In the coming days, we're profiling some of the new faces who will be a part of the Rangers this year. Get familiar!
The defensemen who have been brought in to fix the Rangers anemic power play have all resoundingly failed. Paul Mara scored two power play goals in three seasons; Bryan McCabe equaled that total in his 19 game cup of coffee, but was also largely ineffective; and Derek Morris likewise didn't make a major impact in his brief New York stint.
Dan Boyle is being touted as a special teams savior. The question is, just as it was posed to all his predecessors, will he deliver?
Mara was the only player from the aforementioned group who joined the Rangers at a time when he was still effective on the power play. And that's the case for Boyle: the former San Jose defensemen scored six goals and recorded 12 assists on the man advantage last season. In his six year tenure playing for the Sharks, the team only finished outside of the top seven in power play percentage league wide once, twice finishing second, and once placing third. The Sharks power play was lethal, and as the quarterback, Boyle was orchestrating the action. His main charge in joining the Rangers will be to reenergize their power play.
Last season wasn't completely woeful for the Rangers special teams. In the beginning streth, under new assistant coach Scott Arniel, the Rangers power play was much more effective, and hovered around the league's top 10 right up to the Olympic break. Then, things again went south, and continued to slope downward to the tune of an 0-36 slide during the playoffs. That inept streak miraculously didn't do the Rangers in, but the power play has been an area of concern for a number of years, and Boyle is a direct answer to that problem.
More on the power play
More on the power play
In all likelihood, Boyle will slot in for Anton Stralman on the depth chart, flanking Marc Staal on the right. Both players—as was the case when Staal was paired with Stralman—are good puck moving defensemen. That bodes well for the Rangers transition play in 5v5 situations as well. Boyle actually averaged two more minutes of ice time than Stralman last season, but Stralman played more 5v5 minutes than his replacement. In terms of usage, it should be about a wash.
Like Stralman, Boyle is pretty good in puck possession. To get this out of the way, Stralman is better (heck, he's one of the best on the blue line) while Boyle certainly is now slouch. He had a negative Corsi rel% last season, while his overall Corsi % sat at 53. In year's past, he's been even better, but it seemed as if he was carrying his defensive partner Matt Irwin last year, who's numbers plummeted when apart from Boyle, while Boyle's numbers were better when he wasn't with Irwin. Staal certainly shouldn't drag down Boyle's play, and it should be interesting to see how the two mesh.
There's certainly a perception it's a big offensive upgrade, while Boyle isn't as good a player in his own zone, but if that's the case, the gap may not be as dramatic as it's being made out to be. Boyle actually had a slightly hire percentage of defensive zone starts, so it's not like he was being sheltered (or more sheltered than Stralman).
A hole that Stralman leaves that Boyle is unlikely to fill is on the penalty kill. Boyle played under 20 minutes shorthanded last season, and it's a better bet that Kevin Klein will plug a role on the PK2.
Boyle though could flourish in all other areas, especially under Alain Vigneault. The second-year Rangers head coach has implored his defensemen to become more involved in the offensive areas of the game, something Boyle is familiar with. Since 2002, Nicklas Lidstrom is the only defenseman to have scored more points than Boyle. If Vigneault can really figure out an offensive way to catalyze Boyle, it could add an entirely different dynamic to the Rangers' game.