Dan Boyle was added last off-season to fill the hole left when Anton Stralman departed. When the Rangers brought Boyle in, the thought was that the veteran rear-guard would be able to jump start the Rangers power-play, and give this team a better transition game. Boyle struggled when he first got to New York, but as the season rolled on he seemed to get better. Then once the Rangers got into the post-season, Boyle became one of the most reliable Ranger defenders, battling hard, picking up points, and saying all the right things after games. Now with his first year out of the way, you can expect the veteran defenseman to be more productive.
Boyle is one of the few options that the Rangers have to deploy as a right-handed shot on the power-play. He was initially brought in to help this team on the man-advantage; and it took some time for him to look comfortable at the point, but when the post-season came around, Boyle led the team in power-play points with six in 19 games played. He was leading all Rangers defensemen in power-play ice-time during the playoffs logging 2:52 per game; Keith Yandle was second among defenders with 2:33.
Boyle has great poise at the point, and when the puck gets to him he has the confidence to walk in and surprise the defense. The Rangers will have two options with Boyle; they could put him on the first unit with Yandle and hope that the two can get on the same page, or they could give him the keys to the second unit to create a bit of healthy competition. Either way Boyle will have a big role on this teams power-play.
Keeping the Defense Stable
Boyle, as I mentioned earlier is the Rangers only offensive minded defenseman who happens to be right-handed, and he will likely be plugged in on the second unit along with Marc Staal who is more of a “stay-at-home” defender. These two work well together because they balance each other out. Last season it was common that we saw Staal wrestling in the corner to get the puck out to Boyle who would open ice with his skating to make a pass. Boyle was one of the most reliable defenders with the puck last season as he only had 33 giveaways in 65 games, to put that in perspective, Ryan McDonagh had 60 giveaways in 71 games.
At the moment this is the way the Rangers defense will look.
Ryan McDonagh- Dan Girardi
Marc Staal- Dan Boyle
Keith Yandle- Kevin Klein
McDonagh is the elite two-way defender and his partner Girardi has allowed him to embrace more of the offensive game by being a defensive-defender. This is a similar setup with Yandle and Klein, where Yandle has the offensive skills so Klein seems to sit back and play more conservative. Boyle and Staal are assembled the same way, but having the offense come from a different side of the ice gives the Rangers more options when breaking the puck out.
Boyle was in a similar situation last season as he was penciled in to play with Staal, but the reason I see him having a better season has to do with Yandle taking offensive pressure off him, combined with Boyle now knowing his partner and his tendencies. In the 2013-2014 campaign Boyle notched 36 points in 75 games played. Of those points 18 came on the power-play and 18 came at even strength, so he has shown that he is a versatile player who can produce five-on-five. With the depth of the defense and the strong fast offense he should be able to increase his point totals by a respectable margin.
With Martin St. Louis retired, Boyle is now the oldest player on the Rangers; and the veteran defender still plays the game with a certain intensity. We always see veteran players get contracts, and so much of that has to do with them “knowing how to win” and compete as professionals. The great thing about Boyle is that he isn’t just a veteran finishing up his career. He was still averaging 19:48 per game in the playoffs and had produced 10 points in 19 games. I see him stepping into more of a leadership role on this club now that he knows the organization a bit better, and that will be a great help for other veterans of the team like McDonagh and Girardi.