When the Rangers signed UFA Dan Boyle to step into the roster spot of the departed Anton Stralman there were a lot of concerns about what the rapidly aging offensive defenseman could bring to the Rangers. Dan Boyle left money on the table to sign with the Rangers instead of the New York Islanders who acquired his expiring contract from the San Jose Sharks early last June. The Islanders, of course, went on to acquire Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy in two separate deals and the Rangers entered the 2014-15 season with Dan Boyle on their blue line and as the de facto power play quarterback. Inescapably compared to Anton Stralman and helping to leave salary open that helped the Islanders completely revamp their blueline? Yeah, the deck was stacked against Dan Boyle pretty early on.
In Dan Boyle's Ranger debut he took the ice against the St. Louis Blues and was knocked out of the game after about 14 minutes of ice time.
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Boyle broke his hand on that play and would be kept out of the lineup until November 13th after initial reports projecting him to miss 4-6 weeks. A broken hand for a veteran offensive defenseman that was closer to 40 than 30 was not good news. It was a nightmare start to Dan Boyle's 2 years in New York that had plenty of fans groaning after seeing just 14 minutes of ice time from the veteran blueliner. It wasn't until 6 games after returning from his injury that Boyle picked up his first point as a Ranger, a power play goal against one of his former teams, the Tampa Bay Lightning.
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In 65 regular season games with the Blueshirts Dan Boyle scored 9 goals and picked up 11 assists. Boyle's 20 points in 2014-15 was his worst effort in a non-lockout season where he played more than 15 games. His 9 goals in the regular season tied with Kevin Klein for the team lead among blueliners and he finished behind only Ryan McDonagh in power play points among Blueshirts' defensemen. Without a doubt Boyle benefited from an abundance of offensive zone starts and plenty of sheltered ice time. Here is a quick look at the metrics behind Boyle's performance and how sheltered his ice time was on the Rangers' blue line.
Now, let's take a look at how sheltered Boyle was compared to his fellow Rangers' blueliners.
Clearly Boyle benefited from sheltered ice time and it helped him make the offensive impact that he did last season. The Rangers' offense has been seeking some firepower and elite puck moving on the blue line for several seasons now and Dan Boyle was given his contract in the 2014 offseason to fill that role. However, most of us were understandably hoping for a great deal more out of Dan Boyle given his production with the Sharks over the past six seasons.
Comparing Boyle's 2014-15 season directly to Kevin Klein's is pretty tempting considering they both played 65 games and scored 9 goals, but we already know that Kevin Klein had one of the most fortuitous and anomalous seasons in the league last season. We also should avoid comparing Boyle to Anton Stralman because of how drastically different they are in regards to their skill sets.
What we should be focusing on is how successful Boyle was in filling the role he was given an AAV of $4.5 million to do; a second pairing defenseman that would be a key cog on the Rangers' offense and power play. Boyle received plenty of ice time at evens last season and before Keith Yandle was acquired from the Arizona Coyotes he lead all Rangers blueliners in PP TOI/G with 2:38. To put it frankly, a 20 point campaign from Boyle considering his cap hit and sheltered minutes was more than a bit underwhelming. Despite being given plenty of opportunities to make a dent on the score sheet, Boyle's season was defined by streaky play and stretches where we was either invisible or most noticeable for costly gaffes in his own end.
In all likelihood Boyle was not playing at 100% for the majority of the season given how things started off for him. Missing 17 games over the course of the campaign due to his early broken hand and several nagging injuries and illnesses played a big part in his inconsistent contributions to the team's offense. As an example of the streaky production that Boyle brought to the table we need only look at the 10 game gap between his second to last and last point of the regular season separated by nearly 2 and a half weeks. What we all wanted to see from Boyle showed up sporadically, but you don't pay a player of his caliber $9 million over 2 years for sporadic, unreliable production.
I had a lot more trouble assigning a grade to Boyle than I thought I would because of how much his season was disrupted and spoiled by his injuries and missed games. Also, it's important to recognize that while he did get a lot of sheltered ice time he did manage to score 9 goals in 65 games. However, it is hard to overlook his inconsistent play in regards to what he was brought to the Rangers to do; put points on the board from the blue line. I had low expectations for Boyle's play in his own end but, for the most part, found that he was more solid than I thought he would be skating primarily with Marc Staal as his partner.
I had much higher expectations in regards to what he would bring to the club's pitiful power play unit especially because he was reunited with former teammate Martin St. Louis. What we saw from Boyle in 2014-15 season was an up and down performance that only had flashes of what the Rangers were hoping to get for their $4.5 million of cap space. The fact that the Rangers went out and acquired Keith Yandle on deadline day while Boyle was still in a Rangers sweater spoke to just how underwhelming his impact on the team's offense was. Who knows if things would have been different for Boyle if he didn't take that puck off of his hand on October 9th against the Blues, I suppose we'll never know. Because of his streaky play that failed to live up to expectations and a significant drop off from his play over the last few seasons, I gave Dan Boyle a C for the 2014-15 season.
As always, thanks for reading. What grade would you give Dan Boyle for his performance last season?