The Nose versus ... the new french guy that might rub people the wrong way with his personality. So what can we expect this season out of the two players that are likely to enter camp this year as potential 4th line centres?
Darryl Boyce is a hard working, former CIS hockey player from the maritimes with a solid defensive skill set that he brings to the table alongside some under-rated offense. Phillipe Dupuis was a scorer in the QMJHL on three different Memorial Cup finalists, but he's transformed his game to that of a physical checking presence in order to push his way onto an NHL roster. Both have one season of NHL experience as a regular, with Dupuis having played 74 games this past season with the Avalanche in Colorado, and Boyce having suited up in 46 games for the Leafs.
Follow after the jump for a more detailed comparison of the two men vying for the 4th line C role with the Leafs this season.
Phillipe Dupuis played 5 seasons in the QMJHL, and played in the Memorial Cup tournament as a 17, 18, and 20 year old. He was drafted by Columbus, and eventually moved on to pro hockey in their organization. In his first year he played with the Syracuse Crunch of the AHL, scoring 11 goals and 22 points in 51 games. He also suited up for the Dayton Bombers of the ECHL, producing 5 points in 8 regular season games, and another 15 points in 19 games in the ECHL playoffs. The next year he played the first 29 games of his season with Syracuse, producing 7 goals and 11 points before being traded to the Avalanche organization in January along with Darcy Campbell in exchange for Mark Rycroft, and finding himself playing for the Lake Erie Monsters where he had 5 goals and 8 points in 17 games. He missed a significant portion of the 2007-08 season (several months) with his 4th concussion. His only other significant injury of note in recent years was a broken collarbone suffered one year in training camp.
He improved in 2008-09 and 2009-10 offensively, scoring 17 goals and 46 points in 67 games, and then 16 goals and 35 points in 68 games. His production over that time frame of 0.24 gpg and 0.6 ppg at the AHL level basically cemented the fact that he is unlikely to ever be a scorer at the NHL level. He has since recast himself as a defensively sound, energy player who likes to hit. This past season he posted 6 goals and 17 points in 74 NHL games with the Avalanche as their 4th line Centre. He finished second amongst Avalanche forwards in hits with 128, and he had 44 takeaways and 10 giveaways, indicating his skill on the forecheck and his dogged puck pursuit skills.
Darryl Boyce followed a slightly distinct path to the NHL, playing 4 years of OHL hockey for the St. Michael's Majors. Defensively responsible but never particularly productive offensively, Boyce is in the same role with the Leafs that he has reprised since his days in Junior. His highest output was in his 4th year of Junior when he had 15 goals and 50 points in 67 games.
He then moved on to the Atlantic University Athletics Association, where he skated for the University of New Brunswick for two years, producing 29 goals and 65 points in 53 games. He is now the only Alumnus of UNB's hockey program to have ever played a game in the NHL, let alone a regular role on an NHL club. After his 2nd season with UNB, he was signed as a pro by the Toronto Marlies of the AHL. In his first year 2007-08 he produced 24 points in 41 games, in 2008-09 he registered 30 points in 73 games, and in 2009-10 he produced 11 points in 20 games.
Injury wise, in addition to his gruesome nose injury this past season, his most significant injury was a separate shoulder suffered in 2008 that caused him to miss the last 31 games of the season. Health hasn't been a serious issue with Boyce so far in his career.
In his NHL play this past season he was surprisingly productive at the offensive end, showing a willingness to go to the hard to get to areas of the ice and producing 5 goals and 13 points in only 46 games. He also had 68 hits in those 46 games, and registered 19 giveaways and 13 takeaways. Obviously his puck possession skills aren't quite as developed as those of Dupuis.
So how do the advanced stats compare for the two players? Well if we examine the table below, it becomes fairly clear that Dupuis is a pretty decent penalty killer, but at 5 on 5 it's a tossup which one should be more productive.
|Boyce 5v5||Dupuis 5v5||Boyce 4v5||Dupuis 4v5|
|Corsi REL QoC||0.857||-0.319||-6.615||-2.195|
|Corsi REL QoT||-2.019||0.527||-2.340||-2.587|
|Miss Sh A ON||11.0||11.2||18.2||20.9|
|Blk Sh F On||17.1||14.8||14.5||23.5|
Boyce faced much tougher competition while playing with significantly inferior line mates. His lines were also far more productive. Unfortunately what clouds this assessment is the fact that the Leafs shooting percentage with Boyce on the ice was likely unsustainable. His 14.87% team shooting percentage at 5v5 was the highest in the NHL last season. It was higher than Sidney Crosby, Ales Hemsky, Ryan Getzlaf, Bobby Ryan, and Alex Tanguay's (The next 5 players on the list). I sincerely doubt that Boyce can repeat that performance next year. Not only is it ridiculous that he's above THOSE players, look at what their team shooting percentages were with them on the ice:
If he somehow can maintain that (he won't), the Leafs need to strongly consider making him their top line C. In fact, if he can somehow maintain that, he could very well be an NHL All-Star.
So let's toss out Boyce's team shooting percentage as a complete anomaly, and put in a more realistic 7 or 8%. If you shift Dupuis' team SV% upwards above the atrocious 900 he was playing with Colorado, up to around 910 then suddenly with a PDO of 994 he's a lot more comparable to Boyce at 999. In many ways the two of them are much more similar than some of the superficial values indicate. Add in the fact that Dupuis hits a lot more, and looks better on the PK, and he probably is more suited to the 4th line gig than Boyce.
So to conclude, I personally expect Dupuis to be the Leafs 4th line C out of training camp barring injury. Boyce may well stick around as an option at 13th forward (particularly if anyone is injured in camp - which almost always happens). Neither one is bad defensively, so overall I don't think we have a serious issue. Going forwards I think we have the bottom 6 centre positions figured out. Really all we have to worry about is if Tim Connolly can do the job as a #1.