Yes, I know the above quote from Winston Churchill referred to the Russians, but it also seems to fit Brad Boyes. There are not many players who are as much of a riddle, mystery and enigma than Brad Boyes. With a poor season last year and the Blues in the midst of an offensive injury “crisis”, the time is perfect for Brad Boyes to step up and show what he’s made of. Worryingly, Boyes has all but disappeared on the ice. The Blues are Boyes’ 4th NHL team and he’s 28 years old – so, is there a pattern here?
Boyes was drafted in the first round, 24th overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 2000 Entry Draft. Boyes spent time with the Erie Otters in the OHL and St John’s Maple Leafs in the AHL – registering 23 goals and 28 assists in his first AHL season before being traded by the Toronto Maple Leafs to the San Jose Sharks in 2003, along with Alyn McCauley and a first round draft pick in 2003 for Owen Nolan. Boyes played one NHL game for the Sharks, spending the rest of his time in the AHL with the Cleveland Barons.
In September 2004, Boyes found himself part of a threeway trade. Boyes was traded by the Sharks to the Boston Bruins for Jeff Jillson; the Sharks then traded Jillson together with a 9th round selection to the Buffalo Sabres for Curtis Brown and Andy Delmore. To round things off, the Sharks then traded Andy Delmore to Boston for future considerations.
Boyes played two seasons for the Providence Bruins in the AHL before breaking into the Boston Bruins lineup for the 2005/2006 season. In his first full NHL season, Boyes registered 26 goals and 43 assists playing with linemates Patrice Bergeron and Marco Sturm. The following season however, saw his production drop off. In 62 games, Boyes managed 13 goals and 21 assists before being traded to the Blues for Dennis Wideman. In the final 19 games of the 2006/07 season, Boyes registered 4 goals and 8 assists.
In 2007/2008, Brad Boyes had a breakout season. Playing the full 82 games, Boyes scored 43 goals and had 22 assists. One thing however, shouldn’t be underestimated. Boyes was playing alongside Paul Kariya that season and Kariya’s 49 assists underlines how crucial he was to Brad Boyes. During this season, the Blues rewarded Boyes with a multi-year contract worth $4million a year. Boyes will therefore be a UFA at the end of the 2011/12 season.
An injury to Paul Kariya, who only played in 11 games of the 2008/09 season, saw Boyes’ production drop off slightly. Boyes scored 33 goals (10 less than the previous season) but saw his assists total increase from 22 to 39. However, it was last season that was the big disappointment. Boyes only scored 14 goals and managed 28 assists. Nowhere near good enough for a “sniper”.
A number of “theories” for this depleted production were put forward and discussed in the media and on various forums. The fact that Boyes’ “Mission” sticks were discontinued, Andy Murray’s line and coaching changes, alterations to the powerplay – all theories put forward to explain Boyes’ problems last season.
With a new coach and Boyes’ stick not being so much of a problem, hopes were high before the start of this season that Boyes would return to his previous scoring levels. It looked promising when Boyes scored against the Flyers in the Blues first game and followed that up with an assist in the Blues’ second game against the Ducks. However, Boyes soon had fans shaking their heads when, during the Blues 7 game unbeaten streak in October/November, he managed only 2 assists. He then went on a bit of a points streak, with 4 goals and 4 assists in 6 games, raising hopes again only to dash them once more by registering just 1 goal and 1 assist in the last 11 games.
The Blues have their three top forwards – Oshie, Perron and McDonald – missing and Boyes has been playing with Vladimir Sobotka and David Backes. In the last 11 games, David Backes has scored 4 goals and had 8 assists whilst Vladimir Sobotka has 2 goals and 5 assists. Admittedly, neither of them are Paul Kariya but, as with Boston, Boyes has one good season then production starts dropping off.
Boyes’ lack of production could be forgiven if he contributed in other areas but he seems to have one game where he works and hits hard, creating chances for others and then goes 6 or 7 games where he does very little. So far, his shooting % is 14th on the team – Boyes has had 82 shots and scored 6 – and has 33 missed shots (3rd on the team behind Alex Steen and David Backes). Unfortunately for the Blues, Boyes seems to be the quintessential streaky and “floating” player – scores in short bursts, disappears for games on end and floats around during games as though he doesn’t care. Not a trait that endears him to fans.
Boyes seems to have a tendency to focus on the negative aspects of his game – his confidence seems to be easily shaken. Just prior to the season, in an interview with Jeremy Rutherford of the St Louis Post Dispatch, Boyes said:
“If we don’t win a game, I feel like I’ve got to score more, and it can snowball on me. When I’m feeling good, and things are going great, it shows. I’ve got to learn what to use as fuel and what to push away. If a certain thought comes to my head, get it out of there. It’s done and I’m going to do this now. That’s the difference this year. Too much thinking last year.”
Another thing to consider is that Boyes has become much more responsible defensively. He went from a -20 two years ago to a +1 last year. So far this season, he is a -1. Whilst that’s all well and good, Boyes does seem to have become a bit of a cautious carol. He doesn’t take many chances – and when he does he’s more than likely to cough up the puck or send it high and wide. With the depleted lineup, you don’t really want to tell a player to ignore defense and play pure offense, but Boyes needs to spend more time in the offensive zone.
So, what can the Blues do with this enigma? Well, they have a few options:
A trade seems to be out of the question – the Blues sent a memo around to various teams last season saying that Boyes was available and they couldn’t move him then. His salary and lack of production makes it seem almost impossible unless the Blues want to take on another player’s awful salary. A change of scenery trade seems the only option tradewise. The Blues might hit lucky but the odds are stacked against them.
They could put him on waivers and hope someone picks him up on re-entry waivers – but the Blues would still be on the hook for half his salary this season AND next season. If they get desperate, it might be an option, albeit a rather drastic one.
The two most plausible options are to either drop him to the fourth line with the Peoria callups to try and light a fire under him or simply let him sit in the press box for a game or two. These are not easy decisions to make due to the Blues lack of offensive depth at the moment and the team needs to balance lines to be effective. Would putting Boyes on the fourth line or dropping him completely have an adverse effect? I don’t think so. Yes, it would cause a bit of line juggling but players from Peoria like Adam Cracknell, etc, are hungry and will work hard each game – unlike Brad Boyes.
Whilst players like Eric Brewer, David Backes, Vladmir Sobotka, Alex Steen etc are working hard every shift, making their presence felt, creating chances and infusing the team with energy, Brad Boyes appears to be drifting. He seems to have lost his confidence – he goes for a pass when he should be shooting and when he DOES shoot then odds are that it will go high and wide.
Somebody needs to light a fire under Brad Boyes before it’s too late.