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February 19, 2011
Howe and Why
Bourque, Bouwmeester and Tanguay

by Robert Vollman

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In preparation for the upcoming Heritage Classic, we thought we'd take a look at a few of the Calgary Flames' key players. Using the Snepsts system, which is a particular way of searching NHL's history to find players with similar statistics, we can establish a set of historical expectations for Rene Bourque, Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Tanguay, much as we did previously for Jarome Iginla and Olli Jokinen.

Rene Bourque, 29

Rene Bourque didn't make his NHL debut until he scored 34 points at age 24, which stood as his career high until coming to Flames, where he entered this season having posted 98 points over 131 games and topped the team in even-strength scoring rate over the both seasons. The key issue with Bourque has been injuries, having missed a whopping 90 games since the Lockout.

Age Closest Comparable       GP  G  A PTS
27 Geoff Courtnall   1989-90 80 26 30  56
28 Nik Antropov      2008-09 81 27 30  57
30 Darcy Rota        1983-84 59 20 15  35
27 John Gould        1976-77 79 12 20  32
28 Glen Murray       2000-01 64 18 21  39
30 Donald Audette    1999-00 63 19 25  44
29 Bobby Schmautz    1974-75 56 17 26  43
28 Scott Young       1995-96 81 18 35  53
27 Martin Gelinas    1997-98 64 17 20  37
30 Bob Pulford       1966-67 67 16 27  43

Worst (Gould)                82 13 21  33
Best (Schmautz)              82 25 38  63
Average                      82 23 29  52
VUKOTA (82 GP)               82 28 34  62
Current Pace                 80 23 23  46

It's amazing how Bourque's comparables are a tight pack of offensively-gifted second-line wingers, and it helped us feel that we had a solid projection here. In my view, Bourque had proven that he was the Flames best scorer; granted he doesn't face shutdown players as often as those on the top line. With a healthy season alongside some hot linemates, I saw Bourque earning a 25-goal, 60-point season, but we were obviously a little too enthusiastic about his current potential and should have listened more carefully to what history was telling us.

Jay Bouwmeester, 27

When Calgary made a 25-year-old Bouwmeester one of the highest-paid defensemen in the league two years ago, the Flames were hoping for a potential Norris Trophy contender, while Bouwmeester was hoping to see the first postseason action of his career. They were both sorely disappointed. After 167 points over four full post-Lockout seasons in Florida, Bouwmeester managed just 29 points, leaving fans to wonder if he would bounce back this year, or if the Flames accidentally found their own Wade Redden.

Age Closest Comparable       GP  G  A PTS
26 Rick Lanz         1987-88 75  4 17  21
27 Mike O'Connell    1982-83 80 10 29  39
27 Serge Savard      1972-73 74  6 28  34
26 Bill Gadsby       1953-54 70 14 37  51
29 Richard Smehlik   1998-99 72  3 12  15
25 Doug Crossman     1985-86 80  4 27  31
26 Pavel Kubina      2003-04 81 18 20  38
25 Tom Poti          2002-03 80 11 39  50
27 Glen Wesley       1995-96 68  7 15  22
28 Randy Carlyle     1984-85 71  9 28  37
 
Worst (Smehlik)              82  4 13  17
Best (Gadsby)                82 16 44  60
Average                      82 10 27  37
VUKOTA (82 GP)               82  8 28  36
Current Pace                 82  5 18  23

Comparables are a bit harder to find for a defenseman who scores 42 goals over three seasons and then manages only three. Nevertheless, I liked the Bouwmeester projection perhaps better than any other: he has played 82 games every year since the Lockout, consistently earns very close to 27 assists, and it made sense that his goal scoring would bounce back to a double-digit threat.

Unfortunately, Bouwmeester's performance has continued to fit on a disappointing trend, leaving him currently on pace near the tail-end of scoring expectations. We never did see Bouwmeester living up to the unrealistic expectations the Flames had of him when pen was put to paper in the summer of 2009. Even if everything broke right and he had a season like Hall of Famer Bill Gadsby, it would still only have barely been worth the money he's being paid. You can't succeed in the salary cap era with too many players like that, but still…a season like that sure wouldn't have hurt!

Alex Tanguay, 30

Alex Tanguay scored at an amazing 3.3 even-strength points per 60 minutes clip as a Flame in 2006-07, setting career highs of 59 assists and 81 points, his third straight point-per-game season. He quickly returned to the 2.2-2.5 range before dropping below the top-six level last year in Tampa Bay with 1.7, resulting in just 10 goals and 37 points, his first ever negative plus-minus, and his first year without playoff hockey. Was it the beginning of the end, or would Tanguay bounce back?

Age Closest Comparable       GP  G  A PTS
32 Kenny Linseman    1990-91 56  6 24  30
32 Wayne Connelly    1971-72 68 17 24  41
30 Leo Labin         1961-62 48  3  4   7
33 Billy Reay        1951-52 68  7 42  49
30 Charlie Sands     1941-42 38 10 16  26
30 Murray Oliver     1967-68 74 16 22  38
31 Don Grosso        1946-47 33  0  2   2
29 Neal Broten       1988-89 68 13 29  42
30 Bill Hay          1965-66 68 18 29  47
30 J.P. Parise       1971-72 71 17 17  34

Worst (Grosso)               82  0  6   6
Best (Reay)                  82  9 52  61
Average                      82 14 28  42
VUKOTA (82 GP)               82 14 30  44
Current Pace                 78 21 38  59

All but two of these seasons would be improvements for Tanguay, although it is revealing that those two exceptions basically marked the premature end of a career.

We knew that scoring more goals should be easy for him—Tanguay's 11.0% shooting percentage last year may not sound low, but it was his lowest ever. Tanguay is like Andrew Brunette and doesn't shoot unless he has an open net (and even then he looks for the pass). Nevertheless, Tanguay has already exceeded goal-scoring expectations, and is on pace to hit the very high end of the range.

As for assists, if he managed 27 during an off-year on Tampa's secondary line, we felt he'd surely do way better on Calgary's top line. If 14 goals and 28 assists were the expectations, and if he plays at least 78 games as he has in three of the past four seasons, then we took the "over" in both cases. We were right!

These were updated excerpts of a series that originally appeared in the preseason on FlamesNation: Part 1, Part 2 and Part 3.

Robert Vollman is an author of Hockey Prospectus. You can contact Robert by clicking here or click here to see Robert's other articles.

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