Dec 31, 2018; Newark, NJ, USA; New Jersey Devils center Brian Boyle (11) points to the stands after a scoring a goal during the first period of their game against the Vancouver Canucks at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

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Lichtenstein: Boyle's Run In New Jersey Was Short, But Won’t Soon Be Forgotten

Steve Lichtenstein
February 06, 2019 - 3:09 pm
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The first falling domino from the Devils’ slide into Tankville came on Wednesday with the announced trade of veteran center Brian Boyle to Nashville.

The inevitability of the Devils’ move, and the outsized return of a second-round draft pick, doesn’t allay the tinge of sadness fans feel over the loss of a player of the highest character, one who fought his way through a diagnosis of chronic myeloid leukemia on the first day of his arrival.

Boyle, 34, signed a 2-year, $5.1 million contract with New Jersey as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2017. At the time, The Record beat writer Andrew Gross, now at Newsday, knew Boyle from his days as a Ranger and gave me the heads up that he would soon be beloved by his teammates, fans, and the media.

How right he was, as Boyle stood up in the locker room to become as much a team leader as 2017-18 MVP Taylor Hall. His stall was purposely situated between teenage rookies Nico Hischier and Jesper Bratt. There’s no way to calculate his impact on the club’s surprising run to the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs.

It almost didn’t happen. At his first training camp in New Jersey, Boyle was shocked to hear that additional tests were needed after his physical. After learning the full diagnosis, Boyle pushed through the treatments while missing the entire preseason and the first nine games of the regular season.

Devils Trade Brian Boyle To Predators For Second-Round Pick

It took a while to adjust, but Boyle scored an emotional go-ahead goal on Hockey Fights Cancer Night on November 24 and then turned into a beast in December. In one eight-game stretch he notched 5 goals and 4 assists, which is an avalanche for a fourth-liner. 

Boyle was selected as an injury replacement for Hall at the 2018 All Star Game and won the league’s Masterton Trophy, which is given to the player who best displays perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey.

This season, Boyle has been a fixture on both specialty team units, with six of his 13 goals coming while serving as the big, six-foot six body at the net front on the power play. He even topped his performance last season on Hockey Fights Cancer Night by recording a hat trick in a 5-1 victory in Pittsburgh on November 5.

Unfortunately, Boyle’s versatility, experience and expiring contract made him perhaps the Devils’ most tradeable asset. He has 111 playoff games under his belt and a 2015 Stanley Cup ring while playing in Tampa Bay.  He’s been slightly over 50 percent on faceoffs in both seasons in New Jersey, a skill contending teams can never get enough of.

The Devils did really well to garner a second-rounder here. Devils general manager Ray Shero has called Nashville President of Hockey Operations David Poile a good friend from his days as Poile’s assistant. I’m not sure New Jersey would have gotten the same deal from Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello, who overlapped with Shero for a few months at the end of his 28-year tenure as Devils’ Emperor and was also allegedly interested in acquiring Boyle.

Boyle will have no problems fitting in with a Nashville culture that has valued a strong work ethic since the days they were coached by Barry Trotz. Boyle said in Wednesday’s exit interview with the New Jersey media that his condition is in remission, though he still needs to take pills. His three-year old son, Declan, who has had numerous surgeries and procedures to treat a rare malformation in his jaw, is also doing well, Boyle said.

Shero and coach John Hynes emphasized to Boyle that they did not bring him to New Jersey merely to play a role off the ice. They needed him to be a hockey player. And though he wasn’t blessed with the gift of speed, Boyle put forth an honest day’s work every game.

Boyle’s run here was short, but it won’t be forgotten. 

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