Florida Panthers: Brian Boyle’s Signing Sheds Light on a Bad Trend for Young Players

The Florida Panthers' Brian Boyle skates during warmups before a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. The Panthers won, 4-2. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)
The Florida Panthers' Brian Boyle skates during warmups before a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins at the BB&T Center in Sunrise, Fla., on Tuesday, Oct. 22, 2019. The Panthers won, 4-2. (David Santiago/Miami Herald/Tribune News Service via Getty Images) /

When Brian Boyle put pen to paper with the Florida Panthers, it signaled a few notable items about the current Panthers roster.

First, it indicated that Joel Quenneville wasn’t particularly pleased with his depth options. Second, it showed there are young players he’s not quite ready to trust yet. And third, most notably, it indicated that those young players that Quenneville doesn’t trust aren’t developed to where they should be.

Boyle’s signing addresses a perceived immediate issue, but doesn’t address a longer-term concern: why aren’t those young players “ready” when they should be?

Boyle will be 35 in December, and at best, is a neutral possession player who can chip a little offense in the bottom six. He was relatively solid by Devils standards in brief stint there, but was very poor in Nashville and eventually became a healthy scratch for three of their six playoff games.

In 47 games last year in New Jersey, he contributed 19 points, but only five in 26 games in Nashville. Jayce Hawryluk chipped in 12 points in 42 games last year for Florida and was a 1.2 CF% rel, compared to Boyle’s -1.7 overall, though Hawryluk has started this season poorly.

Boyle is a known quantity, while Hawryluk still has untapped potential, as evidenced by his play towards the back half of last season. Comparing the two is almost a wash, but with Hawryluk’s untapped potential, shouldn’t he be the one given another chance?

Joel Quenneville’s rationale for bringing in Boyle is simple: he knows what his task will be and he’ll stick to it, while also bringing “intangibles” like grit, toughness, experience and other buzzwords that mean little when it comes to on-ice value. Perhaps in Quenneville’s puck-possession system, Boyle’s flaws will be masked somewhat, but wouldn’t that be the same with Hawryluk or another young player eventually?

Quenneville has shown he will trust younger players, such as Denis Malgin, Dryden Hunt and MacKenzie Weegar, but why stop there? This franchise cannot rely on Brian Boyle types for any longer than a season, and as difficult cap decisions lie ahead, younger players need to be given a chance to prove themselves, and many of them in Florida simply don’t get that chance, even now. Even if Quenneville wants a Hawryluk type to learn from Brian Boyle, wouldn’t he be better served to do that on the ice and not in the press box?

The Boyle signing elucidates a trend that is worrying that hasn’t abated under Dale Tallon: young players aren’t often given the chance to succeed because players like Boyle are in their way. This yo-yo’ing of their development has led to stunted growth, and players whose potential waste away, whether it be in the AHL, or someone like Hawryluk who needs the ice time to succeed and now may not get it.

Henrik Borgstrom oozes potential but has been sent to Springfield twice in the past two seasons when he shouldn’t be there, even if he hasn’t reached his ceiling yet. He’s a 2016 draft year player and should be a critical cog in this team by now, and when he’s not in Springfield, he’s given no chance to properly succeed in Sunrise. The same can be said for defensemen like Riley Stillman, Thomas Schemtisch and Ian McCoshen, whose career paths have followed the same stunted trajectory.

At some point, these prospects for the Panthers are no longer prospects and become players who never reached their ceilings. That happens with every team in every sport, but many of these players are at least given a chance to reach that ceiling, but in many cases with the Panthers that doesn’t happen.

Quite a bit of that can be chalked up to players like Brian Boyle being signed and given that ice time when younger players who need the NHL minutes don’t end up getting them. When these players should be taking over those roles, they don’t, and the process ends up repeating itself and becomes a self-defeating cycle.

Even now, when the Panthers are in win-now mode, shouldn’t some of these young players be given at least a chance. Teams like Boston, Toronto, Tampa, Colorado and others are able to mix young players and experienced veterans quite well and win, why can’t Florida do the same?

At best, Boyle becomes a decent bottom-six player who does exactly what is expected of him. At worst, he becomes no better than what any of these Panthers young players could have been, but can’t be because they don’t see the ice.

Joel Quenneville is going to get what he wants from Dale Tallon in terms of personnel, but even so, shouldn’t Tallon stand up for his young players and draft picks more? Shouldn’t he be able to balance present and future concerns better? The only way the Panthers stay as a playoff team for years to come is bringing youth through the system, which isn’t happening as often as it should.

dark. Next. Florida Panthers Acquire Forward Aleksi Saarela From Chicago

In a vacuum, signing Brian Boyle is a low-risk move for the Panthers in a season where they need to win. But outside of that vacuum, it signals that the worrying development trends for Panthers young players show no signs of abating any time soon.