As I watched Dan Boyle accumulate three terrible penalties in a crucial game late last month against the Chicago Blackhawks, it seemed to be the last straw in saying that Boyle was the only player on the defense not pulling his weight this season.
That was magnified even more when coach Todd McLellan split up the duo of Boyle and Douglas Murray last week, a pairing that has been so reliable over the past three seasons. There was never a doubt that those two would be paired together in the past, even after acquiring Brent Burns this last offseason.
Now, with the pairing not fully clicking, McLellan paired Boyle with Marc-Edouard Vlasic at one point to get things back together on defense. Vlasic has been the most reliable defenseman this season, which is something we used to say about Boyle.
Boyle has only one point in his last 10 games.
The 35-year-old has not had his best stuff over the past two seasons, but seeing him struggle to keep up with the fast pace of the Sharks' offense, as well as the opposition's offense while on defense, is something that we simply are not used to from the rock that once was Dan Boyle.
Bad penalties, turnovers in his own zone—these were things that Boyle never had the capability of doing in past seasons. Now we can expect it from him just about every night at one or two points in the game.
This is a first-line defenseman, but it seems that he may be playing much more along the lines of the fourth blueliner on the Sharks this season.
For that reason, McLellan acted quickly when thinking of ways to re-energize this defense that had so much hype heading into this season. Moving Boyle was the first attempt at a solution and pairing him with arguably the best defenseman they have was the best move for the moment.
Boyle/Murray worked so well since the two became teammates in 2008-09. It is rough to see that happen to such a constant in the Sharks franchise.
Boyle will be an unrestricted free agent in 2013, and at the rate things are going, there may be close to zero chance we see him out on the ice in San Jose any further than that.
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