Michael Peca vs. Jay Bouwmeester: A Justified Criticism

Charlie O'ConnorCorrespondent IOctober 3, 2010

WASHINGTON - MARCH 28:  Jay Bouwmeester #4 of the Calgary Flames handles the puck against the Washington Capitals at the Verizon Center on March 28, 2010 in Washington, DC.  (Photo by Greg Fiume/Getty Images)
Greg Fiume/Getty Images

Michael Peca doesn't think very highly of Jay Bouwmeester.

Peca, a 13-year NHL veteran and current hockey analyst for Canadian sports network TSN, opened fire at the Calgary Flames defenseman on Tuesday.

Asked his opinion of Bouwmeester, Peca was blunt in offering pointed criticism. He called him a "casual player" who lacked toughness.

And then, with the ultimate insult, he stated that the defenseman was "easy to play against."

Coming from a former player, it was a devastating blow.

Bouwmeester himself disregarded the comments as meaningless. However, Calgary president Ken King was not nearly as charitable.

He attacked Peca, calling his comments "inappropriate." Obviously, King had a vested interest in defending the honor and ability of his player. However, what made the CEO's comments particularly interesting was his complaint that Peca, as a former player, should not be stating his opinion in such a forceful manner.

King implied that because Bouwmeester was a peer of Peca's in NHL, a certain degree of respect existed that should have prevented such commentary.

So is King correct? Does Peca's status as a former player make him unsuited for such analysis? Was his attack justified?

Peca's Job Has Changed

For 13 years, Michael Peca's job was to produce for his hockey teams with goals, assists, and leadership. Particularly as captain of the 1999 Eastern Conference Champion Buffalo Sabres, Peca earned a great of respect throughout the league for his two-way play and constant effort.

Peca did his job well.

Now, Michael Peca is a paid analyst for a hockey-centric sports network. Analysts are paid to give strong opinions and spark debate.

Yet again, Peca is simply doing his job.

In a sense, his comments were refreshing in a sports media world filled with former players giving vanilla opinions on the game they once played.

Once former players are hired by the media, they become reporters. And reporters should not withhold criticism due to personal relationships.

Networks hire former players and coaches because of name recognition and supposed expertise in their sport. However, those players often shy away from delivering the type of criticism that may turn former teammates into enemies.

NHL players tend to be some of the worst analysts, as hockey seems to attract more modest athletes than football, baseball, or basketball. Players like Deion Sanders and Charles Barkley, who were flamboyant personalities during their playing careers, quickly jumped into sports media and remained controversial.

They refuse to be boring, for better or worse.

On the other hand, hockey lacks such personalities. Alexander Ovechkin could possibly fit the bill, but due to the language barrier, he will likely never be an analyst in North America.

Former hockey players turned analysts are often intelligent commentators. But they are also uncontroversial. Jeremy Roenick is likely the only recent example of a former player who consistently speaks his mind without restrictions.

Now Peca has entered that realm. He should be cheered for giving his honest, unfiltered opinion, not criticized.

He's Also Right

Still, Peca would not be a very good analyst if his comments were simply misguided. King not only disagreed with Peca's right to state his criticism, he also disagreed with the criticism itself.

Understandably so, considering the fact that the Flames signed Bouwmeester to a contract that pays him more than six million dollars annually for the next four seasons.

If Bouwmeester is truly overrated, then King didn't do his job well.

Some in the media have made the point that Peca did not play against Bouwmeester very often in the NHL, and that his criticism was marred by the small sample size rebuttal.

This is true. But while Peca's opinion may have been marred by personal bias, he still was correct.

Statistics show that Bouwmeester is legitimately overrated, particularly defensively.

According to Tom Awad's GVT statistic, Bouwmeester has consistently been a merely average defender, with most of his value coming from his offensive production.

Only in 2006-07 did Bouwmeester's defensive GVT exceed his offensive GVT. Every other season of his career, Bouwmeester was better offensively than defensively.

In addition, he has failed to crack the 10.0 mark in GVT over the last three seasons, and only finished with a total GVT over 10 once in his career. To compare, Chris Pronger, who is paid less than Bouwmeester, has twelve seasons with a GVT over 10.0.

Bouwmeester has the third-highest salary cap hit amongst current NHL defensemen. He is the only defenseman in the top 10 that does not have at least three seasons with a GVT over 10.0.

Peca was right in stating that Bouwmeester continues to be paid for supposed "upside." But at age 27, when will this upside actually manifest itself?

Basic stats are not kind to Bouwmeester, either. He has a career plus-minus rating of -31, and he has only posted two seasons with a positive +/- rating.

The toughness argument holds water as well. Despite an imposing six foot four, 212 pound frame, Bouwmeester was fifth amongst Calgary defenseman in hits last season. While it is difficult to compare hit totals across teams due to the inexact nature of the statistic, it is telling that Bouwmeester has never been scored as the leading hitter on his team. He has size, but he does not take full advantage of it.

Peca may have been biased, but his criticism was correct. Jay Bouwmeester is one of the most overrated defensemen in the game today.

Ken King should have been angry. Peca was simply pointing out one of his team's biggest mistakes.


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