Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings for a 3rd round pick in the Summer of 2009, Brian Boyle came to Broadway and eventually supplanted the departed Blair Betts as the Rangers new 4th-line center. In his first season with the Blueshirts, Boyle scored 4 goals and played his defensive role sufficiently well. However, he never solidified himself as a mainstay on the Rangers and his spot on the team would be a talking point coming in to this season’s training camp. Determined to show the Rangers what he was made of, Brian Boyle hired Olympic figure skater & gold medalist Barbara Underhill to help improve his skating techniques. Still only 25-years-old at the time and knowing his career was on the line, would hiring Underhill give Brian Boyle the edge he needed to make the Rangers?
Let’s examine Brian Boyle’s 2010-2011 season:
What We Expected
According to our own head coach, we shouldn’t have had any expectations because Brian Boyle wasn’t in his initial thoughts of players who would be making the Rangers. Tortorella liked Boyle’s size and his play at times last season, but felt the “big fella” wasn’t consistent enough when he played and wanted him to be more assertive with his 6’7” frame. That’s why he felt Boyle would go down to Connecticut to start the year, work on his game, and work his way back to the Rangers.
How He Did
Brian Boyle’s hiring of Barb Underhill was probably the shrewdest move I’ve seen a fringe player make. He recognized he needed to work on his game and took a “whatever I need to do I’ll do it” approach to the matter. Not only did Boyle improve his skating ability (displaying power moves around defenders and to the net almost on a nightly basis) but also found a scoring touch, scoring career high 21 goals and 14 assists in the 82 games he played and was the Rangers early season savior offensively.
It wasn’t just offensively where we saw improvements with Brian Boyle; it was in every facet of his game. With the new team tag line of the “Black & Blueshirts,” Boyle was one of the several Rangers players to routinely give up his body to block shots. He embraced his role more, asserting his physicality more on the opposition and became a leader as well as a player the media could talk to for an honest assessment of the game. Boyle and teammate Brandon Prust formed a great alliance and quickly became a reliable pair that coach Tortorella dispatched against the opposition’s elite. Brian Boyle had gone from an afterthought in the preseason straight to the forefront of the Rangers’ vital players for success throughout the season.
Despite all the early season successes, Boyle couldn’t sustain them over the entire season. Post All-Star break, he only scored 3 goals in 30 games as his offensive output simply dried up. You could attribute it to the career amount of
minutes Boyle logged throughout the entire year, playing “tough” minutes along the boards and killing off penalties.
Final Grade: A
Considering all the odds were stacked against Brian Boyle from the beginning of training camp, to have the season he had is worthy enough to have a long discussion about. Boyle literally came out of nowhere to become one of the Rangers’ more important players all season long. Whatever his coach asked of him, Boyle played the role of good solider and accomplished his tasks effectively. Whenever you heard the coach or the announcers talk about whose game stood out the most, Brian Boyle’s name would be one of the first mentioned. It’s troubling to see that his offense disappeared in the second half but his overall game and effort never diminished; that’s the most important thing to take away.
Brian Boyle is one of the many restricted free agents the Rangers must make a decision on this summer. Due a significant raise from his $525k cap hit from a season ago, all signs point to the Rangers resigning the 26-year-old former 1st round pick barring any insane demands from Boyle’s agent. If and when Boyle returns, where does he take his game next? He’s entering the peak years of his career and has already showed an ability to score. Does New York use his big body in front of the net on their power play next year; something not routinely used this past season? Does Boyle establish himself as a premiere 3rd line center that can chip in offensively, play great defensively, play physical and win face-offs? I guess it all depends on whom he hires in the offseason.