Aug
25

Rangers banking on Dan Boyle

August 25, 2014, by
Talking about needing to fill a big hole.

Talking about needing to fill a big hole.

When the Rangers signed Dan Boyle to a two-year deal worth $9 million, they were signing someone to fill a pair of holes. The first hole to fill was that of the now departed Anton Stralman on the second pair, and the second was to fill Brad Richards’ role on the powerplay. It’s a gamble to take on a 38-year-old defenseman, but it’s a calculated gamble that, in reality, is relatively low-risk considering the term.

In Boyle, the Rangers get one of the premier powerplay quarterbacks in the game, albeit several years past his prime. Almost half of Boyle’s offensive contributions throughout his career have been with the man advantage, something the Rangers have sorely missed since the Martin Straka, Michael Nylander, and Jaromir Jagr trio left town. His booming shot from the point still commands respect, and his ability to move the puck is still solid.

Boyle still drives puck possession (53% Fenwick) while starting 52.5% of his shifts in the offensive zone. That’s not bad, but he was a negative relative puck possession player on the Sharks, although that is likely due to fact that the Sharks were slightly good last year. He didn’t really receive sheltered minutes in San Jose, skating on the second pair, but he didn’t play against top competition either. That’s ok, he’s not going to be facing top competition with the Rangers either. He’s here to put the puck in the net on the powerplay and hold his own in the defensive zone.

When it comes to how he affects his teammates on the ice, we can look at his WOWY (without/with you) chart. Remember, you want players to be in the lower right of this chart, representing an increase in possession while with Boyle and a decrease in possession without Boyle. His chart from last year:

boyle wowy

This shows that Boyle didn’t really have a big effect on his teammates’ play. Most of the players had a negligible difference in possession stats with or without Boyle. A few were better (lower right), and a few were worse (upper left). So, no big difference from last season’s numbers. But like most stats, we can get a better look with a three-year sample:

boyle 3 yr

Not much difference than the chart above. We can infer here that Boyle is still a decent possession player, but he’s not going to tilt the ice for –or against– the Rangers when on the ice.

The concerns with Boyle are the usual concerns when signing a 38-year-old defenseman. First, there’s always the risk of Boyle continuing to slow down. He was never fleet-of-foot, but he was never a liability on his skates either. He’s been getting slower, and that has severely hampered his effectiveness in his own end. He’s no Stu Bickel, but he’s more towards the Dan Girardi end of the spectrum than the Ryan McDonagh end. In a league where speed is becoming a bigger weapon, Boyle could be exploited at even strength.

Second, and perhaps a bit more alarming, is his sharp drop-off in even strength time. Boyle played about 14 minutes per game at even strength last season, down from 14:30 the year before and 16 minutes in 2011-2012. That’s a big drop for a guy expected to put up points from the blue line. It’s also a sign that trust from his coaching staff may have been wavering. If you ask anyone to choose one stat as the be-all-end-all, it’s time on ice. It measures trust, which in turn measures effectiveness. Declining ice time is a red flag.

Another red flag is declining production, which is an area to watch for Boyle. He isn’t the nine-goal per season player he was in his two years from 2010-2012, but he shot well below (almost half) of his career average those years. A career 7% shooter, Boyle is still good for 10-12 goals per season, with half coming on the powerplay. The only problem is that the assists are dropping faster than Radioshack. In 2011-2012, Boyle put up 48 points. The next year he was on pace for just 35 points, and put up 36 last season.

Boyle is a pretty big risk for the Rangers, but it was one of those necessary risks that the team had no choice but to take. The powerplay cost them dearly last season, especially in the Stanley Cup Final against the Kings. Boyle has been brought in for that reason and that reason alone. All other risks at even strength aside, this signing will be a success if Boyle can produce with the man advantage. If.

