Tyler Bozak has been a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization since the 2009-2010 season, however recent struggles are raising questions about his role on the team.
Toronto - November 18, 2014 - Tyler Bozak has been a part of the Toronto Maple Leafs organization since the 2009-2010 season, and not once has he reached the 20 goal plateau. In fact, the most points he has in a season came last year, and that was only 49 points. Bozak is now 28 years old, and is unlikely at this point in his career to take his game to the next level.
The consistent argument for keeping Bozak is that with Kessel he produces. He puts up decent numbers and why should the Leafs mess with a good thing? The answer is that Phil Kessel is a truly great player, and great players raise the level of the players around them. Almost every player on the Leafs has their numbers improve when they play with Kessel. For the sake of this article lets look at the Goals For per 20 minutes(GF20 - the amount of goals scored by the team per 20 minutes of ice time), Corsi percentage(CF%, corsi for + corsi against), and Goals For Percentage(GF% - the goals scored by the team, goals scored+goals against) for when the top two centermen; Bozak and Kadri play with, and without Phil Kessel. All stats are 5v5.
Now when Bozak plays without Kessel you get a more accurate view of Bozak’s potential and skill. First, here are the Bozak’s numbers playing with Kessel. Bozak’s GF20 is 0.924, a GF% of 44.4% and a CF% of 47.2%. Now without Kessel: GF20 of 0.729, GF% of 60% and a CF% of 41.1%.
When you separate Bozak from Kessel, the team’s production numbers drop off. This is to be expected. However what is worrisome is the drop off in Kessel’s numbers. Keep in mind the above stats of when Bozak and Kessel play together, and here are Kessel’s stand alone stats.
Kessel currently has a GF20 of 1.234, a GF% of 53.3% and a CF% of 46.7%. Those are his season numbers regardless of who he is playing with. When Kessel plays with Bozak the team’s production numbers take a huge hit. What’s even more startling is Kessel’s numbers without Bozak all together. He has a Goals For per 20 minutes of 1.859, a Goals For percentage of 66.7% and a Corsi percentage of 45.8%. It’s one thing for 0.31 drop in GF20 when Kessel plays with Bozak, but when you remove Kessel from Bozak all together you get nearly an extra goal per 20 minutes of ice time. That is a staggering statistic, and one Carlyle seems intent to ignore.
For the sake of comparison when Kessel plays with current second line center Nazem Kadri, these are the numbers: Kessel’s GF20 is 1.479, his GF% goes to 55.6 and has a CF% goes to 50.3%.
When you look at these numbers you see one thing; Tyler Bozak lowers the quality of Phil Kessel’s play - a lot. Kessel’s numbers drop off to such an extent it makes you wonder how one could even justify putting them on the same line. To put Bozak on the same line as Kessel is to handicap the most prolific goal scorer the Leafs have had since Mats Sundin. Further more when you add Kadri’s numbers into the mix you see that the current lines are limiting the play of not only Kessel, but Kadri as well.
When Kadri plays with Kessel his GF20 goes from 1.025 to 1.479, and his GF% goes from 48% to 55.6%. The difference between playing Kessel with Bozak and Kessel with Kadri averages out to nearly an extra goal and a half per game. That is a huge difference.
Now its one thing to say that the stats support playing Kessel with Kadri and demoting Bozak, that’s a straightforward idea. However why make the case to trade Bozak? Simply put it’s how the Leafs can best use Bozak’s value.
One thing the Leafs now have a great deal of, is young talented centermen. Kadri, Holland, and the eighth overall pick in the most recent draft William Nylander are all under the age of 25. After those three, there are four more centermen all under age 30: Bozak included. If you were to simply demote Bozak, and play him on the second or third line you then take away time from young players who can still grow and develop. Not only that, but players like Daniel Winnik and Leo Komarov are far more suited to the more physical style of play that accompanies the third and fourth lines. Tyler Bozak’s role on this team is getting smaller, and yet he is a very good player. That is why he has trade value.
Bozak is a smart hockey player who can play both on the powerplay and penalty kill. He is effective in the shootout and isn’t a defensive liability. There are a lot of things to like about Bozak and thats why you trade him, so you can acquire talent to help this team at other positions. It is unlikely Bozak could be traded for a true number one center, not at least without packaging picks or another player with him. However trading him for some help on defence or perhaps a skilled winger to help boost second line scoring could really benefit the Leafs. The only real key to trading Bozak is ensuring that NHL caliber talent comes in return. Whoever is coming in exchange for Bozak needs to able to play right away.
Tyler Bozak is a good hockey player, and I like him wearing a Leafs jersey. But he’s simply just not good enough anymore and to do anything but trade him is a waste of a valuable commodity, as well as, and perhaps more importantly, a waste of Phil Kessel’s talent as he plays another season with a mediocre center. His time is up, its time trade Bozak.
All stats are from http://stats.hockeyanalysis.com/
By: Rob McPhee
@RobMcPhee on Twitter