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All-stars should include Boyle

By DAMIAN CRISTODERO, Times Staff Writer
© St. Petersburg Times
published January 13, 2003

Lightning defenseman Dan Boyle said his goals this season were modest; "to get a regular shift and play as much as they needed me."

Imagine if he set his goals higher.

Boyle has been the offensive spark from the blue line for which the Lightning was desperate. And though he admits his defense still is a work in progress, it has improved enough that coach John Tortorella acknowledged it would be missed when Boyle was sidelined last week with an injured left index finger.

Boyle's career-high 30 points are tied for sixth among defensemen, and his seven goals are tied for 11th. That is why, when the NHL on Thursday announces full rosters for the Feb.2 All-Star Game in Sunrise, Boyle, 26, of Ottawa, should be named to play for the East.

"He's had a great season," Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said. "He is somebody who is worthy of that consideration."

As are Tampa Bay's Martin St. Louis (who should be a lock), Dave Andreychuk, Vinny Prospal, Brad Richards and Vinny Lecavalier. Goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin already is in as a starter.

But Boyle's lack of name recognition qualifies him for some lobbying, and his inclusion would add a spicy story line to All-Star Weekend.

Consider the game will be played at the Office Depot Center, home of the Panthers, who traded Boyle to the Lightning in January 2002 for a fifth-round draft pick.

Boyle believes he was never given a fair chance in Florida, and he did not see eye to eye with coach Mike Keenan. So when Boyle was asked if he would relish an All-Star return, he did not sidestep.

"It would make me pretty happy," Boyle said. "I think we all know how I feel about where I've been and what happened. I'm not the first player to be traded and won't be the last. But you just want to prove to the people that didn't believe in you that they were wrong.

"Some players might not admit to that, but they're probably lying. There are a lot of reasons for trades, but in my situation, I thought they could have done a lot more with me."

There are no rules for how many players the NHL names at each position. And not every team must be represented, though the league prefers that to be the case.

Six defensemen played for the World and North American teams in last season's All-Star Game in Los Angeles. If that formula is repeated, the league will name five defensemen from the East because the Rangers' Brian Leetch, voted to be a starter, is out with a heel injury.

Washington's Sergei Gonchar, with nine goals, 35 points and plus-21, seems a lock.

After that, Boyle's stats, which include a plus-1, match up well and are much better than the seven goals, 18 assists and minus-13 of Florida's Sandis Ozolinsh, the East's other starter.

The Rangers' Tom Poti has 32 points but two fewer goals than Boyle and is minus-6. Pittsburgh's Dick Tarnstrom is plus-3 but has fewer goals and assists and gets a bounce from playing with Mario Lemieux.

Ottawa's Wade Redden is plus-12, but he plays with the East's top team and has four fewer points. Montreal's Andrei Markov is plus-7 but has seven fewer assists. And the Islanders' Adrian Aucoin has eight fewer points and is minus-3.

So Boyle is in the mix. And when his stats are coupled with what he has meant to a Lightning offense that is only 58 goals behind last season's total, the case is compelling.

Working against Boyle is an injury that has kept him out of three games and likely will keep him out of Tuesday's game against the Senators.

Boyle said he is confident he will be healed and playing by the All-Star Game, so the effect on his candidacy is difficult to measure. He said it is more pertinent that not everybody knows his name.

"This is my first year playing regularly, so that is going to hurt," Boyle said.

"But there's nothing I can do about it. If I don't get it done this year, hopefully, I'll have made a name for myself and have a chance down the road, next year, maybe."

What is wrong with this year?


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