Leafs' Boyce, Brent have earned their keep

TERRY KOSHAN, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 10:27 PM ET

TORONTO - Neither Darryl Boyce nor Tim Brent have scored many highlight-reel goals this season.

Nor will either Maple Leaf be found at the top of the team’s scoring leaders when the 2010-11 season ends, probably late in the evening on April 9.

But Boyce and Brent are slated to be unrestricted free agents this summer, and both should be re-signed.

Each of the two has become comfortable with himself as an effective everyday National Hockey League player, and they’re two examples that should be used whenever someone wants to support Ron Wilson’s on-going coaching job in Toronto.

Brent blocks shots like he was born doing it. Did you see what he did when the Leafs were shorthanded in overtime of an eventual 4-3 shootout win against the Boston Bruins on Thursday night?

Boyce goes to the net with a zeal that’s not common, no matter how hard it is for defencemen to hold up players in today’s NHL.

Brent’s NHL salary this season is $575,000, while Boyce came in at $527,500. Both will want raises, but neither will break the bank. They’ve both earned one-way contracts for next year.

A couple of other forwards who are not in the Leafs’ top six — Joey Crabb and Fred Sjostrom — also are bound to be free. But neither has made the same kind of impact Brent and Boyce have, and they can be let go without much concern.

For general manager Brian Burke to let Brent and Boyce skate away — why develop them for someone else? — would be a mistake.

From the hash marks

So Wilson will coach the Leafs in 2011-12, Burke says. The bigger question is whether Wilson will do so with a contract extension in his back pocket. If he does not have one, anything close to the November swoon the Leafs had this season and he should be fired. Certainly if we’re talking a year from now about another season falling just short, Wilson has to be gone ... For everyone who argues that this late Leafs’ run can only lead to good things beginning in October, something still has to be done about the special teams. Last season, the Leafs finished last in the NHL in both categories, with a 14% success rate on power plays and a 74.7% clip in penalty killing. When you’re at the bottom, you can only go up, but the Leafs have not gone that far. Heading into Thursday, the Leafs were 25th with a man advantage at 15.5% and 27th in penalty killing at 77.7%. Those improvements aren’t really much to brag about ... Here’s something that is true about Wilson’s teams during his coaching career in the NHL: He’s about to fall under .500 as far as making the playoffs go. In 16 seasons, Wilson’s teams have made the playoffs eight times. He will be 8-9 in 17 years as soon as the Leafs’ season is officially done ... Whether it’s a by-product of coaching (unlikely), the Leafs dressing room as it stands is the closest it has been in the past decade. There aren’t the cliques that existed in previous years. What bodes well is that the Leafs, among the youngest teams in the NHL for the majority of the season, are learning to deal with adversity together. And this does not appear to be a group that will become complacent with losing.

Point shots

If Wilson has to show the Leafs at any time early next year what kind of intensity they need, he should pull out tape of Thursday’s game. Keeping it at such a high pace for 82 games would not be simple, but it would wise to strive for it ... Jay Rosehill took a dumb penalty in the second period but made up for it when he scrapped with Milan Lucic. It’s not often you see guys go at each other for a while, become separated, and then resume throwing at each other. If you don’t like fighting in the NHL, don’t read those two sentences ... The right call was made on Joffrey Lupul’s first goal. Lupul did not make a distinct kicking motion ... The penalty-shot call by referee Kyle Rehman that gave Mikhail Grabovski a free pass in overtime was a bad one. Grabovski, bothered a bit by Steven Kampfer, got the shot off and still had a good chance on Tim Thomas ... The Bruins three times went high on James Reimer’s glove in the shootout, but did not score ... Sweet move, or 10, by Nazem Kadri on the winner ... There has been some speculation about the Leafs chasing free-agent goalie Ilya Bryzgalov on July 1, and if it were to happen, then enjoy watching Reimer while you can. Bryzgalov will be looking for a large raise over the $4.5 million he is making with the Phoenix Coyotes, and he’s not going to be signed anywhere to be a backup, including Toronto. Given the choice, we would give Reimer a shot at being the No. 1 guy out of camp next fall and let Bryzgalov sign somewhere else. The Leafs might need a goalie with experience, but it should not be Bryzgalov.


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