Will playing next to John Tavares help Brad Boyes turn his career around?
Brad Boyes may get an opportunity to play on the Islanders top line this season. Can playing alongside John Tavares turn his career around?
We've seen this type of story many times before. It's actually one of the most common ones that develops over an NHL offseason. A once productive player that's coming off a couple of down years signs with a team desperate for offense for hoping to come away with a bounce back performance that sees the player return to glory.
Sometimes it works, many times it doesn't.
One of the more intriguing examples this summer was the New York Islanders signing forward Brad Boyes to a one-year, $1 million contract.
Boyes, you might remember, had a couple of great goal-scoring seasons as a member of the St. Louis Blues a few years back, including a 43-goal performance in 2007-08. He followed that up with a 33-goal season the following year. Unfortunately for Boyes it's been all downhill since then, scoring just 39 goals in the three years that followed, including the eight he scored in 65 games as a member of a disappointing Buffalo Sabres team last season.
He's getting a fresh start with the Islanders this season and perhaps one more shot to show that he can still be a productive goal-scorer in the NHL. From the sounds of it he may even get an opportunity to play on New York's top line, next to John Tavares and Matt Moulson, and perhaps fill the spot that was opened up when P.A. Parenteau signed a multi-year deal with the Colorado Avalanche earlier this summer.
Here's what Boyes told Brian Compton of NHL.com over the weekend on the possibility of playing on the Islanders top line:
"I'm real excited … he's a heck of a player," Boyes said of Tavares. "He definitely stands out. He's made a great combination with Moulson too. They complement each other very well. To get an opportunity with those guys, I think it's going to be great. You never know, but I'm looking to fit in with those guys or wherever I fit in. If I do get a chance to play with Tavares, I'm going to take advantage and I'm definitely looking forward to it."
A couple of things to consider:
1) When Boyes had his two best seasons his shooting percentages in those seasons were 20 percent (his 43-goal season) and 15.8 percent (his 33-goal season), by far the best of his career and numbers he's probably never going to duplicate. He topped even 10 percent just one other time in his career and has been below that mark in each of the past three seasons. Even if he plays alongside Tavares and Moulson all season they're not good enough to boost his shooting back up to that sort of level. That's because no center is.
2) Not only has Boyes seen a drop in his percentages, he's also seen a decline in his ability to generate shots on goal, as the chart below shows.
Maybe having better players around him will help get that going back in the right direction. His most common linemates last season in Buffalo were Ville Leino and Drew Stafford. But it's also worth pointing out that the year before as a member of the Blues (before he was traded to the Sabres) he spent most of his time with guys like David Backes and Andy Mcdonald, two pretty good players.
Another thing to keep in mind is that even if he's playing with guys like Tavares and Moulson that doesn't necessarily mean he's going to get more chances to score because the other two guys are going to be taking the majority of the chances. Tavares and Moulson, as the two best offensive players on the team, are still going to take the lion's share of the shots (just looking at last year as an example, Tavares had 286 shot on goal while Moulson 219. Parenteau, the third member of that line, had just 167), as they should be.
There's nothing wrong with the Islanders taking a chance on Boyes.
The price is right is right and the risk is low, but the expectations shouldn't be high. If he scores 16 goals this season it should be viewed as a success for everyone involved.
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