A lot of Toronto Maple Leafs fans were disappointed on Saturday when their team passed on re-signing Brian Boyle, opting instead to let the 32-year-old land in New Jersey. To fill the void left in the middle of the fourth line, Lou Lamoriello and Co. brought in Dominic Moore, whom much of Leaf Nation associates with the darkest of days in Toronto. Despite all the acclaim Boyle receives for his locker room presence though, the Moore signing was probably a better option for the Leafs.
First off, there’s the price. Boyle’s cap hit with the Devils is $2.75 million, a slight raise on his previous contract. Moore, on the other hand, will make just over a third of that, costing $1 million on his one-year deal. Fans (especially in Toronto) might see Boyle with rose-tinted glasses — he’s a seasoned vet with tons of experience, whereas Moore is a relic of the Vesa Toskala/Pavel Kubina era with the Leafs.
So why is Boyle valued more highly? Well, he is younger — he’s 32 and Moore will be 37 in August. He’s also got six more inches and about 56 more pounds on him. Also, many in the hockey world put a little too much stock in where a player was drafted — Boyle went 26th overall in 2003, meaning he has “first round pedigree.”
Really though, there’s little to separate the two. Part of Boyle’s allure when he arrived in Toronto was his 100 games of playoff experience. Moore has 99. Both have appeared in the Stanley Cup Final (they were actually teammates with the 2014 New York Rangers). Plus, Moore is from Thornhill, which is surely a plus to the “grit and heart” fans.
Interestingly, both players also had exactly 25 regular season points last year. Boyle was in the penalty box a lot more, sitting for 66 minutes rather than 44. To compare them a little more closely, here are their Hero charts side by side:
This data isn’t the be-all end-all of player comparisons, of course. That said, it’s interesting to look at. Basically, Boyle is just a little bit better at shot suppression and generation. The gap isn’t really that wide — not $1.75 million wide, at least.
The argument for signing Moore over Boyle isn’t just based on price, though. In fact, Moore might actually be more useful to Mike Babcock’s lineup.
The Leafs traded for Boyle at the deadline to bolster their fourth line and to add a shutdown defensive centre. He did that, starting in the defensive zone about 70% of the time. One area he didn’t contribute much to, though, was the penalty kill. Boyle played 80 minutes shorthanded last season, only 23 of which were with the Leafs. Leo Komarov actually stood in at centre more often, despite being a winger at even strength.
Moore, on the other hand, was one of Boston’s top penalty killers, with more shorthanded ice time than any Bruins forward outside of Patrice Bergeron. He logged 161 minutes while a man down.
Boyle also loses out to Moore in the face-off department. Both players took the vast majority of their draws in the defensive zone, but Moore won 54.6% of his, and Boyle won 52.2%. Last season, Tyler Bozak was the only other regular Leafs centre with a winning percentage above 50%. Now that Babcock has a player like Moore who can win draws, there’ll be no need for someone like Ben Smith to take up a lineup spot.
Leafs fans don’t exactly cherish their memories of Dominic Moore in a Toronto jersey, but there wasn’t much he could do about a genuinely god-awful hockey team. He was actually seventh on the 2008-09 team in scoring, with 41 points in just 63 games. Since then, he’s gone on to become a solid, cheap utility player for multiple NHL teams.
Ultimately, there’s nothing Brian Boyle can bring that warrants paying him more than twice what Moore will get. For all the talk about his locker room presence and influence on the Leafs youngsters, surely Moore can offer the same. Plus, a stable option on the fourth line who can win face-offs and kill penalties is infinitely preferable to a carousel of Ben Smith and Frederik Gauthier.