The signing of Brad Boyes on July 1 has received mixed reviews so far. While some Isles fans see him going nowhere on the Island, others are willing to see if a scenery change will make the difference for the former 30+ goal scorer.
Boyes is coming off of an awful year in Buffalo stats-wise. The only thing that didn’t suffer is his defensive game (in fact, the Sabres’ goalies actually improved in numbers when he was on the ice); however, his power-play production, time on ice and shooting percentage were abysmally low, resulting in only eight goals and 23 points. This was all while Boyes was playing in the bottom six with guys like Patrick Kaleta, who is no one’s idea of an elite goal scorer, let’s be honest.
Some fans argue that Boyes was put in a position to “succeed” rather than fail in Buffalo. I fail to see the merit in this argument. The Sabres’ fourth line is not a scoring line; in fact, precious few fourth lines (if any) in the league are scoring lines. You’ll get the odd streak from time to time, but it’s doesn’t last. Putting Boyes on the fourth line limited his chances and kept him from doing much other than developing his defensive game, which apparently he did. That’s great, but you can’t really argue that he should have done more from a bottom-six spot. Either way, Buffalo wasn’t a good fit, which has landed Boyes here.
On the Island, Boyes will likely by vying with Kyle Okposo for the open top line RW spot, which means he’ll be getting better ice time and more opportunities on the PP (which, again, he wasn’t getting in Buffalo). If he starts on the top line, he’ll also be alongside an emerging elite player in John Tavares and a gritty, dependable left wing in Matt Moulson. Boyes has developed a tendency to overthink shots, causing them to miss the net more often than not; however, with better linemates and a bit more trust placed in him by the coaching staff, that could change. Playing with Tavares alone could give him the chances he’s looking for.
There is one aspect of Boyes’s game that he will need to change once he comes to the Island: avoiding contact. It’s apparently been a trend of his stretching as recently as last season, when Die By the Blade posted this as part of his “report card”:
Despite being near the bottom of the team in both hits and blocked shots, Boyes had his 513 consecutive games played streak snapped, and missed 15 total games to injury, and finished the year as a healthy scratch. He was always unwilling to park himself in the dirty areas of the ice, preferring to glide through and avoid contact.
Compared to Moulson who is always willing to get scrappy, and even Okposo who can throw a hit when needed, this isn’t a good sign for Boyes. While the top line is meant to score first, they also have to absorb big hits from defensive opponents looking to wear them down. Unless Boyes adds that dimension to his game, I don’t see a lot changing for him. There’s not much room for a soft player in the Isles lineup, especially considering how much the team was tossed around during games last year.
Other than that, Boyes looks to be a decent gamble for the Islanders to make. With 116 PP points in his career, he should be a welcome addition to our special teams (and if Lubomir Visnovsky remains an Islander, so much the better for the man advantage). Also, he’s third in the league in the shootout with 29 career goals and is a durable player, outside of last season’s injury. He’s making reasonable money at $1M for this year, so even if he turns out to be a bust, the Isles won’t have given up a whole lot for him — and considering the Isles’ knack for turning around “hopeless cases,” maybe this could go better than some expect.
It remains to be seen what he can do, but Brad Boyes has the chance to redeem himself and climb back into the NHL’s elite. Let’s see what he does with it.