COMMENTARY | When the Florida Panthers signed Brad Boyes to a one-year deal back in September, just prior to the start of the season, it almost seemed like an afterthought of a roster addition. But it looks like the ever-shrewd general manager, Dale Tallon, knew exactly what he was doing.
As head coach, Kevin Dineen put it: "There's no question why he's here: to improve our offensive output."
And so far, there's no doubt Boyes has done his job fantastically. Through just eight games, Boyes has already made his impact felt and has certainly been the most positive surprise for the Panthers this year. Not only does he lead the team in scoring, with 4 goals, but he's found an instant chemistry with his new teammates, especially with touted rookie center, Aleksander Barkov.
"I like him. He's very friendly and is a good player. I like playing with him," said Barkov of his new line-mate.
"The guys here [seem] to be a good fit for me,'' Boyes said. "Whoever you match up with you have to go out and produce and provide scoring opportunities and that's what I know I've done in the past and that's why I'm here right now."
Boyes, who's played in the NHL for 10 seasons now, has proved his prolific scoring ability since his rookie campaign, where he put up 69 points with the Boston Bruins. Just a few seasons later, with the St. Louis Blues, he netted 43 goals, establishing himself as a legitimate offensive threat in the league.
The last few years have been somewhat more of a struggle for Boyes, who suffered a string of injury-plagued seasons and a lack of his usual scoring flair. He seemed to re-gain his poise in last year's shortened season, with an emerging New York Islanders club, scoring 35 points in 48 games. Playing wing-side for all-world center, John Tavares, will tend to have that effect.
"It's about opportunities and when you get them, capitalize on them," Boyes said.
He is certainly living up to that creed this year. With the rare combination of a powerful and accurate shot, the Panthers have found themselves a bona fide sniper.
Boyes put his skills on full display against the Pittsburgh Penguins last Friday, scoring these two beauties.
If one thing is apparent from this short highlight reel, it has to be his terrific quick-release shot.
"He has a great one,'' said defenseman Mike Weaver. "He plays it simple. He's not an end-to-end type player, but when that one-timer comes up he's able to score." Weaver and Boyes had previously played on the same 2008-09 St. Louis Blues team, the year Boyes scored his career high 72 points. "When I heard there was a possibility [of him signing here, I thought he'd be a pretty good fit.''
But Weaver is not the only Panther who appreciates what Boyes brings to the team.
"He's a tremendous player who's done a lot of things in this league,'' said forward, Kris Versteeg. "When I was younger I always tried to model things I did after him. He's extremely smart and can do things in all three zones that gets overlooked a lot. He'll be good for us. We need veteran guys on this team.''
With young, budding players like Barkov and last year's Calder Trophy winner, Jonathan Huberdeau, in the mix, there can never be too much support from veterans in the locker room and on the ice. Perhaps no one understands this as much as coach Dineen.
"I talked to coaches in St. Louis and Buffalo, you like to get feedback on some of the things he brought to his previous teams and you hear good reports about him,'' Dineen said. "He's got a veteran presence."
As if offensive output and veteran leadership weren't enough, Boyes also brings another vital skill-set to the table. He is a shootout specialist. With 32 career conversions on 71 attempts, Boyes has one of the highest shootout percentages in the league, in fact, topping noted shootout stars like Patrick Kane, Sidney Crosby, Thomas Vanek, and Alex Ovechkin. Boyes finally had the chance to showcase his prowess in the Panthers' first shootout of the year versus the Minnesota Wild, where he slipped it through the 5-hole of Josh Harding with ease and clinched victory for the Panthers.
Needless to say, along with Huberdeau and Barkov, Boyes will round out, arguably, the deadliest shootout squad in the NHL.
The Panthers have certainly found a gem in their new winger and are looking for his continued success with the franchise. At just 31 years old, he should have plenty left in the tank for several years.
From what I've seen so far, I wouldn't doubt Tallon has already begun preparing an extension contract.
Brent Weber was born and raised in South Florida. He has been an avid Panthers fan since their inception in 1993
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