Talk to Martin St. Louis about what Dan Boyle brings to the Rangers on the ice and then ask Derick Brassard the same question and you receive remarkably similar answers, which is saying something because one of these players was teammates with Boyle for six seasons and the other has never played a single game while wearing the same jersey as the veteran defenseman.
"He's in control out there," notes St. Louis, who was Boyle's teammate in Tampa Bay from 2001-02 through 2007-08. "You want the puck on his stick because he can control the flow of the game, dictate whether we speed up or slow down, and then he makes such good decisions with the puck."
Adds Brassard, who has played against Boyle in his career, but will be his teammate for the first time this fall, "He dictates the pace of the game, and he's a real good puck-moving guy from the back end. He just makes such good, quick decisions out there. He's going to help us a lot this year."
Near identical answers from Boyle's new Ranger teammates, one veteran who knows him so well and has won a Stanley Cup championship with him, and the other from a younger player who has respected him from the other side of the ice for several years.
But does Boyle agree with their assessment?
"I like to change things up, not always give the same look or make the same play, especially on the power play," says the 38 year-old Boyle, who notched 12 goals and totaled 36 points with San Jose Sharks a year ago, with half of those goals and points coming on the power play. "I like to distribute the puck and get guys in position to make plays."
That pretty much sounds like what St. Louis and Brassard are saying, with a humble tone in Boyle's answer.
Boyle will bring a real calming on-ice influence to the Rangers this season. He has nearly a thousand games of experience in the NHL (954) and he has produced 561 points along the way. Boyle has topped 50 points six times in his career--most recently in 2010-11--and his career-best is 63 points with the Lightning in 2006-07, the same season he scored 20 goals, with half coming on the power play.
Plain and simple, Dan Boyle gets the job done on the ice; and his quiet confidence and wise decisions are both a huge part of his game. Even on nights he is held off the scoresheet Boyle affects how the game is played because the puck is so often on his stick and his calm and efficient style sets the tone for his team.
"And he's such a hard-working guy," notes St. Louis. "We are similar that way---undrafted players, smaller in physical stature, always feel like we have something to prove. He is one of my best friends, and I am really happy he is a New York Ranger."
While many have focused solely on how Boyle will help the team's power play, it should be noted that even at the age of 37 and playing through injury a year ago in San Jose, Boyle still logged more than 21 minutes of ice-time per game. That's quite a bit of even-strength responsibility, too.
"My overall thoughts on Dan Boyle is that he's not only going to help on the power play, it's his all-around game that is going to help the Rangers," explains Brassard. "He makes such a good first pass out of his own zone, knows how to quickly get his team transitioning the other way, always seems to find the right guy. I am really looking forward to playing with him."
Boyle does have 66 power play goals in his career and it was only four years ago that he notched 27 power play points for the Sharks, so his contributions on the power play this coming season can not be ignored, especially since he is taking over as the quarterback with Brad Richards no longer on the team.
But whether it's 5-on-4, 5-on-5, or any other man situation, heed the words of Marty St. Louis and Derick Brassard and watch Dan Boyle closely as he smoothly dictates the ebb and flow of the games.