Why isn’t Brad Boyes getting more ice time?

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.

  • BarelyComments

    He’s at least getting pretty good PP time as an opportunity to put up points… I like how Babcock has made sure that all three of his 4th liners have been having special teams duties to keep them involved…

  • Gary Empey

    Uncle Leo has made a big difference on the right-hand side.(pass the dutchie on the left-hand side).
    The depth chart now is: Komarov, Parenteau, Lupul, (Boyes/Winnik).

  • Jeremy Ian

    “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.”

    You nailed it. If he’s up against not so great foe, he ought to score more. If he can’t perform against the weaker opponents, why would he rise in the charts? As others are noting, we have some strength on the right side. This is why Boyes is trying to climb a greasy pole.

    Of course, I’d like to see him do better to raise his trade value, and Babcock has exactly the same interest as the rest of us. But this is not a mystery; it’s a traffic jam.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Here’s an idea folks. Instead of upping Boyes’ ice time, just mix the bottom 6 up.

    L3: Boyes-Holland-Lupul

    L4: Winnik (when he’s back)-Spaling-Froese

    Grabner benched.

    • Gary Empey

      E for effort. Froses is the best faceoff player on the team. Grabner is a very important part of the improved penalty kill. I think you are correct in thinking Babcock is still in the process of setting his bottom six. Having Corrado taking up a scratch spot is limiting his options.

      L3-Boyes-Holland-Lupul gives you two shooters and a defensive center. Babcocks system requires a playmaker, defensive forward, and shooter, on each line.Boyes does have some playmaking skill so it may be something that we see soon.Spaling could be the odd man out.

      • Jeremy Ian

        E for effort? We are now slamming each other?

        Players have strengths and weaknesses, but surely they aren’t skating categories. Since when is Holland condemned to be a “defensive center?” Since when does Babcock “require” such a rigid formula a quarter-way through an experimental season?

        Sure Spaling may be the odd man out — sure. That’s the point of experimenting with lines instead of trying to pump up any player’s given minutes.

        Grabner is fast, but he might as well be playing without a stick.

  • Gary Empey

    i notice him almost every time he’s on the ice. he’s creating/cycling/shooting/setting up plays every time he’s on the ice and he’s always in the offensive zone. i’m so confused?? i really like him and i’m baffled spaling/froese/grabner are getting more time than him. what a joke. he should be on the 3rd line with lupul and holland! they can be another scoring threat or maybe even winnik/lupul/boyes 3rd line but grabner has yet to produce a goal and boyes has more points in less minutes/games! insane.

    • Jeremy Ian

      Froese, Grabner & Spaling are getting more ice time than Boyes because they’re on the penalty kill. There’s a logjam. Boyes was basically brought in as a backup plan based on The Season Lupul had last season & the fact we didn’t know Komarov & Lupul would produce as much as they are.Now Boyes is caught in a logjam of Lupul,Paranteau,Komarov,Holland. How can you take ice time away from any of these guys to increase his ice time?

  • giproc

    It seems Babcock has Froese and Spaling ahead of Holland in the centre depth chart, especially in defensive situations.

    Then he slides Holland to wing who’s proven that at this stage he can generate more offensive than any of Grabner, Winnik and Boyes. That’s one less spot for Boyes. Grabner and Winnk are better on PK and board grinding so Boyes slides further.

    PAP has outpeformed Boyes marginally on both the PP and 5v5, at least on eyetest. And Boyes no longer has the engine to supplant guys like Leo or Mathias in the current top 6…. and he’s definitely not going to replace Lupul, Kadri, JVR or Bozak so it doesn’t look like he has much of a 5v5 role beyond tutoring the Marlies to prepare for their next jump.

    If we go on this year’s results with zero reference to his previous success, Boyes is Forward 13 on a roster with 12 forwards.

  • Jeremy Ian

    So Ryan Fancey, To Answer Your Question it’s very easy, The Reason Boyes is getting more ice time is because there isn’t a way you can increase his ice time without taking minutes away from Komarov, Lupul,Paranteau,Holland,Bozak,Matthias. And why on earth would Babcock do that the way these guys are playing?

  • Gary Empey

    @Jeremy Ian

    From Jon Steitzer
    The Ghost in the Machine: Babcock’s Phantom Roster
    July 22 2015 12:43PM

    ” Each line seems to have a playmaker, a grinder, and a sniper”

    “The most obvious thing that sticks out from the line combinations is that all lines include defensively responsible players, though it’s interesting to note they don’t really get used as the defensive forward. They are players in charge of moving the puck, they each have to be the primary defensive forward on their lines.”

    In the last Olympics, Mike took Jonathan Toews and put him on the checking line with Rick Nash and Mike Richards.

    At the moment Holland is being asked to be the primary defensive forward on his line. Same as Komarov. I don’t consider this to be a condemnation of any player.

    I certainly didn’t mean E for effort as a backhanded compliment. I meant it as a straight compliment because it showed you are using your creativity to improve the bottom six. As opposed to some here who simply say ” get rid of so and so” without any real idea of what will happen when they do. You on the other hand had a good idea that is worth considering.

    I should add way back in July Jon Steitzer predicted Komarov on the 1st line. Good hockey smarts on his part.