Archive for Dan Boyle
Over the course of the season, we, along with many other folks, have beaten to death that the Rangers defense is not what it used to be. While we’ve addressed some of the root causes, we have not addressed what specifically changed from last year. The personnel is the same. The system is the same. So it’s fair to expect similar results.
As with anything in sports analysis, it is very rarely one thing. A culmination of factors can conspire to change something that once appeared static and reliable.
First, let’s take a look at age. The average age on the blue line is 29.7 years old. That is not a young group. Dan Boyle’s spritely 39 years obviously skews things a bit, but Ryan McDonagh and Dylan McIlrath are the only members of the defense significantly under 30 (Yandle is 29). Especially for the less mobile defenseman, there are a lot of miles on those bodies.
The Rangers have a right-defense problem. Kevin Klein is solid and by far the best defenseman on that side. Aside from him, the Rangers aren’t really sure what they are getting on a nightly basis from Dan Boyle, Dan Girardi, and Dylan McIlrath. The cause of inconsistency varies by player, but inconsistency is still inconsistency.
Boyle is still a solid possession player and his presence opens things up on the powerplay. However he is old and he’s slowing down considerably. He got torched by a Caps player on Sunday to negate an icing, and has been slow to the puck relatively consistently all year. That’s by no fault of his own, he lost a step.
Girardi has had a terrible season, and a fractured kneecap probably isn’t helping matters. Injured or not, he’s been a liability on the ice. McIlrath’s inconsistencies are more easily explained, as he’s a rookie. He will make mistakes. But those mistakes will become fewer in number as he gets more playing time. He should be getting groomed for regular minutes next season as well.
There are many reasons to hope Dan Boyle can get his game to the point where he sticks in the Rangers line-up in what appears to be his final season as an NHL defenseman. First of all, if Boyle improves it would surely bring with it a ripple effect on the Rangers blueline – his improved play would solidify the Rangers’ top six. It would also likely mean he’s helped influence an indifferent powerplay (despite just two PP assists only Keith Yandle averages more PP ice time among Rangers blueliners). It would also likely mean that the Rangers have continued to win games meaning management don’t prioritise changes to their experienced but at this point underwhelming (as a unit) blueline.
The most important reason to hope for a short term Dan Boyle resurgence however currently resides outside of the New York spotlight. It’s Brady Skjei. Not every young college alumni can Ryan McDonagh themselves to the NHL. Not every defenseman is ready after a few weeks of pro ice time and the Rangers should (and likely have) absolutely no interest in rushing their prized asset. Dan Boyle’s situation however massively influences the Rangers immediate attitude toward Skjei.
Per Andrew Gross, Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle is considering retirement at the end of this season. This should come as no surprise, as Boyle is 39 years old and has stated he wants to spend more time with his family. Boyle also said that this is not a physical issue, it’s mental. He wants to be with his young daughters.
The Rangers beat the Washington Capitals on Tuesday in a game that featured some pretty goals but some ugly defensive play on the part of the home team. Despite their victory they were badly outpossessed in the second and third periods, finding themselves frequently pinned in their own defensive end. The game drew into high relief the Rangers need to play a stronger defensive game, especially against top teams such as Washington, and was notable in part for the absence of Dan Boyle. Perhaps the Rangers could have used the talents of the veteran puck moving defenseman on Tuesday, given how difficult it was for them to exit their own zone at times and given Boyle’s strong first pass out of the zone and positive influence on possession.
Let’s start with Alain Vigneault’s reasons for scratching Boyle. Despite complimenting his defensive play and composure in one on one situations, the Rangers head coach described a need for “quicker decisions with the puck” and noted that he was brought to New York in order to help with puck movement and the power play. AV also made note of the fact that at 39, Boyle is in need of some adjustments due to his age. Still though it seems strange to bench a veteran player for his lack of offensive production when he’s been posting overwhelmingly positive possession numbers in his last few games.
Other than the infamous “Potvin Sucks” chant, there’s not much that’s more annoying at MSG than the cries for players to “SHOOT THE PUCK!” on the power play.
