One of the biggest surprises during the first half of the season was the breakout performance of Brian Boyle. He along with Feds and Prust were almost the essence of what John Tortorella hockey is all about – relentless forechecking, physicality, and getting off 2nd chances in the crease. They were the definition of bang and crash hockey.
Thanks to off-season training with famed power skating coach Barbara Underhill, Boyle came out of the gate looking like a completely different skater from last year. His posture was much improved, there was less body movement within his stride, and his overall technique was just far more efficient. As a result, Boyle was skating with more explosiveness and balance than ever before. And of course there were the goals.
Through the first half of the season Boyle had 14 goals and 22 points in 41 games. You could argue that because of this production the Rangers were staying afloat offensively. Then something happened during the second half. His production dropped faster than Bobby Bacala at a toy store (I miss Sopranos!). Over his final 41 games, he registered just 7 goals and 13 points with none in the playoffs.
While Boyle’s skating technique was still comparable with the first half, his stamina looked to be running near empty. He no longer beat defenders off the rush, he didn’t drive to the net as much, and he just seemed to be missing that “extra step” on the forecheck. He also didn’t use his god given size as much as he should have. I mean Ryan Callahan and Brandon Prust hit much harder and they’re half his size.
You could argue that stamina was a factor and although I wouldn’t disagree, you could make the same excuses for Prust, and yet he delivered the same offensive output consistently all season, plus he was tasked with fighting guys out of his weight class.
Now this doesn’t mean I don’t see the value in what Boyle provides or that I am downgrading his importance to the team. However, if the Rangers plan on pursuing an elite center either through free agency or via a trade (and I believe they will), then I think Boyle should be shopped.
Coming off a 21 goal season at $500K, his services will definitely be coveted and he could fetch a decent return. For the Rangers, if we have Stepan, Anisimov, a Hartford player, Drury and/or an elite center down the middle, then will be more than fine without him.