When the Leafs kept Brad Boyes in the fold after his pro tryout a couple months back, I wrote here that, with the departure of Phil Kessel and his typical offensive yield, he’d be relied upon to at least make up some of that slack. No one ever believed we were getting thirty-goal-scorer Boyes from a few years ago, but even a 12-15 goal output would be a really nice chip-in from the winger.
With only a goal to his credit at about the quarter mark of this campaign, getting his total up in that area seems like a long shot now, but that isn’t really a knock on Boyes. His play to date has been about as expected, perhaps even beyond, but for some reason he just isn’t able to break through for bigger minutes under Babcock, and many of us don’t know why.
If you look down through Boyes’ numbers you’ll see he’s averaging the fewest minutes he ever has in his career. And it isn’t just a small step back, he’s gone from 15:39 a night on average to 11:46 since just last season. The guy played less than 8 minutes in last week’s win against the Avalanche (but still managed an assist, mind you), which is almost getting down near Colton Orr numbers. Just scary.
So what is happening here? Is Boyes’ defensive game suffering? Has his output been less than expected? Shot-rates down?
First off, in terms of Boyes’ defensive game, by puck-possession metrics he’s one of the better performers on the team, ranking third among forwards in score-adjusted CorsiFor% among guys who’ve played 15 games or more. You could argue this is partly due to the fact he’s playing so low in the lineup and getting time against not-so-great opponents, but it should be at least enough to get him more minutes.
As for his offensive output, it’s hard to really point the finger there either. Boyes has managed to notch 7 points through his 17 appearances this season, which over an 82-game season works out to 34 points. And this is despite the fact he’s shooting at a low-percentage with just a single goal on 25 shots.
To be fair, 25 shots through 17 games isn’t exactly world-beating, but when you consider his reduced minutes, Boyes hasn’t really fallen off that far in this regard either. Last year with the Panthers he averaged 1.94 shots per game, which has taken a dip to 1.47 this season, but again we have to note his ice time has been cut by nearly a third.
The somewhat good news is that Boyes has been used a little more this past week in certain games. Monday he played 13:33 against the Bruins, and two games before that against the Canes he was out there for over 13 minutes as well, the first time he’d crossed that mark since October 16th. Hopefully his time keeps trending to somewhere around that total consistently.
It’s definitely been a weird experience seeing Boyes sitting on the bench (and sometimes the press box) more than he should. This team is painfully low on skill, and while he isn’t what he used to be, Boyes has looked good by the numbers so far this season.
He’s looked good by the eye test as well. We just need to see him more often.