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Bad luck Bouwmeester

Three years after signing with the Flames and 715 games into his NHL career, defenceman Jay...

Three years after signing with the Flames and 715 games into his NHL career, defenceman Jay Bouwmeester still hasn't had a sniff of post-season hockey. (JIM WELLS/QMI Agency file photo)

WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 11:09 PM ET

CALGARY - A grin on his face and a Calgary Flames jersey over his shoulders for the first time, Jay Bouwmeester sounded certain his playoff fortunes were about to change.

That was July 1, 2009, and the smooth-skating blueliner was officially leaving the Sunshine State for a brighter on-ice future after missing the post-season in six straight NHL campaigns with the Florida Panthers.

In Calgary, the prized free-agent addition would join one of the best blueline brigades in the biz. Bouwmeester would skate in front of a star netminder and send breakout passes to a proven sniper.

Eighty-two regular-season spins, and he’d finally get to test his palate for playoff hockey.

At least, that was the plan.

“It’s exciting for me. I think the prospects are here for having a good year. They’ve had good teams the last while, and hopefully, I can add another dimension,” Bouwmeester told reporters at his introductory press conference at the Saddledome, shortly after inking a five-year, US$33-million deal with the Flames.

“The attitude here is not just to try and make the playoffs — it’s to try and win a championship. That’s all you can ask for.”

Turns out, that’s been asking a little much.

Fast-forward three full seasons — minus Thursday’s clash with the Vancouver Canucks and Saturday’s afternoon date with the Anaheim Ducks — and Bouwmeester still hasn’t skated in a playoff outing.

In 2009-10, the Flames got off to a great start but fizzled on both sides of the Olympic break.

In 2010-11, they were awful early and couldn’t climb back into the post-season picture.

This winter, they’ve been more streaky than a bad squeegee job.

Three swings, three misses.

The Panthers gassed an opportunity to clinch a playoff berth in Tuesday’s 5-4 overtime loss to the Winnipeg Jets, but they’re still sitting atop the Southeast Division as they try to get to the spring party for the first time since 1999-2000, the longest drought in NHL history.

Among individuals, no active skater has been waiting longer for a playoff invite than Bouwmeester. Guy Charron made 734 NHL appearances without skating in a single post-season contest. If he keeps his ironman streak alive, the 28-year-old Bouwmeester (715) will break that dubious record early next season.

When he signed that long-term contract in 2009, rewarding the Flames for trading for his exclusive negotiating rights just two days before the free-agent frenzy, this wasn’t exactly the result he was anticipating.

“If you didn’t think you had a chance or the team didn’t have a chance of being successful, then no, you wouldn’t have really bothered, I guess,” Bouwmeester said after Tuesday’s off-ice workout at the Saddledome. “The way things worked out, obviously, hasn’t been what you would’ve wrote at that point, but it is what it is. You can’t go back. In the three years, we certainly haven’t been so out of it that you can’t look back and say, ‘Well, if you win a few games and you do a few things differently, you’re right there’ But that’s the story with everybody when you end up in this spot.”

Heading into the 2009-10 campaign, few would’ve argued that the Flames were a top contender in the Western Conference.

Miikka Kiprusoff was among the NHL’s most reliable netminders, a club he still belongs to today after another spectacular season.

With Bouwmeester joining Dion Phaneuf and Robyn Regehr, the Flames had three defenceman good enough to be invited to Hockey Canada’s Olympic orientation camp.

Olli Jokinen, who arrived at the trade deadline the previous season, was supposed to be the highly-skilled centre Jarome Iginla had long been waiting for, and Brent Sutter was being billed as the perfect boss to get them all on the same wavelength.

An early exit wasn’t a worry, let alone a hat-trick of ’em.

Yet here we are, three years later, and Bouwmeester still hasn’t had a sniff of post-season hockey.

“Every year that goes by, basically, it’s an opportunity lost,” Bouwmeester said. “It does sort of add up, and it does become frustrating, probably more so every year because you get older and you realize that every year you play is one less and careers don’t last forever.”

wes.gilbertson@sunmedia.ca

On Twitter: @SUNGilbertson


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