I’ve always considered Jay Bouwmeester a brutal interview, akin to getting dental work done. And, with good reason. He is one. Bouwmeester is a bad, bad talker. That said, he’s a pretty good hockey player.
Buzz around Edmonton these days that the Oilers might be interested in acquiring the man of action and few words from the Calgary Flames – I can’t say if it’s got legs, but I wouldn’t bet against it – got me thinking if I’ve let the former color the latter in my assessment of Bouwmeester in the years that he’s spent in the NHL. It has. The only question is degree.
Great skater? Absolutely. Decent defender? Better than that. Durable? Like the rock of Gibraltar. Bouwmeester is all of these things — a defenseman who eats up minutes and can do what he does in the top pairing of any one of the 30 teams in the NHL. The kid can flat-out play.
Despite all that, though, the mention of him has drawn a "Whatever" from me throughout the years he spent in Florida before landing in Calgary, and that was the case again when I first heard this talk about Oiler interest. It’s not that his effortless stride or defensive prowess or ability to log big minutes game after game after game is a revelation to me. It’s those interviews . . .
Good thing I don’t have to assess talent for a living.
Bouwmeester might be as fine a young man as he is a hockey player, but he will make your eyes roll up in your head during the interview process. I found that out going into the 2002 Entry Draft for a feature I was doing when it was anticipated he’d be selected first overall. Comatose in five minutes, I was.
If there’s a record kept for the number of tape recorders and TV cameras clicking off 30 seconds into the scrum of a top-three, blue-chip pick at the Entry Draft, Bouwmeester most certainly holds it.
With reporters looking for a juicy quote or two, something to hang a main story and a sidebar on – we thought that would be a lock after the wheeling and dealing that was done so Columbus could get Rick Nash, landing Bouwmeester in Florida — eyes were glazing over inside 15 seconds. Just brutal – all of us forgetting he was a teenager.
A few years later, during the 2004-05 lockout season, the Edmonton Sun decided I’d cover the AHL Road Runners home and away, giving the team real big league coverage. They had pages to fill, so what the hell. I ended up in San Antonio, where Bouwmeester was playing for the Rampage.
Bouwmeester was an established NHL player by then. Older and wiser in the ways of the world, he’d be more comfortable talking to reporters then, right? Plus, with an Edmonton reporter making the trip all the way to the Alamo to talk to an Edmonton player about being relegated to scrub duty in the minors, he’d spin gold for sure. Uh, no. Bomb-ola. Same old, same old.
THE BOTTOM LINE
None of the above changes the fact Bouwmeester is a damn good player, even if he’s a tad overpaid for my liking (based primarily on his points totals), but I’ve got to admit it did, and still does, impact my perception of him. When your job hinges in part on the gift of gab any given athlete possesses and a guy has no verbal game, it happens. Doesn’t make it right. That’s just the way it is.
Like I said, I don’t know for sure if or to what degree the Oilers actually have an interest in Bouwmeester, or if he’d waive his no-trade clause in the instance that GM Jay Feaster asked him about moving up the road to Edmonton. We’ll see how, or if, that plays out.
What I do know, after taking time to reflect, is that what Bouwmeester does on the ice matters a helluva lot more than what he says when media types come calling on him in the dressing room. The same goes for any player when you get right down to it. Big talker? Fine. Big-time player?
Here’s hoping the Oilers are better at separating one from the other than I’ve been over the years when it comes to Bouwmeester, should Steve Tambellini and Feaster ever start talking about making a deal.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.