Appreciating Brian Boyle

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images

Over the past few seasons, namely since his 20-goal season, Brian Boyle has become a whipping boy around the inter-webs. It’s incredibly perplexing since Boyle has been one of, if not the best, defensive forward the Rangers have had in quite some time. Many argue that he doesn’t score and doesn’t provide offense, but that’s not his role on the team. Yes, Boyle scored 20 goals once upon a time. But his role now is to take defensive zone draws, play solid defense, and move shutdown the opposition. It’s something he has been very good at as well.

Another common, and not thought out, complaint about Boyle is that he “isn’t physical.” This I laugh at quite often. There is a difference between being a physical player and being a fighter. Boyle doesn’t fight. He has no need to. Physicality and toughness are about the ability to use size to gain strong position along the boards and outworking your opponent. We see this every game that Boyle plays, and we saw it against Pittsburgh for Ryan McDonagh’s goal.

If the eye test deceives you because of the name on the back of his jersey, then the underlying #fancystats should help shed some light.

Boyle’s zone starts aren’t anything new that we haven’t discussed before. Boyle starts just 20.4% of his shifts in the offensive zone, and a whopping 43.9% of his starts in the defensive zone. That’s second behind Dominic Moore, but Moore has seen just 98 face offs at even strength. Boyle: 221 face offs. Moore has missed five games, but that’s still a big difference in ice time and reliance by the coach.

We can also look at CF%, where Boyle stands at 51.1% and manages to drive puck possession despite his usage in the defensive zone. This is very impressive, and puts him ahead of players like Ryan Callahan, Mats Zuccarello, J.T. Miller, Dan Girardi and Ryan McDonagh.

The issue with Boyle isn’t his on ice performance. It is the name on the back of his jersey not matching up with perceived expectations. At 6’7, people expect Boyle to be a big enforcer, drop the gloves, and be someone like George Parros. Boyle is simply not that kind of player. I’d take a single Boyle over ten Parros’ any day of the week. Boyle has a rounded out game, where he can play physical, use his size to play defense and create scoring chances, and not just be a lunk dropping the gloves. Every team needs a guy like Boyle.

"Appreciating Brian Boyle", 5 out of 5 based on 32 ratings.

20 Responses to “Appreciating Brian Boyle”

  1. Centerman21 says:

    Every winning team has a Boyle. Too many fans complain about his lack of physicality when in reality he uses his size well. He’s been having his best start to any season since coming to the Rangers. He looks like a “man on fire” out on the ice. It could have something to do with the fact he is a UFA at seasons end.

  2. Walt says:

    Dave

    This write up is long overdue! I’m a big fan of Boyle, and what he does, that many people over look. He is excellent on the PK, eats a huge amount of time defending against the other teams best players, and on occasion chips in some scoreing. Not much mind you, and that is the problem as many see it. He had that great year when he scored 20 goals, and people expect that every year.

    If there is a weak spot in his game, he needs to get a bit more grit. A man that size should scare the crap out of you, but he really is a gentle giant, and I’m one of his biggest critics about that aspect of his game. Thanks for another nice piece of writing.

  3. Furls says:

    If he ever starts body checking and scoring 3 points a month, he’d probably be more appreciated by fans IMO.

    • Kevin says:

      Actually, Boyle trails only Girardi in hits, and last year only Callahan. He was 15th in the entire league last season. He hits plenty, but because of his size, people expect him to deliver knockout blows. That’s obviously not necessary, and the fact is he uses his body plenty.

  4. John says:

    Nice Job Dave! I agree with Walt, this is a column long over due for Boyle. I thought your last line said it all, “Every team needs a guy like Boyle”, and the Rangers have him! He is an awesome player, and I love to watch what he does. Maybe the naysayers should watch him play, instead of just looking at the goal stats in the morning paper!

  5. The Suit says:

    Appreciate Boyle, but he could stand to pop a few more points. Most defensive forwards can still net 30 points in a season. AV got 30 out of Manny. Should be able to get the same from Boyle.

