After the news broke Thursday on the firing of assistant coaches John Gruden and Jim Hiller, the New York Islanders now have holes to fill on their coaching staff. Although these decisions will be up to newly appointed head coach Lane Lambert, there is one former New York Islanders player that may be a perfect candidate to join the bench. And that’s Johnny Boychuk.
The now 38-year-old Johnny Boychuk has been removed from the NHL game for two years after an eye injury in 2020 forced him to hang up the skates. And although he could not play the game he loved at the NHL level, Johnny Boychuk remained with the team for the shortened 2021 season, joining his teammates for each practice and doing what he could to help head coach Barry Trotz and the rest of the coaching staff.
For cap reasons, Johnny Boychuk’s rights were traded to the Buffalo Sabres in the summer of 2021, but the Edmonton, Alberta native did not make his way to Western New York.
Over his six years as a member of the New York Islanders, Boychuk was a fan favorite. He played an integral part in the franchise’s turnaround after he was acquired, along with Nick Leddy, in the summer of 2014. He was a leader on and off the ice and played with a majority of the personnel still on the Islanders roster.
In 404 regular-season games with the Islanders, Boychuk notched 131 points, 782 blocks, and 873 hits. In 25 postseason games for the Islanders, Boychuk collected three assists, with 61 blocks and 92 hits.
Boychuk knows what it takes to win having won the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins back in 2011.
Albeit this whole “new voice” narrative, Boychuk would add a calming voice to a team, a core, going through unforeseen offseason changes for the first time in quite some time.
Following Boychuk’s injury and his career coming to a close, we had not heard from him. But this past season, Boychuk made his way to the brand new UBS Arena and spoke with Shannon Hogan for the first time since calling it quits. And he was asked what he missed the most about playing in the NHL.
“I think just being around the guys, you know, right after I was still part of the organization, and just being around them, being able to still be part of the team. And I just miss them, period.”
Now I have no knowledge on Lambert’s relationship with Boychuk during their two years with one another before Boychuk’s injury. I also do not know if Boychuk would want to coach.
All I do know is that there’s an opening for Johnny Boychuk to get back with the boys and lead by example in a different role if the Islanders and Lambert were on board.
I think penalty killing would be his area of expertise…