Brian Boyle: One of the Greatest Deadline Acquisitions in Recent Leafs History

Mar 23, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Brian Boyle (24) warms up prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 23, 2017; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs center Brian Boyle (24) warms up prior to the game against the New Jersey Devils at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports /

Brian Boyle was acquired by the Maple Leafs two days before this year’s NHL trade deadline, and he brought with him one thing that few others in the past have – wins.

With Brian Boyle‘s health in question after an injury scare during Wednesday night’s game against the Washington Capitals, it’s a good time to ponder just how effective he has been since being acquired by the Maple Leafs on February 27, 2017.

Simply put, Boyle has been very effective. He has provided a much-needed boost to the Maple Leafs’ dreary fourth line, and his veteran presence has certainly helped calm a youthful squad during the toughest part of their schedule. I think we can all agree on that.

Well, I’m going to take things a bit further. Just a little over a month into Boyle’s run as a Maple Leaf, I consider him to be one of the greatest deadline acquisitions ever made by the Blue and White.

Okay, okay, I know. Boyle is a fourth line centre who has no goals and three assists in 18 games since his arrival in Toronto. He’s also a -3 rating in those 18 games. I assume I’ll have to be a tad more convincing before the end of this article.

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Boyle has never been a scorer. His career high in points is 35 in the 2010-11 season with the New York Rangers, but Boyle is more than a stat line on

He’s the type of player that makes your locker room a little more cohesive, your road trips a little less daunting, and your playoff pushes a lot more successful. Everywhere this guy has played, he has won. He’s a winner.

Since the acquisition of Boyle, Toronto has forged a 11-4-3 record and solidified their hold on the second wildcard position in the Eastern Conference. Doubters might ask, “How has Boyle’s three assists in those 18 games translated into wins?”

Boyle has centred the Maple Leafs’ fourth line between Matt Martin and Nikita Soshnikov/Kasperi Kapanen since arriving in Toronto. His play there has been a significant improvement over that of Ben Smith, and this has given Mike Babcock a fourth option in a variety of situations.

Since Boyle’s arrival we’ve often seen Babcock throw this fourth line over the boards immediately after allowing a goal, in an attempt to provide some stability and settle the game down. How nice is it to have a fourth line that can handle such an assignment?

According to Yahoo Sports, Boyle has only won 46.1 percent of his faceoffs as a Maple Leaf, and I must admit I find that surprising. It seems like every time Babcock calls upon Boyle to win a big defensive draw to start a penalty kill, or to lock down a game late in the third period, he gets the job done. Listed at 6 foot 6′ inches and 244 lbs, good luck winning a draw from that dude when the pressure’s on.

Babcock was clearly a fan of Boyle long before ever having the pleasure of using him in his own lineup. While speaking with reporters after hearing about the trade Babcock explained, “Lou thought our group had earned the right for us to help them.”

So that’s what Maple Leafs management did. They helped this over-achieving group by bringing in a bonafide leader to guide them through the most stressful, intimidating portion of their schedule.

Statistics are great, but they aren’t everything. Boyle’s emergence on the fourth line has allowed Babcock to use that line in different roles and tougher match-ups, often freeing up one of their scoring lines to do the heavy lifting on the offensive side of things.

On top of all the great things Boyle has done on the ice, his intrinsic value lies in the leadership and guidance that he provides off of it. Some roll their eyes at the belief a teammate becomes more valuable if he helps a rookie find his was around a new city or buys them dinner on occasion.

However, if you ask NHL players they all say it’s a real thing. On a team with a plethora of young superstars, Boyle’s off-ice role may be even more important than what he does when his skates are laced.

In what has turned out to be a wonderful first NHL season for a handful of Maple Leafs rookies, they’re now experiencing a playoff drive much quicker than anyone could have anticipated. Boyle may move on in the summer and his impact on this team may be limited to these final two months of the 2016-2017 season, but he will have left a lasting impression on these Maple Leafs for years to come.

Yes indeed, the true payoff of Boyle’s run with this team may not be realized until two or three years down the road, while he’s wearing a different jersey altogether.

The Maple Leafs made some high profile additions at the trade deadline in the early 2000s’, in an attempt to bolster their playoff chances, but in contrast to most of those, the trade for Boyle seemed much more logistic. Maple Leafs management pin-pointed an area where they needed a definite improvement in order to legitimately compete, and they addressed it.

Boyle has been everything they thought they were getting, and an area of weakness has become a strength. It’s because of this, that I consider this acquisition to be one of the greatest ever executed by the Maple Leafs at the trade deadline.

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Regardless of all this, the biggest test for the Maple Leafs is still to come. They have three games in four nights to finish their season, and a monstrous game against Tampa Bay on Thursday night, where they can clinch a playoff position. They may not have Boyle in the lineup for any of those games.

Perhaps this generous notion is a tad premature. Perhaps this discussion should have waited until the Maple Leafs locked down a playoff spot for certain, or until the offseason, when we find out if Maple Leafs brass intend on re-signing Boyle. Perhaps some patience would have come in handy before laying heaps of praise at the feet of a defensive-minded, fourth-line centre.

However, in my opinion, these next five days are irrelevant when measuring the positive impact Boyle has had on this team. Without his presence, one or two penalties may not have been killed.

A few key faceoffs may have been lost, and multiple wins may have become losses. Personally, I’ve never seen a fourth liner in Toronto that has been this effective in his role.

Nothing can change the fact Boyle arrived in Toronto and provided a fringe playoff team with multiple services that they lacked. This translated into wins, and it has given the Maple Leafs a chance to lock down a playoff spot amidst similarly spectacular playoff drives from teams like Boston and Tampa Bay, and Carolina. That’s precisely what rental players are supposed to provide, and unlike many past deadline acquisitions, Boyle has done just that.

Next: Leafs Run Out of Gas in 4-1 Loss to Washington

Boyle has helped the Maple Leafs reach a point where they require just one more victory to make their playoff dreams a reality, but the truth of this situation, is their most important win of the season may have to come without him. Only time will tell if they can get it done.