It’s nice to see the Calgary Flames give Dustin Boyd another chance on the top line with Jarome Iginla and Mike Cammalleri, for a couple of reasons.
First, it gives a 22-year-old blossoming player the opportunity to experience the game first-hand at the fastest and most intense level he has seen.
Boyd is approaching a crossroads in his young career. Even though he was a top scorer in the Western League with Moose Jaw (48 goals and 90 points in his final season), he probably doesn’t have the pedigree or credentials to be a top-flight No. 1 center capable of generating 80-plus points a season.
Can he develop into a productive No. 2 center who will score in the 60-80 point range – kind of like a Daymond Langkow? Absolutely. But Boyd is going to need some quality ice time and some confidence-building linemates to make that happen.
Is there any better situation than playing with a consummate leader in Iginla and a flashy finisher like Cammalleri?
Heading into this season, Boyd had 61 games of NHL experience (16 points), mostly on the third or fourth line, averaging less than 10 minutes of ice time per game. In 2008-09, he received a solid stint of 15-plus minutes per game, but through half a season was at just more than 13 minutes.
The second reason why it’s a great idea to promote Boyd is it takes unproductive Matthew ‘Too Bad’ Lombardi off the top unit. A terrific skater and high-energy player, Lombardi is proving for the fifth year in a row he doesn’t have the finish to play on the top two lines.
Stick Lombardi on the third or fourth line creating havoc with his speed and killing penalties. He’s worthy of 10-12 minutes doing that rather than the 16-plus minutes he’s receiving to score just five goals in 37 games.
That’s why it has confounded me this season to see Boyd get pigeon-holed as an energy or checking line center, while ‘Too Bad’ took up time and space on the top unit and power play.
Turning Boyd into a productive asset now in his formative NHL years can only benefit him and the team down the road. And it’s also making appropriate use of Lombardi.
This column also appears in the Calgary Metro Newspaper.
Brian Costello is The Hockey News’s senior special editions editor and a regular contributor to THN.com. You can find his blog each weekend.
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