The New York Rangers, mired in a small two-game losing streak, must see error of their ways and bench defenseman Dan Boyle immediately.
By Robby Sabo
Competition. It’s a hell of a thing.
It’s the root for all athletic endeavors. It becomes the reason athletes wake up on a daily basis with a rugged work ethic in mind for that very day. To edge your teammate in practice or the opponent on the field is the very essence of sports, or competition.
There’s just one thing of major note about the very idea of competition. This is the undoubted fact that only one person is still undefeated in this regard.
His name is “father-time.”
Only father-time rules all in competition. Whether your name is Michael Jordan, Wayne Gretzky, or Jim Brown, father-time has brought them all down.
This is where the New York Rangers have, unfortunately, come up short over the last year-plus. Despite Glen Sather and Jeff Gorton doing a fabulous job building a young nucleus, the oversight in regard to two major names has crumbled their chances on the ice. One was named Marty St. Louis, who literally served as an anchor for whichever line he played on last spring.
The other name is Dan Boyle.
Boyle, 39, is battling not only opponents on the ice, he’s also waging a personal war with father-time. It’s personal, yet so public. The two-time NHL All-Star is clearly struggling. He’s struggled since his arrival last season, and simply cannot find his way.
His struggles were obvious just by witnessing the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs. When Boyle was on the ice, Rangers fans experienced the most severe case of anxiety since Valerie Zelepukin in Game 7 of 94′.
Throw in those incredible occasions Kieth Yandle played on the other side of Boyle, and all hell broke loose. Pepto Bismol suddenly became a hot commodity on the streets of New York.
Sather staked Boyle to a two-year, $9 million deal during the summer of 2014. The $4.5 million cap-hit is almost identical to Anton Stralman’s number on Tampa Bay. Obviously though, the two players couldn’t be more opposite.
Stralman was one of the reasons Tampa shocked the hockey world last spring, while Boyle served as a weak spot. Understandably, Sather didn’t want to lose cap flexibility by bringing back Stralman on a multi-year deal. Still, the notion of bringing in experience with Boyle couldn’t have been more of a disaster.
New York dodged a bullet when St. Louis retired this summer. The money he cleared off the books was a god blessing. Now, however, they couldn’t be in more of a mess if they tried along the blueline.
Dylan McIlrath, 23, was the 10th overall pick of the Rangers in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft. He has size at 6’5”, 215 lbs. and plays with an aggression the Blueshirts could very well use on the backend. What he also does is serves as that enforcer in the lineup which could allow Tanner Glass to sit in the press-box.
The Rangers constant playing of Dan Boyle is messing this up. McIlrath is beyond ready to play every night. He proved it during the preseason, and at this point just needs experience.
Perhaps Alain Vigneault respects Boyle too much to sit him.
“He’s been in the league a long time,” Vigneault said, via Brett Cyrgalis of the New York Post. “At this time, going into Year 2 with our team, he should understand how we want to play and how we need to play to be successful. He’s a smart player. He needs to go out and execute the way that he can and the way we anticipate him to execute.”
AV has one thing right, he sure has been in the league a long time. A long time for any sport, no less one as physical as hockey.
Boyle tallied nine goals and 11 assists with a +18 in 65 games last season. On the surface the stats look OK. That’s until realizing he was brought in for one explicit reason: to quarterback the power play. Those 11 assists become a huge disappointment when realizing he played on the first power play unit for most of the season. The unit struggled as a whole all season.
In 19 playoff games Boyle’s +/- number sat at a concerning -3. He was so poor during the season with the man advantage that the organization went out and acquired Yandle for one of the better prospects the franchise has seen in quite some time (Anthony Duclair).
It is time to move on. There have been many rumors recently surrounding the club trying to move Boyle for a bag of balls. While we’re all sure it’s true, we also know nobody is jumping at the chance to take him on.
Stop providing multiple chances to over-the-hill players. It burned you in the playoffs last spring. Don’t let it burn you this season.
You’re better than that. At this point that $4.5 million hit for this year is already dead weight – you might as well officially kill it for good.
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