In my post yesterday, Brian Boyle was brought up as a potential candidate to have a surprise season. Rickyrants13 was right, and I should have included him in my list of players that had a surprise season last year (oversight on my part). But his comment got me thinking: is it possible for Boyle to repeat that performance next season?
Boyle’s production last season more than quintupled from any of his previous career highs. He scored 21 goals (previous high of 4), added 14 assists (previous career high of 2), and totaled 35 points (previous high of 6). After working with Barbara Underhill, it was clear that Boyle’s skating had improved drastically, and it showed on the stat sheet.
The little downer here is Boyle’s second half production. Boyle showed he was a renewed player when he scored ten goals in the first two months of the season. He then added another four goals in December (and seven assists) to give him 14 goals through the first half of the year. After that, Boyle’s production was cut exactly in half.
From January through the end of the season, Boyle scored seven goals and seven assists. Those numbers aren’t bad by any means, but they were well off the pace that Boyle set for himself from October through December. Taking those last few months of the season into account, Boyle averaged 14 goals and 14 assists for a full season.
What does help Boyle’s cause is the depth down the middle for the Rangers. Where Boyle was a third line center last year, he is destined to be the fourth line center with Brad Richards, Derek Stepan, and Artem Anisimov likely filling the top three center positions. Getting fourth line duties on a team this deep at center is not a slight to Boyle in any stretch, but it is a recognition of the talent ahead of him. Better talent ahead of him means easier defensive assignments for Boyle’s line. Easier defensive assignments naturally leads to more production.
The eternal optimist in my thinks that Boyle can repeat his performance and become one of the best bargains in the NHL. However, the realist in me thinks that expecting Boyle to score 20 goals is a bit unfair. The league clearly caught on to his ability to put the puck in the net, and the drop in production was very evident. Boyle’s scoring clearly helped the Rangers overcome a myriad of injuries last season, but repeating that performance goes a long way to solidifying this team as a true contender.