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20 comments

  1. Walt says:

    Let’s see if Boyle works out this season. There had been talk of trading for him over the years, now we have him, and I hope he is the QB of the PP that we have needed really since the days of Leetch & Zubove working the point together!!

    • Dave says:

      I think he can be a good tutor for McDonagh to take over the role. Even if he can’t execute, if he can teach McDonagh, he’s worth the investment.

    • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

      I don’t think he’ll be bad but I have a feeling the Rangers PP will find a way to make him look clueless. His shot will always be there but you need a guy that’s willing to play the net zone and screen the goalie, get tips, and grab loose pucks for goals. I was hoping that’s what Hayes & Kreider would be for us but I don’t know Hayes makes the team and despite his tremendous size Kreider wasn’t very good at screening the goalie. Too many times the goalie was able to track the puck with Kreider in the crease. I just hope for 20 PP points from Boyle. That would be a big addition.

      For those of you (myself included) that don’t see Staal resigning and being traded between camp & the deadline.
      What do you think he’s worth? Is he worth a 1st round pick in 2015 or just not that one because of how hyped it is.
      There’s teams young teams like Colorodo that need defense bad. Toronto too wether they want to admit it or not. They were last or near it in shots against per game and team Corsi.
      I was looking at Filip Forsberg of Nashville. A right handed shot and tremendous 2 way ability according to Elite Prospects. Great puck skills and hockey sense. 20 years old. Would you do that deal for Staal? I would but would Nashville who needs a top 4 defender with some experience so Josi and Jones don’t have to play in positions they’re not ready for in the NHL. Jones has been rushed along already. Forsberg was acquired from the Caps for Erat in the dumbest trade I’ve ever heard of. Dumber than the Gomez deal because we didn’t know how bad that trade was. I thought Sather could have given McFee Steven Delisle at the time and he’d have done better.
      Trading Staal clears $4 mil and adds another young star to the farm who may be ready for the NHL now as a 3rd line RW. If not he’s a star in the making. Conner Allen can play 3rd pair and John Moore can move up or just put Allen with Boyle. Colorodo has an intriguing group of prospects and should have a top 20 pick in this years draft to offer off Staal. What do you all think. @Centerman21

      • Walt says:

        I agree that Staal will be traded, and soon. How much are we going to get for him, who knows??

        If I’m looking to get a top four d-man, and know that he will re-sign with me, then I’d give you a #1, and a young kid, or two. The key is will he re-sign with anyone other than Carolina??

        I know, I know, what makes you think he wants to go there?? FAMILY, all his brothers are there, and if I’m not mistaken, maybe mom, and pop as well?? Time will tell soon enough because he won’t get over $5 million from us, that’s for sure.

        • Centerman21 says:

          I don’t know the Rangers will be able to afford that with Boyle on for the two year term. I think he has his highest value now with a year left on his contract then he will come the deadline or even December. The Cains might be dismantling that team soon so his brothers might get split up before he got a chance to go there. Especially if they start off terrible this season like I expect they will.

  2. SalMerc says:

    I think that Boyle may start the season with Stall, but he won’t end the season with him as a pair. There may be a strong/quicker defenseman coming to join him in the future, based on the possibility that Stall gets moved. This may allow Boyle to look “O” if he has a speedy mate to cover for him. Either way, they needed someone to QB the near-non-existent PP. Maybe we should bring Rosivol back (just kidding).

    • Dave says:

      The only reason why I think he stays with Staal is because a pairing of Moore/Boyle would be a tire fire in their own end.

      • Puck Luck @Centerman21 says:

        What about if Staal is moved? Conner Allen & Boyle as pair 2? Or even as pair 3 if Boyle really has trouble keeping up in Man coverage in Dzone. That would give management the Juevos to trade Staal for a draft pick in this hyped up draft. They’re saying the 1st 2 rounds may one day rival that of the big one in early 2000’s. Was it 02′ I think. Either way with a bunch of gray beards with not so long contracts/career longevity. It might be a good idea to look for that home run youngster that’ll jump into the NHL rather quickly and produce. Like Some of the kids from the top 5 picks in the last 3-4 drafts.

