Please note: This story was originally written for NHL.com and appeared on April 13, 2006.By James Murphy
| NHL.com correspondent
When Brad Boyes arrived at the TD Banknorth Garden December 1st, he was greeted with the news that Joe Thornton had been traded to the San Jose Sharks for Brad Stuart, Marco Sturm and Wayne Primeau. Boyes was obviously sad to see his captain go, but at the same time, he was relieved that he wasn't the one who was dealt.
After all, Boyes had already been traded twice and never really given a shot to succeed in the NHL. At this point in the Boston Bruins' season, he was still low on the depth chart for Boston and he didn't want to be traded away before he was given a chance to prove himself.
"I was definitely scared that morning when I heard there was a big trade," Boyes recalled. "I remember thinking 'Oh no, not again.'" But then I found out it was Joe and I was pretty relieved. Obviously, I didn't want to see him go and, of course, having your captain traded during your rookie season is an interesting experience. But I just thought 'Thank God it wasn't me.'"
Now, over four months later, as a frustrating season in Boston comes to a close, the Bruins are thanking themselves that they didn't become the third team in as many seasons to trade away the 23-year-old rookie from Mississauga, Ontario. In 80 games, Boyes was third in rookie scoring with 68 points and fifth in goals with 26.
"He took advantage of the chances given to him and has really become an important part of this team," Bruins coach Mike Sullivan said. "He had a great year in Providence last season and has taken advantage of his chances here. He's one of the better rookies in the league now and that's a testament to his hard work."
Providence Bruins head coach Scott Gordon coached Boyes in the AHL last season and knew after what he saw then, that Boyes could make it at the NHL level.
"We were very impressed with Brad's play last season and you could see as the season went on that he had the tools to make it," Gordon said. "He has a solid understanding of the game, great instincts and because of that, he knows where to be and always finds his way to the net and the puck."
Since the Thornton trade, Boyes, along with Sturm and Patrice Bergeron
has formed one of the most dangerous lines in the NHL. Both Bergeron and Sturm enjoy playing with Boyes and see a star in the making.
"He's improved so much over the season and you can see his confidence grow in the way he plays," Bergeron said.
Bergeron has also watched his linemate develop into a crafty playmaker.
"He's got great vision and sees the ice so well," said Bergeron. "You know if you get open, he'll find you. His instinct is strong."
With 28 goals each, both Bergeron and Sturm have benefited from Boyes' passing skills. But while they appreciate his knack to find them in scoring position, they also admire his ability to get himself into scoring position.
"He's a really sneaky guy," Sturm joked. "You see him, then he disappears and then all of a sudden he's there in front of the goal, wide open."
Sturm played one game with Boyes in San Jose, right before he was traded to Boston at the trading deadline in March 2004. He now sees a much smarter and more mature player.
"He's come a long way since I saw him in San Jose," Sturm said. "He has changed his game a lot and used his natural skills. He has good hands and the gift to score."
Sullivan agreed with Sturm and Bergeron, in that Boyes' most impressive attribute is his ability to get open and create scoring opportunities, whether for himself or others.
"He has the ability to make something out of nothing," Sullivan said. "He's good in traffic and he has a knack to be in the right spot at the right time."
According to Boyes, he's simply doing his best to learn and exploit opposing defenses.
"You want to catch guys sleeping," Boyes said. "A lot of times defenseman, forwards, what they do is very mechanical or they use systems. I try to study them and or learn their tendencies and then expose them if I can. I know Marco and Patrice will find me or get open, so if I can do that, chances are we'll get a scoring chance."
Unfortunately for Boyes and his teammates, that's not the only thing they've learned this season. After an active pre-season, hopes were high that Boston would be playing in the first round of the playoffs next week. But thanks to an array of injuries and a plethora of other setbacks, Boyes and the Bruins have learned how hard losing can be.
"It hasn't been easy that's for sure," Boyes said. "But you do your best to learn from it and build momentum for the future."
By not following suit and giving this former first-round pick a chance the Bruins have done just that.