They were both expected to leave Florida and thrive for contending teams in traditional hockey markets and prove once and for all that skating in Sunrise causes one’s career to get off track.
Well, maybe the whole “Florida effect” is overrated.
Tonight Bruins forward Nathan Horton and Calgary defenseman Jay Bouwmeester will go head to head in a big game for both of their playoff-contending club while their old team in South Florida hangs onto its playoff hopes by a string. But while both players are now on the type of team they dreamed of, neither is living a dream experience as far as individual production.
Horton scored his 15h goal in 57 games last Friday in Ottawa, which could be the start of a hot streak. Of course, we’ve been here before with Horton, who hasn’t scored goals in consecutive games since Dec. 4 and 7. Snake-bit could basically be Horton’s new first name, considering that except for some stretches of nothingness he has been pretty active during long periods of the season, without much to show for it in terms of goals. As always, he’s just trying to plow through without hanging his head.
“That stuff happens. I’m not down. I’m on a good team, and as long as a I keep working hard, keep trying, we’ve got so much skill eventually someone’s going to score,” Horton said this week before the team departed for its road trip. “It’s all about getting that momentum. If you don’t score, you don’t score. But hopefully it comes sooner or later.”
In his second season with Calgary, Bouwmeester has been similarly disappointing. A 42-point scorer in his last year with the Panthers, the veteran blueliner registered just 29 last season and is on pace for less this year (he has 17 in 61 games). The Flames’ ice time leader at 26:09 per game, Bouwmeester seems to have settled into a defensive defenseman’s role with a plus-6 rating on the season for the resurgent Flames. He has recorded just one assist this month.
“He’s a great player, a great skater. I honestly couldn’t tell you,” said Horton about his former teammate’s struggle to put up points with the Flames.
From 2001 to 2003, Florida used its highest first-round picks on Stephen Weiss, Bouwmeester and Horton. Last week, Weiss declared to the Miami Herald that he wants to remain with the Panthers and Florida coach Peter DeBoer used Horton and Bouwmeester as two examples of the “change of scenery” theory not working in relation to leaving Florida.
It’s obvious that Weiss has taken the struggles of his former mates to heart and realized the grass isn’t always greener. Horton wishes nothing but the best for Weiss regardless of how things work out.
“I don’t know,” said Horton when asked if Weiss embraced Florida more than he did. “He’s been there longer than me and obviously hasn’t been winning. I really don’t know. Hopefully they do turn it around and he can start winning games and be in the playoffs because it was definitely tough for me when I was there, but he’s been there a lot longer than me.”
For Horton, the winning has been all he expected with Boston but the scoring hasn’t. With his first taste of the NHL playoffs now just two months away, he’s still keeping his focus on the team and not his stat line.
“It’s all about wins,” he said about the stretch run. “Wins and feeling good about the team; it’s not about yourself.”