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On Bortuzzo and Bouwmeester

Looking at two Blues defensemen for very different reasons.

NHL: FEB 12 Devils at Blues Photo by Keith Gillett/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Editorial Note: This is the response from Trevor Kraus to his piece published on Saturday in the St. Louis Game Time paper as well as the website. These are his own words, in response to his own words.

I firmly believe St. Louis Game Time (and SB Nation) to be a community of disparate views and ideas. The most I do, as editor, is proofread for grammar and spelling when needed. If an author has been granted publishing status, they understand that they need to follow the SB Nation guiding principals and the Vox Media Values as authors on a Vox Media website. They also have to adhere to community guidelines. They are to run any potentially controversial issues that push the boundaries of these guideline by me. Failure to do so results in the removal of the post and a warning; a repeat is a revocation of their publishing privileges.

My job as an editor is not a gatekeeper; it is not a dictator. I have had authors publish many pieces in the past that I did not agree with. As they were those authors’ opinions, with their name in the byline, it was/is their choice to publish those pieces and it was/is their consequence to deal with the response to those said pieces.

If people choose to stop reading the site because of Trevor’s piece, then that is my consequence and I accept it, but as a fan-run site as part of a network that advertises itself based on its fan-run communities, I don’t believe that it is appropriate to muzzle the people who choose to publish here.

This story first appeared on Page 5 (The Five Hole) of the Feb. 18, 2020 edition of the St. Louis Game Time paper, sold outside of every Blues home game.

What I wrote about Jay Bouwmeester on Saturday angered a lot of people. These words were the focal point of that anger: “This hockey team is better, on the ice, than it was before [last] Tuesday’s postponed game because of what happened during it.”

In the aftermath of his health scare, that perspective — and that wording — seemed insensitive. I knew it would, and I had tried to cushion the blow by adding, “I’m absolutely and completely relieved that Jay Bouwmeester is in stable condition” and, “It gives me no pleasure to say this.” But I didn’t know just how vocal — and nearly unanimous — the blowback would be.

I didn’t respond until today because I wanted first to listen and to contemplate, but I looked at every GIF and read every word of that blowback. “Complete and utter garbage,” I was called. “Classless” and “psychopath,” too. Particularly noteworthy was the diehard humanitarian who took issue with my lack of compassion and responded, “Delete your fucking twitter account you asshole.”

I let it sink in. I let it weigh on me. I owed it to readers, and myself, to reflect.

I thought about what I would write if I had to do it over again. Would, “The Blues are a better hockey team without Jay Bouwmeester in the lineup” have been better? I could have softened it further: “Bouwmeester’s absence presents some interesting possibilities for the Blues.” I could have tiptoed in dozens of ways. They all, ultimately, would have meant the same thing, and you would have seen through it.

I try to analyze hockey — and hockey players — dispassionately. Rigidly. Rationally. Because numbers don’t get emotional and reason doesn’t waver. So, after a period of time I thought was sufficiently respectful (three days) and after seeing that he was indeed going to be ok, I analyzed Bouwmeester’s play on the ice.

I’ve been following Number 19 closely, and have read and written about him often since his first game as a Blue, in April of 2013. I have seen no statistics and heard very few objective analysts suggest he’s been a good player — especially relative to his contract — in that time. If you want to debate my view, the numbers and the video are out there. I doubt you’ll find that they cooperate with your argument, but I invite you to make a case. My Twitter (@trevorkraus) DMs are open, but please keep in mind: I did not and never would attack Bouwmeester’s character. Attacking mine probably won’t lead to a productive discussion.

If you feel it’s still too soon, I understand. If you want to call me names, I’ll sit here and take it. But I believe that what I said is true. I will not shy away from the truth in favor of a warm story. I will not suspend reason in favor of emotion.

I’ve never met Jay Bouwmeester. Rarely have I even heard him speak. But based on his no-nonsense style of play, the sparsity of his interviews, and his even-keeled words in them, I have a sneaking suspicion: Even if he disagreed with my conclusion, he’d relate to my approach. It is, after all, how he has approached every day of his 17 years in the NHL.

Five thoughts, while you’re calling my name but I gotta make clear.

1. I do have to apologize for inaccurate wording in one of Saturday’s five thoughts. Bouwmeester going on LTIR could give the Blues the flexibility to add a player at the trade deadline without having to leave Vladimir Tarasenko there for the rest of the regular season.

2. I’ve been against fighting in the NHL for a long time, but I had to tip my cap to Robert Bortuzzo. In the Blues’ first game against Nashville since his November crosschecks on Viktor Arvidsson, he knew he’d have to fight. He didn’t step down.

3. Speaking of Bortuzzo’s crosschecks, I tip my cap to Fox Sports Midwest, too. I’ve come to expect a certain level of homerism on their broadcasts. It’s sensible business, but they tend to treat Blues players with kid gloves. On Saturday, they showed the whole, terrible, barbarity — in slow motion, to boot.

4. Bob Gassoff died during the offseason in May, 1977. Chris Pronger collapsed on the ice during a playoff game in May, 1998. I ask, in all sincerity: How long after those respective events did it become acceptable to talk about the on-ice ramifications? In both cases, as well as in Bouwmeester’s, I’ll bet the subject came up in 24 hours or less — in the Blues’ front office, at least.

5. From a friend who was at the postponed game in Anaheim: “Stubhub said they wouldn’t reimburse, but our tickets are valid for the [rescheduled] game still.” He lives in LA and can still attend, but that’s a raw deal for people who won’t be able to.


If you enjoyed this story — and even if you didn’t — you should check out my book, Ticketless: How Sneaking Into The Super Bowl And Everything Else (Almost) Held My Life Together.