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Five Questions: Rangers' Boyle on future, winning

by Dan Rosen's Q&A feature called "Five Questions With …" runs every Tuesday. We talk to key figures in the game and ask them questions to gain insight into their lives, careers and the latest news.

The latest edition features New York Rangers defenseman Dan Boyle:

NEW YORK -- As the grind of his 17th NHL regular season presses on, defenseman Dan Boyle is trying to do his part to help the New York Rangers win while coming to grips with the idea that he probably won't be winning on the ice in the NHL beyond this season.

Although he hasn't made it official, Boyle is likely going to retire at the end of this season, he told last week. He cited his desire to spend more time at home, specifically with his daughters Eastin and Wesley, who are seven and five, respectively.

Boyle, 39, said he plans to return to Northern California with his family following this season. He is in the process of building a home there. He played six seasons with the San Jose Sharks before signing a two-year contract with the Rangers prior to last season.

For Boyle, part of coming to grips with this likely being his final season in the NHL has been him having to understand and accept that his role has changed.

He is on pace to average fewer than 18 minutes per game for the first time since 2000-01, when he was 24 years old and playing his first full NHL season. He has already been a healthy scratch four times so Rangers coach Alain Vigneault could give defenseman Dylan McIlrath, 23, an opportunity while resting Boyle.

Boyle talked about his future and his changing role with prior to playing in his 1,036th regular season game Monday.

Here are Five Questions with … Dan Boyle:

You mentioned in the story that this could be your last season. Are you firm on that now?

"Pretty firm on it. I'm not going to make decisions until the end of the season, but in all likelihood is what I said. I think it's just mental. It's not a physical thing. With some athletes, I think their body gives up. That's not the reality for me. I am actually starting to feel better the last few weeks. It's just more mental, a lot of things. I don't really want to get into all of it, but mentally it's starting to get challenging. It's an ongoing process. There is still three-quarters of the year to go so I'm trying not to talk about it too much or think about it, but as the season winds down it will hit home a little bit more."

It seems like this season to date has been tough on you. Has it been? How would you describe it?

"Challenging would be a really good way to describe it, actually. Sometimes it's me not playing well. Sometimes it's me having to get used to playing a different game. That's not a negative. Let's say you look at forwards and you're a first-line guy, you're supposed to make plays. But if you look at a fourth-line guy, you're not going to expect that from him. You're going to expect him to go out, play solid defensively, chip in. When you talk about that with defensemen, it's the same, but my role has changed. I used to be a No. 1 guy playing 24 or 25 minutes a night and there are certain expectations that come with that. I think now, playing 16 or 17 minutes a night, that changes your game a little bit. I'm trying to adjust to that and at times it gets frustrating. At times I deal with it better than others."

Does that change how you analyze your own game because you're someone who has always been hard on himself?

"Right. I'm extremely hard on myself, but I've had to look at my shifts and my game from a different angle than I have in the past and be a little bit more realistic about what I expect out of myself, so to speak. You can't expect certain things. You can't compare apples and oranges. If you're out there playing 25 or 26 minutes a night, you're feeling the puck. It's a different game when you're put in a different role. I'm trying to be the best I can be in this role. It's a different role than I've had in the past, but I've said this a thousand times and it is true, I don't look at goals and assists and I'm not going to remember my time here in New York for that. I'm going to remember my two years here in New York by wins, how many did we put up. That's been pretty good, and that's all I care about. That's what allows me to sleep better at night. I struggled with it a little bit at the start of last year and probably again at the start of this year, just wanting to be that guy. But you have to be realistic. It doesn't mean I'm not going to attempt to be at my best. I'm always going to try to be at my best. I'm trying to be the best I can be in the role that I'm in."

For the team in general, is it as good as its record indicates, which entering your game Monday is 15-3-2? How much better can it be?

"I don't think any of us in here are thrilled with the way we've been playing. We're certainly happy with the record, but there have been certain nights when it's been the goaltending or one line. But at the end of the day it's about the two points. Come April, May, June, people aren't going to care about how you won that game in November or December. Nobody cares about that. You've gotta find a way to win, and I think that's what this team has done real well. You've gotta get the points. God forbid you get some injuries down the stretch, you just don't know. The team that wins is the team that is playing at its best in June, not always the one that is the best. For now, we're just trying to find ways to win and we've done well with that so far."

However it goes this season, are you content to go out playing this role?

"Yeah, I think so. I came here for a reason. I want to win. Could I have gone somewhere else and played 22 minutes a night? Probably. But my goal was to win and I feel like this team gives me a real good opportunity. I've got no regrets."


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