Why the Leafs Shouldn't Re-Sign Bozak

https://twitter.com/kevin_mcgran/status/310093153946451969

That tweet is from the Toronto Star’s Kevin McGran on Mar. 8 after Ryan Getzlaf re-signed with the Anaheim Ducks on an eight-year contract extension. It’s also a representation of the misconception that Tyler Bozak is a capable first-line centre.

It should be noted from the outset that Bozak is not to blame. It’s not his fault he’s been miscast as a top line player, and one certainly can’t fault him for doing his best in a role beyond his capabilities. There are enough underlying statistics to prove that Bozak is probably better-suited on the third-line (which we’ll get to), but it essentially comes down to this: Bozak doesn’t have the puck a whole lot, and it shows.

Bozak has 14 points in 26 games, averaging 20:15 TOI/G and 3:15 on the powerplay. He averages the most ice-time per game among forwards, and is second only to Phil Kessel on the power play. That’s 1:30 more power play time than Mikhail Grabovski and more than three minutes in total ice-time. Despite this, Bozak has only three more points than Grabovski.

Consider also that Grabovski starts in the offensive zone only 34.4 per cent of the time (compared to Bozak’s 47.5 per cent), and he consistently faces top lines with a Corsi Rel QoC of 1.98 (compared to Bozak’s 0.84), and the picture becomes clearer. It’s also worth noting that Grabovski’s Corsi Relative is -3.7, while Bozak’s is -2.3. Besides Grabovski, only McClement and Kulemin have lower Corsi Relative ratings than Bozak in the top-nine, and both play tougher minutes. This is nothing new for Bozak, though, who ranked 19th on the Leafs in the statistic last season and 16th the year prior.

Bozak also ranks 215th among 370 NHL forwards in five on five zone start adjusted points/60 rate with a 1.34 (two spots lower than Grabovski, by the way).That ranks him second last among the Leafs’ top-nine, ahead of only Leo Komarov.

To summarize: Bozak isn't an effective puck-possession player, and generally the puck is directed on the Leafs' net more than the opposition's when he is on the ice. His production as a first-line centre is mediocre and it is clear he needs to be utilized in a lesser role.

The purpose of this study isn’t to drag Bozak through the mud; it’s to emphasize the fact that he’s miscast as a first-line centre. The statistics certainly indicate Bozak is a passenger on the top line and is clearly out his depth. While his proficiency in the faceoff dot is welcome, it simply isn’t enough to warrant his continued presence between James van Riemsdyk and Kessel.

Considering Bozak is a pending unrestricted free agent, who could probably command around a $4-million cap-hit, the Leafs would do well either playing out his contract and letting him walk or trading him before the Apr. 3 trade deadline.

With Grabovski, Nazem Kadri, Jay McClement and David Steckel on the centre depth chart, there’s simply no room for Bozak past this season.

Follow me on Twitter @RonGuillet

This post originally appeared on thehockeywriters.com/mapleleafscentral

*All advanced statistics retrieved from behindthenet.ca and hockeyanalysis.com