Brock Boeser is not the sniper people envisioned, but it’s time to accept he’s still a very good player
Photo credit:© Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
By Noah Strang8 months ago
When Brock Boeser broke into the Vancouver Canucks‘ lineup, he wowed fans with his outstanding shooting ability. After scoring four goals in his nine game trial run the season prior, Boeser scored 29 goals as a rookie, finishing as the Calder Trophy runner up and taking home All-Star Game MVP in the process.
Boeser was a bright spot during a time where the organization badly needed one. He instantly became a fan favourite and it seemed like only a matter of time before he would be challenging for Rocket Richard Trophies. Fast forward five years, and Boeser is still on the Canucks, but he’s far from that goal scoring dynamo that many projected.
This has led to Boeser being one of the most criticized players on the Canucks. He’s in the first year of a 3-year / $6.65 million bridge contract that will take him to age 28. As his goal scoring numbers have declined, rumours of a trade have continued to pick up wind.
However, missed in all the discussion about Boeser, is that this has quietly been one of the better seasons of his career. He’s got 45 points through 58 games and is still a good offensive weapon, even if he’s not going to hit the 30 goal mark that many thought would be a guarantee for the rest of his career.
While Boeser is likely slightly overpaid, he’s still a good forward putting together a very solid season. When you take a look at other wingers around the league making a similar amount of money, Boeser doesn’t compare that poorly. Brendan Gallagher ($6.5m), Chris Kreider ($6.5m), and James Van Riemsdyk ($7m) are all in the same tier money-wise yet they don’t impress much more than Boeser.
Brock Boeser’s goal scoring decline
When Brock Boeser scored 29 goals as a rookie, many assumed that would be the baseline for the winger moving forward. However, he has yet to match that total he reached in his first season and has just 12 goals so far this season.
Not only have Boeser’s numbers dropped, he also doesn’t look the same on the ice. As the years have gone by, the gaps between his patented wrist shot finding the back of the net have grown longer. Back in his rookie season, Boeser would beat goalies cleanly all the time. Just look at the goal against the Montreal Canadiens below. This season, that hasn’t happened nearly as often.
Boeser is getting the fewest power play minutes of his career so far this season with just an average of 2:39 per game as he’s been bumped off the first unit by Andrei Kuzmenko. As a result, Boeser has just four goals with the man advantage so far this season, far off the pace of the 11 he scored last season or the 10 he had as a rookie. On the other hand, Kuzmenko already has 12 power play goals. The lack of opportunity on the top power play unit has directly affected Boeser’s goal numbers.
No matter if it’s his numerous injuries, defences keying in, or any other reason that’s to blame, Boeser has not evolved into the top-line goal-scoring threat. However, this season, he’s managed to adapt in numerous ways and continue to be a valuable offensive player.
Boeser’s value beyond goals
This season, Boeser has evolved as a player beyond just scoring goals. He’s already set a career high in assists despite playing in just 58 games thus far. Those assists have been valuable as, since he’s been removed from the top power play unit, many have come at 5-on-5. In fact, no matter if you count by raw totals or by 60 minute rate, Boeser ranks second on the Canucks in 5-on-5 assists, only behind Elias Pettersson.
The improvement in Boeser’s playmaking is great to see as he finds a way to be effective even when his shot isn’t finding the back of the net. He’s producing at a career-best rate at 5-on-5. While some fans may be lamenting Boeser’s lack of goals, they miss the fact that he’s not getting power play opportunities and that he’s often playing with a goal-scoring centre in J.T. Miller.
Because Boeser isn’t the best defensive player, he needs to be producing offensively to make a positive impact on the game. Unfortunately, his defensive issues this season appear worse than reality as Boeser has been the victim of terrible goaltending. The Canucks have an 85.5% save percentage while he’s on the ice at 5-on-5, a big contributor to his poor goals against and defensive numbers. It’s difficult for any player to look good when playing in front of goaltending of that caliber.
The elephant in the room: Boeser’s $6.65 million cap hit
When it comes to Boeser, one of the issues is his $6.65 million cap hit. The contract was a gamble made by the Canucks that he would return to goal-scoring form and he has not done so yet. As it stands, Boeser is likely about ~$2 million overpaid to his true value, a surplus that is compounded by the fact that the Canucks have so many bloated contracts on the books.
However, Boeser has taken his game up another level under new head coach Rick Tocchet. He’s got 18 points through 20 games under Tocchet. In addition, the new head coach has been stressing the importance of the board battles and forecheck, areas where Boeser has struggled traditionally.
“Last couple of games I’ve seen some stuff that Brock needs to do,” head coach Rick Tocchet said to The Province. “There were a couple of wall battles that he won. He’s that type of guy. He’s got to get a little bit better on the forecheck and he could be a really good player for us. This is a big summer for him too.”
The new style has seemingly been working for Boeser. He’s been making a more noticeable impact and putting up points in the process. While his development has taken plenty of twists and turns and he’s not going to challenge for 40 goals this year, he’s quietly become effective in a different way and can provide the Canucks a versatile top-six winger.
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