David Poile was a busy man on Wednesday. He made two trades. One of them, I believe, will help this team. The other one, well, it was a trade. The Predators acquired Brian Boyle from the New Jersey Devils for a 2019 2nd round pick, and they acquired Cody McLeod for a 2020 7th round pick.
To Devils: 2019 2nd round pick
To Predators: C/W Brian Boyle (13-6–19)
Let’s my only critique of this trade out of the way. I do think Poile overpaid a little to get a player who will likely be on the team’s fourth line and act as a special teams specialist. In this idiot’s humble opinion, I’d think the market for a player like Boyle would be a little cheaper. I still think the Preds would be wise to make another move, and that 2nd round pick would have helped. The good news is that the team still has its 2019 first round pick and a few prospects who I’d be okay parting with for the right deal.
Now on to the good news. What do the Predators get in Boyle? First of all, they get a tough son of a bitch. For those of you who may not know, Boyle played hockey while battling cancer last year. I don’t go to the gym if I have the sniffles. That heroic effort earned him the 2018 Masterton Trophy. On top of inner toughness, Boyle is also not afraid to beat someone’s ass. In fact, he’s threatened to commit murder on the ice.
Boyle also brings some nice skill with that toughness. Most importantly, Boyle brings a net front presence on offense — specifically on the power play. Take a look at his power play shot locations on the Devils this year.
As far as Predators’ fans are concerned, that image may as well be the Mona Lisa. All season anyone who has watched the games can see that the Predators take too many shots from outside the slot with the man advantage. Boyle will help remedy that issue. He has the size to take the goalie’s eyes away and the skill to put the puck in the back of the net when it’s loose in front. Boyle already has six power play goals on the season, more than any Predator.
Boyle also brings a great game on the penalty kill. With Boyle on the penalty kill, the Devils didn’t give up too many shots from the slot.
Boyle is great at helping prevent the very shot that he himself takes on the power play very often. Isn’t symmetry cool? The Predators’ penalty kill hasn’t been terrible this season, but it has been somewhat streaky. Bringing in Boyle should stabilize things a little, especially with Watson out.
Is Boyle the answer to giving the Predators a real edge against the Sharks, Jets, or Lightning? I’d say no, but he definitely doesn’t hurt. He’ll be a great addition to the Predators’ fourth line the rest of the way.
To Rangers: 2020 7th round pick
To Predators: Cody McLeod (1-0–1)
If you’re one of the four people that read this blog when McLeod had his first stint with the team, then you know that I am not a fan of any iteration of the Preds’ lineup with McLeod in it.
If you think that having McLeod will make a lick of difference against the Jets, you don’t watch much hockey. Or you’ve forgotten how things typically go with McLeod on the ice. Let me refresh your memory. With McLeod on the ice with the Rangers in 2018-19, opposing teams have gotten two-thirds of the total shot attempts and two-thirds of the total high-danger scoring chances. That’s not how you win games. That’s how you get routed by teams like Winnipeg, San Jose, or Vegas. While we’re at it, let’s look at where the Rangers’ shots were coming from with McLeod on the ice.
With McLeod on the ice, the Rangers couldn’t sniff a dangerous scoring chance. The opposite was true for their opponents.
Poor Henrik Lundqvist. It was a damn shooting gallery with McLeod out there. That is no different than what things were like when McLeod was with the Predators. That’s just the reality of the situation.
People seem to love the size and physicality that McLeod brings to the table. They also believe he will protect the Preds’ stars. Let me address those two issues quickly.
Size and physicality: Brian Orakpo would bring size and physicality, but that doesn’t mean he is a good enough skater to put those two things to use. Size is one of the most overrated traits in a hockey player these days. The 1999 NHL Draft class was full of busts because teams seemed to ignore skill and draft on the basis of the player being a human skyscraper. Sure, McLeod is a big tough guy but he’s not skilled enough to make that valuable against the best teams in the league.
Protecting the other players: This is the most outdated narrative going in the NHL. Remind me which Pred missed time this season due to a cheap shot. I’ll wait. Name me a Cup winner in the last five years that’s had a true enforcer, whose only job was to fight and protect other players. Again, I’ll wait. Yes, Tom Wilson can be a scumbag but he can also score goals. People point to Wayne Gretzky needing enforcers to be successful as if that’s a good reason to have McLeod on the team. This ain’t the 80’s and 90’s anymore, folks. Besides, by taking a look at The Great One’s numbers, I’m sure he’d have been fine on his own.
Let’s look back at Game 3 against the Jets last season. Ultimately, that game was the difference in the Predators losing that series. The Predators held a 3-0 lead after the first period. The Jets scored three goals in the first six minutes of the second period and four in the entire frame, not because of the Jets were bigger and outhitting the Preds. They dominated that period because they are fast and skilled. Go back and watch that period and tell me where McLeod makes a difference.
Having said all of that, do not make me like you, Cody.
“His first sentence to me was ‘let’s hoist this year’” – @PKSubban1 on Cody McLeod’s return to Nashville
— 3HL (@3HL1045) February 6, 2019
This may come as a shock to zero of you, but I have never been in an NHL locker room. I don’t know what type of impact chemistry can have in the points and wins column. It seemed to me that the chemistry was quite good already, but maybe McLeod boosts that a little. I don’t know. I can’t quantify that, but I suppose the guys being excited to have him around doesn’t hurt. That said, if you only brought him in to be a locker room guy then maybe he shouldn’t be cracking your lineup on most nights.
We’ll see how things play out after these two trades, and I hope that Poile isn’t quite done just yet. Yesterday Poile said that he’d be “comfortable” taking this team into the playoffs. I suppose I would as well, but I would prefer to add one more piece. Later in the press conference, Poile also said he’d be willing to move his first-round pick so who the hell really knows what’s going on in that brain of his. We’ll find out over the next few weeks.