The San Jose Sharks needed significant changes to the roster that became the fourth in Stanley Cup history to lose a series after holding a 3-0 lead. General manager Doug Wilson finally emerged from a 12-day cocoon to reveal a few steps in the change during conference call that included CSN Bay Area Insider Kevin Kurz Thursday, May 15.
The biggest but perhaps least surprising is that the 2013-14 NHL season will be the last for Dan Boyle in a San Jose sweater. It is a move made at exactly the right time—probably not too early but certainly not too late as many have suggested.
Fans began calling for the move as early as December 2011 when he had a nine-game period without a point and just one assist with a minus-6 rating over 12. As it turns out, Boyle had a broken foot. Over the other 69 games of the season, his 47 points and plus-16 rating were among his best in his time as a Shark.
Nevertheless, those suspicions resurfaced when he finished the condensed 2013 NHL season with six scoreless games even though he was plus-1 and had evolved into a shot-blocking defender. Boyle proceeded to put up seven points in 11 Stanley Cup playoff games.
The 37-year old did struggle for some of the 2013-14 NHL season, but also dealt with what is thought to be a serious concussion from the despicable hit in the head from behind into the boards by Maxim Lapierre. He was still the team's best puck-moving defenseman and its best quarterback on the power play.
He had been working to get the team to offer a two-year deal according to Kurz, who also reported the veteran was "devastated" by the news Friday. Wilson was obviously sorry to see Boyle go, and thanked him for his contribution.
The reality is San Jose is strong enough at forward to move Brent Burns back to the blue line to do what he was acquired to—replace Boyle. The young defenseman is also an offensive threat from the blue line, but was more effective up front over the last two seasons. There is a lot of youth that needs to get a chance on the blue line.
Furthermore, Boyle deserves better than the Sharks. Had he been their captain, it seems unlikely they would fail to show up to battle for Stanley Cup playoff wins.
Coach Todd McLellan turned the team over to a captain with a fun-loving approach even though it had failed under a non-vocal one. That is on the coach even if he was the choice of the players.
Boyle is much more fiery and has actually won a Stanley Cup. He had developed a strong game in his own end while being the highest-scoring defenseman in the NHL over his first five seasons in San Jose. The fact that he had only been with the team two years at the time of the leadership change should not have mattered since Rob Blake had been the captain with after just one year with the team.
It also means he was not part of as many playoff failures. He has a chance to shake those with his next stop, but just because they were not his fault does not mean he was the answer to change the team's fortunes moving forth. Even if it comes as no surprise, his five listed contributions over his tenure as a Shark make Boyle's departure the most significant change revealed thus far...