    • Centerman21 says:

      If you look at his work around the net this year. He seems to be playing with that killer instinct. He’s making better decisions with the puck of late. I bet we get that 30 points from him this year. In the Defensive zone he’s looked his size to me. I don’t think he looked like this last season. I don’t pay much attention to #Fancystats much, just the play on the ice. He’s done his job and done it well.

  6. Mikeyyy says:

    He’s done everything we have asked of him. He’s a lover not a fighter. Lol.

  7. Kevin says:

    Boyle may not chip in a ton of points, but it’s not accurate to say he doesn’t contribute to the offense. Consistently moving the play from his own zone to the attacking zone, allowing Vigneault to deploy his top guns, is absolutely contributing to the offense. It’s just a different way of looking at things.

  8. Chris F says:

    I concur wholeheartedly with this piece, Dave. Boyle does everything the coaching staff asks of him and he does it well. He is as consistent as they come. The expectations of what he should do (according to some fans) versus what he is asked to do (by his coaches) is unrealistic.

    The only caveat I’d add is that I don’t think people’s critique of a lack of toughness comes from Boyle’s unwillingness to drop the gloves, but rather his tendency not to throw big hits despite his size. I’d like to see a little more of a mean streak in him sometimes, but I respect and applaud all that he has done for this team.

  9. Paul in sunrise says:

    Great article. I am curious to see how he stacks up in penalty minutes with guys of similar size. Boyle has been smart about the body and while fans get on him for not delivering knock out blows he is doing what’s important. Staying out of the box and killing penalties rather than taking them. It is not easy being 6-7 and keeping arms down and elbows in etc. I think his value is extremely understated.

  10. GAC says:

    Nice article! Have to agree with Walt and Chris F and say that Boyle could use a little more “sandpaper” in his game. Opposing defensemen should cringe when a guy his size is bearing down on them and I’m not sure that’s the case.

    Otherwise, a solid defensive forward.

  11. Spozo says:

    Boyle also elevates his game in the postseason. He has been one of the better Rangers the last couple of seasons in the playoffs.

    • BenM says:

      I completely agree. In the 2012 Playoffs, he was one of the most dominant players on the ice until his concussion (from a dirty hit by Chris Neil)

  12. Mikeyyy says:

    All for a third round draft pick that turned out to be jordan weal

  13. Brian says:

    My issue with Boyle’s lack of physicality isn’t that he can’t fight, it’s that he’s not aggressive enough. Yeah, he made a nice forechecking play against Pittsburgh, but I’d like to see him try to knock guys into the third row more often. Especially since there’s so few guys in the league as big as him.

    • Mikeyyy says:

      He’s too tall to be able to do that. He has to get his center lower for a big hit.

      Although he could run over people more often. He is built for that.

  14. Boyle’s a UFA at end of season.

    Really hard to believe Boyle, Callahan, Stralman.
    Lundquist, Girardi are all UFAs.

    DOES SATHER PLAN TO RESIGN ALL OF THEM?
    IF NOT, SATHER WILL LOSE A PLAYER WITHOUT GETTING COMPENSATION AS MOST REASONABLE GMs WOUD BE EXPECTED TO DO.

    If Sather does not expect to be able to keep all of the above guys, then he will have to trade someone….and could still resign that person in the offseason.

    When does Sather pull the trigger on a deal for one of his UFAs?

    • BenM says:

      Frank, when your team is trying to make a cup run, you typically don’t trade away valuable pieces. In fact, often they “rent” UFAs for a year. Even if we don’t end up resigning all of the players you named, why would we trade them away unless we were getting someone more valuable back in return?

  15. BenM says:

    My top two MSG complaints:
    The hate for Brian Boyle (after his penalty at the end of the first period, “fans” were calling for his head)
    The constant screaming of “SHOOT!” when we have the puck on a Power Play