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.