Jay Bouwmeester has had a rough go of things over the last calendar year. Before we feel too sorry for him, he has managed to turn things around.
To say that things have not gone smoothly for St. Louis Blues defenseman Jay Bouwmeester in the year 2018 would be underselling things. He had about as rough a time as anyone in recent memory.
Now, things are looking up and the league is recognizing it. Bouwmeester was just named a finalist for the Masterton Memorial Trophy, which is essentially the comeback player of the year.
Bouwmeester had hit rock bottom as far as fan sentiment toward him went. Not since the likes of Barret Jackman has there been such a heat behind the hate flowing forth that it could have melted the ice.
In his usual, quiet way, Bouwmeester just kept going out there and doing his job. It was just that he was not doing his job effectively.
He appeared to have lost much more than a step. Once one of the most deceptively quick defensemen in the league, he actually looked slow.
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Bouwmeester missed much of 2017-18 with a various injuries that never fully healed. They finally shut him down in March of 2018 with a hip injury that required surgery.
Though he started the year and has actually played all of 2018-19 except for four games, he was still not the same. Things got so bad early in the year that Bouwmeester was a healthy scratch for the first time in his career. It had to be a blow to the confidence.
Bouwmeester is quieter than most when it comes to addressing the media. He seems about as even keeled as they come when he’s out there. It is hard to imagine that it did not affect him.
Fortunately for the Blues, it affected him in a good way. He pulled his head out of his rear and turned things around.
To view Bouwmeester today, there is no doubt that the hip problem lingered into 2018’s fall campaign. They never said anything because most pro athletes don’t look for excuses, but clearly he was not over it. Finally, he is now.
Bouwmeester has turned the clock back. While the offense has never fully shown up the way it did for other teams, we are now seeing the player that the Blues brought in back in 2012-13.
Back then, Bouwmeester was averaging 23 to 24 minutes per game. While there is no need to give him that many minutes now, you do not think twice about having him still play over 20 minutes.
He is about as good positionally as anyone on this team, currently. He is chipping in in any way he can, overall.
Since returning from injury, he has been a plus-11. He has also chipped in with three goals and 10 assists.
As someone who never joined the Bouwmeester bashing bandwagon, it has been fun to see him come back to his form. It is even better that it happened since even he was not sure it would.
“I’m not as young as I once was, and throughout the whole process, you don’t know what you’re going to get back to,” Bouwmeester said on the team website. “Everyone keeps telling you give it time and you’ll be back to normal, but like anybody, as the calendar winds down to training camp, you’re wishing things would speed up a little bit. The start of the year was a little bit tough because I wasn’t really at a place I wished I was, but you have to work through that. It’s all good now… I feel better than I have in the last couple of years.”
That makes the story even better. The fact Bouwmeester can admit that he was not sure if he could get back to the level he was accustomed to is refreshing honesty. You like to see those kinds of guys succeed and now Bouwmeester is getting his reward.
Age catches up to us all. I consider myself a young man, but even I have more aches than a few years ago. Maybe the Bouwmeester fans love to hate will return. I do not see it happening this season though.
I hope Big Bouw wins the Masterton. We might have a love/hate relationship with him, but he is about as deserving as anyone.