Friday, April 29, 2011

Brian Boyle: Breakout Year or One Year Wonder?

The play of Brian Boyle during the 2010-11 season was one of many pleasant surprises for the New York Rangers that allowed the team to overachieve.  Boyle, 26, came into the season with only 12 goals and 16 points in his 107 career NHL games.  Boyle disappointed in his first season in New York to the point that he entered training camp on the outside looking in.  In order to ensure his place with the Rangers Boyle worked on his skating last summer with Barb Underhill.  The work paid immediate dividends as his improved skating allowed him to make better use of his size and strength on the ice.  The final result this year was 21 goals 14 assists while being one of only four Rangers to play in all 82 games.  The question now is with Boyle due for a new contract was he a one year wonder, or a player growing into his own as an NHL player?

In all aspects of the game that don’t revolve around scoring it appears that Boyle has become a top level checking line center in the league.  His ability to block shots, kill penalties, hit and use his size on the forecheck are valuable assets for any club.  The area that is less certain is the offense, especially the goal scoring.  Boyle started the year with tremendous production as he accounted for 18 goals in the 52 games before the All-Star break, which would put him on pace to score 28 goals over an 82 game schedule.  If Boyle could put up that kind of offense to go with everything else he brings, then his value would be critical to the Rangers.  Brian Boyle becoming a legitimate two-way threat would be a huge boost to the Rangers inconsistent offense even if it means having to pay him more down the road.  The problem is that in the 30 games after the break Boyle scored only three times.  So which Brian Boyle is the real one?

Did Boyle have one tremendous half of the season offensively that was really just a fluke?  Did Boyle wear down in the second half and that is why his goal scoring seemingly dried up again? 

That question of which half is the real Brian Boyle is what will plague Rangers’ management to some extent this summer as they have to decide what he is worth.  Expect the answer to that question to be giving Boyle a contract in the $1.5-1.8 million dollar range for next season on a one year deal for him to show which version is real.  .  If Boyle and his agent(s) decide or an offer sheet is given that is worth significantly more than that, as valuable as Boyle was to New York this year, one would have to consider walking away from him.

It is rare that you get a center the size of Boyle who can score 25-30 goals in a season, kill penalties and be a tremendous influence in your locker room.  Boyle has yet to prove he can be counted on for the goal scoring aspect of that list and until he proves it again next season he will be a one year wonder in a contract year offensively.