[This post was written by JD Burke. If that name sounds familiar, it’s because you’ve probably either seen him on Twitter, or read the handful of Evening Headshots posts he has done for us in the past. Anyways, he ran this thought-provoking article on Brad Boyes which he wrote by me, and I figured I’d share it with all of you.]
Every offseason it feels as though a swathe of worthy contributors are cast aside in the rush to overspend for marginally better players, with a slew of complementary narratives that give the illusion of talent – see Clarkson, David.
Last summer, these contract-worthy players gathered en masse in Florida, courtesy of professional tryouts from Dale Tallon and the Panthers. One such player was Brad Boyes; he of the 40-goal campaign once upon a time, and consequent free-fall from grace only two seasons later.
At this point we all know he’s available. The Panthers are 15th in the Eastern Conference and 17 points out of a wild card spot. In true Florida Panthers form, that screams “trade deadline seller”. With that being the case I think it’s well worth exploring whether Boyes should be on the Canucks radar. And do that I shall, right after the jump.
The most fascinating thing about Boyes’ career has been how easily he fooled the league into believing he was an elite talent and conversely what a difficult time he’s had convincing them he can be of any value since.
From ’07-’09, Boyes lit the lamp 76 times in 164 games (including the aforementioned 43 goal season). Just a few seasons later, he only managed 23 points in 65 games with the Sabres, after the Blues had discarded him (setting a trend for years to come). The drop-off – and maybe even more importantly the speed at which it happened – was significant. But as is often the case, the increased expectations that came with Boyes’ most productive season were never fair to begin with, and the 23 point season wasn’t exactly completely his fault, either.
What seemed to get lost in this sudden decline in production was the quality of linemates and the cruel mistress that is regression. Even the least analytical of observers had to expect Boyes’ shooting percentage to drop from his career high of 21%, which, believe it or not, coincided with his most productive season.
[Note: Rate, percentile, and linemate stats are all exclusively at 5v5]
There are several interesting things to take away from this chart. First of all, to quote one Cam Charron, “regression is real”. Not only is regression real, but it kicked Boyes’ ass between 2009-12; his shot rates remained impressive, but the goals were nowhere to be found.
Another takeaway from is that, not so surprisingly, the league all but gave up on Boyes after an injury-riddled season spent playing primarily with Ville Leino. Up to that season, Boyes had produced at a rate one would generally consider commensurate with your average, if not above average, second line winger.
Now that we’ve got a framework to work with, let’s shift this angle to a more relevant discussion for this platform. Where exactly would Boyes fit in with the Canucks? Well, just about anywhere. One of the better aspects of Boyes’ game is his ability to shift from scorer to distributor, according to his linemates. And with rumours swirling that Ryan Kesler is either set to be dealt, it’s also worth noting that Boyes has played center in the past; albeit not very well, as his 2011-12 campaign will attest. Heck, even if Kesler isn’t dealt (which would be great), Boyes can help mitigate the loss of Santorelli.
And, before you ask, the answer is yes, Boyes *can* help out the power play. Even in his worst season, Boyes was a relatively useful part of the Buffalo Sabres power play. This season Boyes is averaging over two minutes of power play time per game with the Panthers.
With the trade deadline just days away, the Canucks are going to have to decide whether they are buyers or… stand pat-ers (NTCs, and so on). Quite frankly, I can’t imagine the Canucks stay mired in their current state of self-loathing and inept offense much longer, and when they snap out of this funk (please, soon, I’m dying) we’ll all have a clearer picture of Mike Gillis’ intentions.
The beauty of a pick-up like Boyes is that he won’t cost enough to be a detriment to the team’s long-term future, whatever that may be. Wrongly or otherwise, Boyes’ name carries a lot of baggage and as such the Panthers can’t expect much more than a third-rounder for him – if that.
Consider, if you will, that when the Sabres picked Boyes up, with the hopes that he would breathe life into their anemic offense and center their second line, he cost them just a second-rounder. That was before the 23-point season. The future of the Canucks, even in Gillis’ hand, can’t rest solely in the place of a mid-round pick. But the ability to show confidence in your team, through offensive additions like the one I just lobbied for, and potentially even give the Canucks that last push back into the playoffs, is right there and readily available.
Based on the Canucks history of trades with Florida, I can understand any and all reservation to my proposed move for Boyes. That said, maybe the third time’s a charm?