I have a perfect anecdote when people ask me how Rangers fans judge Brian Boyle. Watching Game 5 of the Eastern Conference Semifinal series against the Penguins, Boyle blocked a shot late in the game with the Rangers well on their way to a win. I was sitting at a bar in Boston, coincidentally with another Rangers fan sitting next to me. After Boyle blocked the shot, the other man blurted out, "That's the first good thing Boyle has done all season."
And to a point, Boyle is a player whose contributions often fly under the radar. Of course now, with one foot out the door, many can't imagine life without Boyle. And that, in a nutshell, is Boyle's tenure in New York, and his 2013-14 season.
Zone starts and tough minutes
Much of the Boyle misconceptions date back to the 2010-11 season. Boyle, a former first round draft selection (No. 26 overall) netted 21 goals in his second season in New York. It was finally Boyle's breakthrough; a first round talent making good on his promise. The only problem? Boyle has scored 19 goals in two full seasons and a lockout shortened season since then. He's not a goal-scorer, a top six offensive talent, or maybe even top nine for that matter.
But that's fine.
What Boyle proved this past season was in today's NHL, one that's doing away with the enforcer, and the head-banging that was a staple of the NHL of old, Boyle is the prototype for how to run a fourth line. (If this sounds familiar, it's because we similarly praised Dominic Moore for the same role.) Boyle was deployed nearly half the time in his defensive zone (49 DZS%), and won 53.6% of his faceoffs. He played more shorthanded minutes (a shade under 169) than any other forward, and every defenseman except Ryan McDonagh and Dan Girardi. All this adds up to Boyle being perfect for a fourth line role. He doesn't have to be a goal scorer, or a player relied on offensively, and that suits Boyle best. Unfortunately, it sounds like Boyle won't be that player much longer, and won't be in New York much longer either.
But Boyle doesn't score goals, isn't he #bad and #expendable?
Contract status (buh bye, Boyle)
An unrestricted free agent coming off a strong regular season, and an even stronger postseason (Boyle always seems to step it up come playoff hockey) in a thin UFA market for centers is going to get paid. Boyle isn't getting Paul Stastny money, but he's already indicated the desire for an expanded role. So Boyle will likely be suiting up as a top-nine forward next season in another city after inking a multi-year deal that pays him close to (if not north of) $3 million annually. And Boyle will be hard to replace.