We’ve known since pretty much the first half of last season that Dan Boyle was probably going to retire following the 2015-16 season.
He was nearing 40 years old, had talked about the family things he was missing by constantly being on the road during the season, and had spent more than a decade-and-a-half in the league. The writing was clearly on the wall.
He is expected to make his retirement official on Wednesday in San Jose, officially hanging up his skates after a career that spanned 17 seasons in the league.
When we saw him last with the New York Rangers this past season he was only a fraction of the player he used to be (playing in the NHL at age 39 will do that to you) and was a focal point for some scathing criticism in New York (by the end of the year, he had enough of it). But that’s not what defines Boyle’s career. It’s the body of work that came over the years before that where he was one of hockey’s most productive players.
From a pure numbers standpoint it is probably a career that falls a little short of being Hall of Fame worthy, but it’s also probably not as far away as you might think. Just consider that he is one of only 30 defensemen in league history to have both 1,000 games played and more than 600 points in the NHL (16 of the other 29 are currently in the Hall of Fame), and while he is near the bottom of that list from a points perspective, he also has the argument of being one of the best players at his position for a solid decade.
From the moment he made his NHL debut during the 1998-99 season as a member of the Florida Panthers until the end of the 2015-16 season, only Nicklas Lidstrom and Sergei Gonchar had more points than Boyle’s 605.
But it was during the 10-year stretch from 2002-03, his first full season in Tampa Bay, to 2012-13, where he was at his best.
During that decade he had more 50-point seasons than any other defenseman in hockey, scored at least 10 goals five different times, finished in the top-six in Norris Trophy voting three different times, and was the No. 1 defenseman on a Stanley Cup winning team.
And he did all of that after being signed as an undrafted free agent by the Panthers, being traded from Florida to Tampa Bay for a fifth-round draft pick, and then not really getting a chance to become a full-time regular in the NHL until he was 24 years old. And even then he was still mostly a third-pairing player. He didn’t actually get an opportunity to be a top-pairing, big-minute defenseman until he was 26 years old.
From a numbers and award standpoint, no, he probably doesn’t pass the Hall of Fame test. But there is still an awful lot to be said for being one of the absolute best in your field for as long as Boyle was in his.