After a career year in 2014-2015, New York Islanders Johnny Boychuk’s disappointing playoff performance capped a season of inconsistency for the usually steady defenseman.
When asked about injury during the New York Islanders’ clean-out day, Johnny Boychuk responded that he was “physically fine” and didn’t need any “procedures” over the summer (Graziano).
His play during the eleven games of the playoffs raised questions to the contrary, but banged up or not, Boychuk is not the guy to offer that up as an excuse.
Boychuk’s numbers saw a ten point regression from last season, in which the defenseman posted a career high in goals (9), assists (26), points (36) and power play goals (5).
In this campaign, he equaled his goal tally, but went down in assists, power play goals (1), shots (165), and hits, and had the dubious distinction of leading the team in hits taken (Graziano). Add to that, Boychuk’s own hit totals decreased from 2015 to 2016.
There’s no denying that Boychuk did not look like the same defenseman the Islanders and their fans saw last season. Perhaps the rearguard’s career season last year can be attributed to playing for what could turn out to be his final contract or the big minutes he played with Nick Leddy, in which he saw five on five, power play, and penalty killing ice.
Factors to Boychuk’s Downfall
What then are the contributing factors to the regression this season? Has a little less than a year slowed Boychuk and calmed his game so much that an inconsistent season and downright poor playoff performance can be attributed to age? With the physical presence Boychuk has been in the past, it bears some consideration, but very little in this particular space.
With advanced stats taking the forefront in player and team analysis, Boychuk underperformed, but it’s important to note that he was a below average possession player on a poor possession team. Whether one is an indictment of the other or vice versa remains to be seen as the Islanders as a whole saw a regression in individual and team performance.
It’s certainly been a source of fan frustration that Boychuk and his leg-breaking shot (with all apologies to Anders Lee) see little to no power play time, and according to Arthur Staple, may not see that change with the upcoming season.
If Boychuk’s age is some kind of rationale for decreasing minutes, especially on the power play, it makes little sense seeing him racking up the more grueling time on the penalty kill. Yet that seems to be the role for which Boychuk has been, and will be, relegated.
On offensive numbers, only last season was a better one for Boychuk, so this wasn’t any sort of aberration as to the kind of defenseman he is. Possession was a team issue that Boychuk shared, but he certainly fell victim to the zone clear disease that so many Islanders defenseman have and have had in past seasons and that was a problem for him, especially down the stretch and in the playoffs.
Like several Islanders, Boychuk had slivers of success throughout the season. The initial change of partners for Leddy to deHaan earlier in the season had some success and worked well for deHaan in particular.
After an 11 game absence due to injury, Boychuk reunited with Leddy and for a short period of time that saw both defensemen’s output increase. A struggling Islanders team down the stretch saw defensive pairings juggled again and Boychuk returned to deHaan without the previous success.
Short term memory is a key here and Boychuk’s season will, unfortunately, be remembered by his dismal playoff performance. He had a season plagued by streaks and inconsistencies and a fairly significant injury that saw him miss the month of January and the beginning of February.
He took a beating throughout the season and was not the same player that excited fans and helped carry a team into contention. The Islanders, however, still played below 500 hockey without him in the lineup (5-6-1).
Final Grade: C+