        I like Staal and having him makes the top pair work a little less often but the Rangers can’t afford another $5-$6 mil defenseman. Mac is just under 5 at a bargain but him and Gman are like $11 mil. Paying another Dman top pair money is nuts. Plug in an ELC there like Allen who was called out for his stellar play in camp last season. Very mature kid can skate well and does his job in the important parts of the ice. Sorry about the novel but I was never good at keeping it short. I can talk hockey all day.
        What’s this I hear the Rangers have had talks with Malone? They have 50 contracts unless they plan on trading John Moore. I think that would be wrong. He had a rough final but the rest of his time he does his job. He may take time but with his skating and offense. If he would shoot more he could be a real good defenseman some day. He’s real young and the Rangers controll him for next to nothing. Especially with not arb rights. He’s lucky if he breaks a mil. Malone is big but he’s a lefty. I don’t see where he helps. Even on a two-way deal. Would have to dump a contract somewhere.

  3. Chuck A says:

    How much of his off-ice demeanor can be factored into the decision?

  4. Leatherneckinlv says:

    Where Boyle will need to do well is on the power play…I wouldn’t be surprised if he plays on the 3rd pairing with John Moore. Klein can move up to pair up with Staal. If Staal gets traded then there will be a need for Veteran presence on all 3 pairings. I would think Conner Allen would replace Staal and he would pair up with Boyle and Moore and Klein would move up to the number two pairing.
    If Boyle helps the power play then it is a win no matter how you slice and dice it.

    • Dave says:

      Moore/Boyle is a tire fire in their own end. Plus, it splits up the physical play of Klein/Staal into separate pairings, more balanced.

  5. Matt S says:

    Dave, where did you get your toi numbers from? According to NHL.com, Boyle averaged 17:22 at even strength last season. He also led the sharks in total toi/game last season with over 21 minutes. It seems that shark’s coaching staff still had plenty of trust in him last season bases on these numbers.

  6. Craig says:

    Dan Boyle had a pretty bad concussion last year and also a fractured thumb. The guy still put up almost 40 points (not a bad offensive year for any defenseman). Is it that unrealistic to project a healthy Dan Boyle (though a year older) this year to put up at least 50 points? Last year 6 power-play goals, how about at least 10 this year? I think this guy still has a lot in the tank and is a great competitor who will thrive in NY. I’m excited, I have wanted him on the Rangers for years! His slapper from the point is lethal.

  7. mikeyyy says:

    I hope he reads this blog. And uses every comment to motivate himself.

    Projecting him as the 2nd pair, 1st pp.

    Possibly will be able to force his way to 1 spot.

    He has a LOT to give this team that we have not had since nylander was feeding jagr and straka.

    Predict him, and msl to put on a clinic.

  8. WilliamW says:

    As the “big signing” of the summer there will be very high expectations for Boyle. He is being looked upon to move the PP from the middle of the league into the upper echelon while playing 20+ minutes against good competition

    Hopefully he will be up to the challenge as Stralman is probably the biggest loss from last years squad

  9. Snake says:

    I’d rather see the Rangers trade Boyle and try to keep Stahl with that money, but what the heck do I know. Well one thing I know is Dave’s post doesn’t make me feel any better about the Boyle signing.

    IMO, the Rangers are going to struggle to make the playoffs. I don’t think they are a bad team, but I think a lot went right for them to make the playoffs last year and the Cup run was a Cinderella story. They are an average team in an average division and the weakest conference. The only thing that was going to change that was to land a true #1 center. If they had one, then all the rest of the comings and goings wouldn’t have mattered but they won’t without one either.

    Dan Boyle isn’t going to give the Rangers an elite Power Play…just maybe one that can buy a clue. I don’t think that’s worth the deal he got.