by Mike Chen on 04/08/09 at 04:07 PM ET
Barring a total collapse from either the Rangers or Canadiens (something that is still feasible) and two straight wins from the Panthers, it’s going to be another year without playoff hockey in the Sunrise/Miami area. So many of us have speculated that making the playoffs set the benchmark for whether or not Jay Bouwmeester would stay or go, and while the whole playoff issue has yet to be settled, it’s time to step back and take a look at the bigger picture.
There’s no doubt that it took about two months for the Panthers to adapt to Pete DeBoer’s new system. And I think it’s safe to say that once the team got it, they were successful enough to make a really interesting run at things despite having shipped off Olli Jokinen over the off-season. So it’s not like this season, regardless of outcome, was a total disaster. In fact, I’d say this was a reasonable stepping stone for this team to come together.
Is that enough to get Bouwmeester to stay? The soft-spoken defenseman seems like a thoughtful fellow, and I’m guessing he won’t make a rash decision (despite the urgings of his seemingly more-impulsive dad). That being said, I’m guessing that a decision about the future of his career depends on more than just the few-point difference between making and not making the playoffs.
Does he like his teammates? Does he work well with DeBoer? Does he like the way Jacques Martin has handled the team? Does he like the Miami area and the lack of invasive media? (I’m guessing yes, judging by how introverted he seems in the press.)
Bouwmeester’s really got to take a step back and consider how close the Panthers are to being the next team to take a major step forward. Let’s not forget the disaster of the Philadelphia Flyers or Washington Capitals a few years back. Look at how Columbus has positioned itself to be a growing Western power for years to come. Things can turn around quickly in the cap era, and with the proper drafting and development, momentum can build fast.
If I was Bouwmeester, assuming the answer is yes to most of the above questions, I’d consider another one-year deal with the team. Martin’s made both smart and dumb moves during his time as GM, but it’s hard to argue with the way Pete DeBoer’s got the team playing. If Martin adds some scoring depth over the the off-season, there’s no reason why Florida can’t take a big leap forward.
Of course, I think we’ve all been saying that for years with this Panthers team.
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