Veteran defenseman Dan Boyle has been one of the NHL‘s finest offensive defensemen over the last decade. His breakout season came in 2002-03 when he registered 53 points in 77 games as a member of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Since then, Boyle has hit the 50-point plateau six times.
Now 37 years old, Boyle is a key piece of the San Jose Sharks‘ defense corps and a major asset for the club’s power play. He’s San Jose’s go-to offensive option on the back end, though, his production has taken a hit over the last two years. Boyle averaged over 50 points per season in his first four campaigns in teal, but managed just 20 points in 48 games last year. This season, the veteran rearguard has only tallied 22 points through 52 games.
Boyle’s defensive abilities seem to have declined a bit, too. He currently boasts a plus/minus rating of -8; the first negative rating he’s had since the 2007-08 season when he played for a very poor Tampa Bay squad. Boyle isn’t skating as fast as he used to and has lost some of his penalty-killing prowess, which has bumped him down the depth chart in both special teams and even-strength situations.
It would be unfair to critique his performance this season without taking into account the vicious head shot he suffered earlier in the year. In a match against the St. Louis Blues, Boyle was hit headfirst into the boards by Blues forward Maxim Lapierre and was carted off the ice in a stretcher. He suffered a concussion and missed the club’s next seven games.
Boyle hasn’t looked the same since, causing many to question whether or not he has fully recovered from the collision. He’s not as physical as he once was and his decision-making with the puck isn’t as sharp as it should be. His age could be a factor as well, of course. It’s not often that a player can continue to perform at an elite level through the end of his thirties.
Boyle has been surpassed by Marc-Edouard Vlasic and Justin Braun on the defensive depth chart, and young rearguard Jason Demers is now the team’s highest scoring defenseman. He plays less minutes in all situations and just doesn’t make those game-changing plays anymore. Still, he’s a savvy veteran who has managed to contribute on special teams with six power play goals. His performance through this point of the season is worthy of no better and no worse than a “C.”