Brian Boyle is a Long-Term Solution for Toronto Maple Leafs

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TAMPA, FL - MARCH 16: Brian Boyle #24 of the Toronto Maple Leafs and Victor Hedman #77 of the Tampa Bay Lightning look for a loose puck during the first period at the Amalie Arena on March 16, 2017 in Tampa, Florida. (Photo by Mike Carlson/Getty Images)

When the Toronto Maple Leafs pulled the trigger to acquire Brian Boyle at the trade deadline, it sent a clear message to the team. Lou Lamoriello thinks his team is ready to win now. And Boyle not only fits a need of the team in the short-term. But for the long-term as well.

Although much of his fit into the ‘Shanaplan’ will be dependent on how the rest of the season goes. If Boyle eats up key minutes through the stretch and the Maple Leafs make the playoffs, expect to see him back in the blue and white next year.  The Leafs have the cap space to make a nice offer to the big centre, and ensure that he is not just a rental. One can consider the next several weeks as an extended audition for Boyle, in attempting to get that offer.

Brian Boyle is Long-Term Solution for Toronto Maple Leafs

Boyle fits for a number of reasons.  First his size.

At 6’7″ and 243 pounds, Boyle is built for grinding. He is on the last year of his deal making his acquisition attainable and price affordable (a second round pick and prospect; Byron Froese.)  The addition of which adds veteran depth to a young leafs team. More specifically, he solidifies the 4th line center position. It is a position where the Leafs were looking for some depth just prior to the trade according to coach Mike Babcock.

Not to slight Ben Smith or Frederick Gauthier. But neither of the two is ready to have a solidified starting job in the league to this point. The team struggled when Tyler Bozak and Smith went down earlier, leading to Gauthier and William Nylander taking more of the reps at the position.

The conclusion?

The depth at the center position was a huge concern.

“His line has been outstanding…” said Babcock when asked about Boyle’s production since joining the team.

“(Boyle) is stopping on defence, doing the right thing. We can roll four out the gate. We put them out on d-zone faceoffs. We don’t worry about them. I think he’s bringing a tonne to the team.”

Pretty high praise from the veteran bench boss.

Boyle adds offense as well as defens.

His 23 points on the season are far more production than Smith or Gauthier (the two have seven points combined on the season).

In Tuesday night’s blowout against the Panthers, Boyle’s line was the only one on the Leafs who’s possession was above 50% (He was at 67%, while Kadri, Matthews and Bozak were all under 33%).

His poise and experience bring depth to a locker room that was relatively lacking up to this point. And that isn’t even getting into his playoff experience.

Boyle’s 100 playoff games since 2011, are the most of any NHL player over that span.

That’s pretty impressive.

Not to mention it matches the amount of appearances for the Leafs organization since 1995.

He is also much better in the face off circle than many of the Leafs centers.  Aside from Bozak, Boyle’s 50.9% on draws is higher than any Leaf with more than 250 attempts. That includes Matthews and Kadri.

Boyle is a winner.  Clear and simple.  And that sort of attitude can only become infectious to a young Leafs team.

Boyle’s addition can help Toronto learn how to close out games.  Both in overtime and in the third period.  After all, experience is the best teacher.

He’ll get the chance to show that experience as the Leafs play Boyle’s former team, the Tampa Bay Lightning on Thursday night.  A good test for his leadership role on a young team coming off a blowout loss.

And perhaps most importantly…

He is excited to be in Toronto.

When asked how he felt about being traded the Maple Leafs, Boyle was excited about the prospect of playing with the young guns in Toronto.

“We’re in a great spot here… We’ve got a good shot at getting into the playoffs.  You try not to take it for granted… It’s just the most fun hockey there is.”

“When you make a trade you have to give up something… If Lou, Mike and Shanny want to come get me… I want to prove them right.”

If all goes according to plan, Boyle’s experience and grit may be an asset for the team for many years to come.

 
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