Sure, shooting the puck is usually a great idea – as Wayne Gretzky once said, “you miss 100% of the shots you don’t take” – but blasting a slapper from the point into the shin pads of an opposing forward when you’re the last line of defense is generally inadvisable.
PP1: Nash-Brassard-Zuccarello, Yandle-Klein
PP2: Kreider-Hayes-Miller, McDonagh-Stepan
There are a few things to note here. First is that McIlrath needs to play. Second is that Boyle is 39 years old, so getting him some extra rest isn’t a bad thing. Third is that, despite what some click-bait articles on the internet may lead you to believe, Boyle hasn’t been bad. He’s been, if anything unspectacular in his first three games.
Update (5:20pm): To address the goaltending question, both Cam Talbot and Henrik Lundqvist were way above league average in adjusted goals saved above average (adjGSAA) which by definition compares goalies and, “as definitively as possible, regardless of circumstance, and in consideration of the tools we have and the variables we can actually account for, Goalie A is performing better than Goalie B.” Since these two goalies are above average, we can assume that they bail out their defense on high-danger shots on a regular basis.
Throughout this golden era of Rangers hockey, a period of time in which we have seen the most consistent success from the Rangers (still missing that one essential piece though), their vaunted defense has been the subject of much praise. That was until very recently, about the mid-point of two seasons ago, when the Rangers faced a critical decision with Dan Girardi. They re-signed their franchise defenseman, and then re-upped Marc Staal the following year. This locked up two core pieces for what could be the remainder of their careers.
The New York Rangers defense has been called elite by some, and a disaster by others. The reality of the unit is that it is somewhere in the middle, much like how Suit graded them yesterday. The Rangers seem to be set on the left side. They have a legit top pairing defenseman in Ryan McDonagh, at least two solid top-four in Keith Yandle and Marc Staal, and then, well, it gets fuzzy on the right side.
Starting with Dan Girardi, who appears to be the most divisive topic among Ranger fans later, the Rangers have a player who thrived under John Tortorella’s zone collapse defensive zone style. But under Alain Vigneault, Girardi’s lack of foot speed, poor gap control, and poor positioning have many questioning if he can keep up in a strong side overload/man coverage system. I’ve already suggested that the Rangers consider dropping him from his top pairing role, to mixed reviews.
Dan Boyle was brought in to help the powerplay –at the expense of Anton Stralman, who I needed to mention at least once in this post due to the situation, but will forego mentioning him again– and was relatively unsuccessful. He made the opposition mindful of his presence, and he certainly gave them options, but the results simply were not there.
Larry Brooks had a bit of a “brain” dump today in his daily NY Post article. After a page and a half rant on the
Phoenix Glendale Arizona TBD Coyotes, and how they are just a money-suck for the NHL, Bettman got into a few tidbits about the Rangers. To summarize (and perhaps save you some reading time):
- It’s all but a certainty that the Rangers trade Cam Talbot at the draft. They are going to try and get draft picks, which makes sense. It’s been rumored that the Oilers are willing to part with the #16 pick for Talbot. Personally, I think that’s an overpayment, but Cory Schneider got the #9 overall pick. So what do I know?
- The Rangers also targeted Shane Doan at the trade deadline last year, after landing Keith Yandle. Talks didn’t get far, but this was the second time Slats tried to get Doan, after trying to get him as a free agent in 2012. Doan is 39, on the last year of his deal at $5.25 million, and has declining production each of the last four seasons. Please stay away.
- Dan Boyle will be back next year. He isn’t retiring and he isn’t requesting a trade. He was far from the biggest problem on the blue line anyway, and while his production decreased, he was still effective at moving the play up the ice. In the proper setting (sheltered OZ starts), he should be fine. Deployment is key.
- Martin St. Louis won’t be back in New York. The final tally from that trade: Ryan Callahan, two 1st round picks (2014, 2015) and a 7th round pick (2015) for MSL and a 2nd round pick (2015). The Rangers went to the Stanley Cup Final and Eastern Conference Final in his 1+ years on Broadway.