Jay Bouwmeester may ruin this season for St. Louis Blues fans.
No, this isn’t dramatic hyperbole designed to garner retweets, widespread acclaim, and attention; it’s just the painful truth. An opinion disguised as a hot take. It’s not many times that a defenseman ages 30 years on the ice over the course of 365 days, but it sure looks like Bouwmeester has acquired his NHL AARP card recently. He’s just not good anymore.
After missing the majority of the 2017-18 season to injury, Bouwmeester made it out of the preseason in one piece and has stayed that way for the first two weeks of the regular season. Usually, a veteran defenseman staying in the lineup would be a case for celebration, with wise nods rolling in from around the city. Instead, most Blues fans hope the man finds a way to NOT make the lineup.
Case In Point: The best game of the season for the Blues came on Saturday night in Toronto, and guess who didn’t suit up? I’ll give you a hint by admitting he looks like a very tall Mr. Rodgers. Without Bouwmeester got there creating a bad flavor of chaos, the defensive unit for the Blues shut the Toronto Maple Leafs down and controlled the overall pace of play. This came on the road against the team with the most points in the Eastern Conference. Bouwmeester was a healthy scratch and the operation hummed away smoothly.
When he returned to the lineup in Winnipeg last night, things went wrong. Very wrong. The Jets first goal went in off Bouwmeester’s skate, and later on with the Blues clinging to a 4-3 lead, Bouwmeester gave the opposing team the best kind of screen in front of Jake Allen for the tying goal. There’s something no reason he should have been on the ice so late in the game, but Mike Yeo doesn’t have a pair of glasses that aren’t rose-colored and favoring old, decrepit defensemen.
Here’s the thing. Bouwmeester isn’t a reliable asset on the ice. If he’s not dragging Alex Pietrangelo down to Suckville, he is making boneheaded choices in front of the net, losing sight of the guy he should be covering, or basically looking aloof on the ice. He got more first period ice time than all defensemen not named Joel Edmundson, which is a laughable offense from Yeo. If Yeo is fired here soon, he can look at leaning on veterans like Bouwmeester who clearly can’t do their job yet remain on the ice during pivotal moments.
Please save your defense in telling me it’s not just his fault the Blues have two wins in eight games. That’s a No Shit statement. However, Bouwmeester’s shitty play has led to far too many goals early on, making him a liability. Call it the bitter end of a contract extension that was too long to begin with. A Doug Armstrong trigger finger offense that keeps on giving. Just listen to a hockey coach dish it on the old fella. Ladies and gentlemen, David Scott...
I defended boumeister yesterday, and after watching all the Winnipeg goals, he’s definitely not helping my cause. Two goals he’s not on D side of his guy, and beats him to puck on rebounds, jesusssss.— D Scott (@D_Scott1616) October 23, 2018
Stop defending him, Mr. Scott. He’s not worth the trouble. A 35-year-old who looks like he’s 45 years old on the ice. An older statesman out of place and costing the team.
The reason the Blues looked so good in Toronto was simple. The defense putting up a strong front in the neutral zone and cleaning up messes in front of Jake Allen allowed the goaltender to be strong for 60 minutes, and gave the forwards extra energy to attack the offensive zone on the forecheck and in front of the Maple Leafs net. There’s a trickle down effect with good or bad defense.
There was a time when Bouwmeester was good out there. He was great for a season or two. Now, he’s an anchor that drags the team down. Owed over $5 million this season, there’s no easy way to get around him. You either healthy scratch one of the highest-paid players on the team, or you play him on the third or fourth defensive pairing. Each result will make for an uncomfortable environment, which will in turn hurt the team.
If Mike Yeo wants to prove he isn’t drunk or completely clueless, he’ll keep Bouwmeester off the ice for close and late situations. If you can’t be a good coach, at least stay away from being a bad one. The Blues lost out on playoff action by a single point last season. They can’t afford to lose more points based off below-average play from a declining player. I don’t think this will end well, but it doesn’t have to be this ugly.
In the mean time, I’d buy an extra bottle of bourbon for the Bouwmeester trials.