Time on Bouwmeester's side

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:42 PM ET

When most hockey fans think of Jay Bouwmeester and currency, the immediate thought which comes to mind is his salary.

That number, an average of US$6.68 million per season over five years, has become a sticking point for detractors of the Calgary Flames defenceman, who don’t see his offensive output living up to his paycheque.

But the only currency which concerns Flames head coach Brent Sutter is the one he doles out in the form of ice time.

Sutter has been handing out plenty this season to Bouw-

meester and is more than happy with the return on that investment.

“Personally, I don’t feel he gets enough credit for what he does,” Sutter said of the rangy blueliner.

“It’s about how guys are playing and how they’re performing. Bo can handle the ice time because of how he plays the game. He’s such a good skater and an intelligent player.”

As the Flames ready to play host Wednesday night to the Vancouver Canucks, Bouwmeester leads his team with an average of 25 minutes and 49 seconds per game, the fifth highest total in the NHL.

Bouwmeester’s production, three goals and nine points, isn’t at the level of expectations when he was acquired two summers ago and inked to a long-term contract, but he’s doing everything else the club can ask of him.

While logging those minutes, against the top opposing forwards and in all situations, Bouwmeester has posted a team-best plus-8 rating so far this season.

“I think he had a little bit of an unfair shake last year,” said blueline partner Robyn Regehr. “He means a lot more to us than people realize.

I know he’s happy contributing more this year, feeling more comfortable, but he does so many things. He quarterbacks one unit of the powerplay, kills penalties … plays in every situation.

“He is a very important part, not just our defence but the entire team.”

Still, the numbers fans often look for in Bouwmeester is the offensive results, a byproduct of the salary and Norris Trophy expectations which surrounded his arrival.

The good news, then, is he’s already reached the goal total netted last season.

“If you look at last year,

I could say I’d be happy with four,” said the three-goal scorer, showing a sense of humour to which people aren’t always privy.

“Scoring gives anybody confidence. Last year, I went through a stretch — a dry stretch — and I don’t know how many games it was, but it was a lot. I don’t think I’ve ever done that before.

“I’ve been trying to shoot the puck more and getting pucks to the net, and that’s how so many goals are scored, whether you score them or somebody else. That’s been a focus.

“The goals I have gotten have been pretty good plays by some other guys.”

It’s true Bouwmeester has been the benefactor of a couple of great plays.

His first goal of the season was a chance set up by Alex Tanguay’s backhanded cross-ice feed, while Jarome Iginla also made a no-look pass to Bouwmeester when he scored in Monday’s 3-0 victory over the Minnesota Wild at the Saddledome.

Still, both those goals were a result of his patience before firing the shot into the right spot.

“I had done it in the past, too,” Bouwmeester said. “That’s the thing about last year. You get some opportunities, but I didn’t get a lot of those real quality ones — ones you should score on — for whatever reason.

“If you keep putting yourself in that position, getting those chances, anybody at this level should be able to put a few of them in the net.”

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

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