Boyle: Put the red line back in

February 16, 2012, 8:23 pm
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PROGRAMMING ALERT: The Sharks and Lightning drop the puck at 4:30 on Comcast SportsNet California, followed by Sharks Postgame Live.

TAMPA Sharks defenseman Dan Boyle held court after Wednesdays skate at the Lightnings practice facility, and a conversation about his offensive production took an interesting turn.

The gist of it was simple: Boyle thinks the red line, removed for the purposes of allowing two-line passes after the NHLs work stoppage in 2004-05, has hurt offensive production league-wide when it was supposed to help.

You look around, and most games are low scoring games. I still dont particularly like the way the game is being played, Boyle said. What are you going to do? I just think the neutral zone is pretty bad. Most teams just are content just getting the puck in the other zone. Theres not a lot of plays being made through the neutral zone.

Im not a big fan of the red line being taken out. I think it takes away offense. Guys can make the long play now and just flip their blade over and have the puck go in, and its not icing. Putting the red line back in is probably something that could change the game, but I dont see that being changed any time soon.

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In his 13th NHL season, the 35-year old Boyles voice carries as much weight as anyone in the Sharks locker room. He won a Stanley Cup with the Lightning in 2004, the last season before the red line was removed, and is a two-time NHL All-Star.

Boyle played in Sweden the year of the lockout, in the wider European rinks. There, ice surfaces measure 200 x 100 feet as opposed to the 200 x 85 measurements used in the NHL.

Could that help generate more offense?

Having played in Europe the lockout year, Im going to tell you right now that getting bigger rinks is not the answer, Boyle said. There was significantly less offense playing in Europe.

I asked Boyle if he had the Tampa Bay Lightning specifically in mind, as their 1-3-1 defensive style and lack of an aggressive forecheck was infamously exposed by the Philadelphia Flyers earlier this season.

No, the whole league is copy cat. The Lightning play a little bit differently," Boyle said. "I just dont think theres as many skilled plays as there used to be. Its more of a grinding type game. Everybody is blocking shots like crazy now, more than five or six years ago.

It is what it is.

Boyle may be onto something. According to the Montreal Gazette, scoring in the NHL is down for the third straight season. When asked if the so-called dead puck era has returned, the Vancouver Canucks Henrik Sedin told the Gazette: "For sure. You look at every game now in the Western Conference. They're extremely tight and there aren't a lot of scoring chances."

Sedin continued: "It's been going on for a few years, actually, but especially this year. There are a lot of these kind of games. That's what people have to realize. It's not like it was two or three years ago."