
Bouma does not seem to give a damn about anything. It really is like watching a bowling ball flying turbulently down a lane, and in one of those old alleys where an odd kink near the gutter’s end still allows a recklessly thrown ball to hit the ten pin and pick up some points.
It will be interesting to see what the Flames do with him once he becomes a restricted free agent this off season. Flames general manager Brad Treliving signed Bouma to a one year contract last August, a tryout year, for all intents and purposes, and Bouma is making quite the case for a hefty pay raise. If Treliving was willing to give Deryk Engellend almost three million a year, who knows what Bouma might be able to milk out of him.
With that said, Michael Backland and Josh Jooris will both become RFAs after this season; Johnny Gaudreau and Sean Monahan will become RFAs after the 2015-16 season; Mark Giordano will become a UFA after the 2015-2016 season; and there is of course the goaltending issue to address: Ramo’s contract expires after this season; Hiller is aging, and despite playing brilliantly at times, he has not in my mind resoundingly established himself as a reliable starter; the highly touted prospects, Joni Ortio and Jon Gillies, though promising, are still prospects.
Needless to say, the flames have a lot of money that they will need to spend. You can’t expect Bouma to continue to score almost twenty goals per season; or maybe you can, I just don’t know anymore. Either way, the only thing Bob Hartley really seems to care about is a player’s willingness to work, which should allow Bouma to be a staple on this team for years to come. Hopefully he’ll be able to return soon to continue impressing us during the post season.