Joining a team halfway through a year is never the ideal situation for a player or a team. As the trade deadline comes and goes, it is important for teams to add pieces that fill holes on the roster.
Brian Boyle joined the Toronto Maple Leafs at the trade deadline when the team needed him the most but was the value ever truly there?
In 21 games played for the Maple Leafs this year, he only put up three points in those games. All of them being assists. The large forward has always done everything right in his career. He has been the penalty killer when the team needed it. He has been the net front presence when the team has needed it. He is a jack-of-all-trades that makes each team better with his versatility.
Normally fourth line players are easily replaceable due to their lack of versatility and one note play. Boyle has stuck around for a long time because of his size and abilities.
Putting him into situations to succeed continue to be the best course of action for the veteran center. He played in the defensive zone last season for the Maple Leafs more than he ever has in his career since 2013-14. While a defensive zone stalwart, putting a non-elite player in that position isn’t a great idea. Nonetheless, he performed admirably.
Similar players in his position would not be able to put up the underlying numbers he did in the situation he was put in, even if it was only 21 games played with the team in the regular season.
Age is beginning to catch up to the center. You never think it is happening to you until it actually happens. Boyle still makes sense for many teams but his time as a dominant fourth line center may be passing him by. In a small sample with the Leafs, you see that he still puts up numbers that put him close to the magic 50% line for even-strength Corsi.
Moving him from the defensive zone into a more comfortable offensive role may be the answer. It would help curve any decline he is having in the twilight of his career.
Do you really want to make that transition though? You go from a mostly defensive player to someone that needs more coddling as a player. Couldn’t that just be replaced by a younger version of that player? It makes his long-term viability a bit more troubling.
It doesn’t appear likely that Boyle will be returning to Toronto after exploring the free agent market. In fact, he may be returning to the Lightning. The team will likely be able to put him in an offensive bottom-six role and he should be able to stay above water because of it.
His time with the Leafs won’t be remembered as anything special and that is a bit of a shame. If given more time it would’ve been interesting to see how he could adjust to the team and head coach Mike Babcock. Instead, he is just another veteran player in the Leafs long history.