October 29 2012 10:56AM
A real odd thing happened Saturday night.
Vancouver Province beat-writer Jason Botchford was interacting with some Canucks fans on Twitter, appeared to be warming the West Coast fan base to the prospect of Tyler Bozak joining the Canucks:
@taj1944 Wouldn't it be a better adv to have a third line centre?— Jason Botchford (@botchford) October 27, 2012
@taj1944 The canucks disagree with your assessment— Jason Botchford (@botchford) October 27, 2012
So, how do we reconcile this? Does Tyler Bozak, the "first line centre" with suspect defensive abilities, have higher trade value that we've expected? In my last analysis of any potential Roberto Luongo trade, I focused on Jake Gardiner as an asset, mostly ignoring Tyler Bozak and Matt Frattin.
To me, while both players are likeable and were decent risks for the Leafs to take when they signed them out of college, they're red herrings. I think both players are replacement-level. A lot of people will focus on Bozak's 18 goals and 47 points from last season, but possibly ignoring the fact that Phil Kessel factored in on 29 of them, and he scored a single goal all season that was not assisted by either Kessel or Joffrey Lupul.
Here it is:
Corsi-based with-or-without-you analysis is particularly tough with Toronto Maple Leafs' centremen. There's a meaningful gulf between Mikhail Grabovski and the other Leafs centremen, which leaves Grabovski with a much higher relative Corsi than other players, and Leafs do much better on the ice with Grabovski because it means they aren't on with Bozak, or Tim Connolly, or playing tough minutes with David Steckel.
Back in August, when analyzing this, I told the masses that "I'm just not convinced he's a major league player. His success depends entirely on who he plays with." Bozak sure as beans doesn't make anybody worse, but he doesn't make any player particularly better. With the Leafs having too many centremen, he's certainly expendable.
That's out of Vancouver. Toronto is in on the action as well. I've linked Damien Cox's speculation from the past:
At the draft, reports indicated Vancouver asked for centre Tyler Bozak, defenceman Jake Gardiner, a first round pick and winger Matt Frattin in exchange for the 33-year-old Luongo. The Leafs had no interest in paying that kind of price, largely because there is no significant market for the services of the veteran goaltender.
So talks have continued on and off, with Bozak as the centre-piece. Vancouver believes Bozak would be a good fit as their No. 3 centre behind Henrik Sedin and Ryan Kesler. The Leafs might be willing to pay more than Bozak, but how much more is unclear.
Two corroborating reports in different cities from different newspapers makes it clear that Bozak's name has come up as a major piece in some discussion involving the two clubs. What I'd really like is for either Cox or Botchford to get somebody from the Canucks or Leafs on record explaining why Bozak's value is higher than it should be.
Sure, the man is an above-average face-off man, winning 52.7% of his 1198 draws last season. Among players who took over 1000 draws last year, he was 20th out of 55 players. He was slightly worse (52.0%) at even strength and 26th among the same 55 players.
Unfortunately, "mis-cast" is a word frequently used when discussing players on the Toronto Maple Leafs. He was mis-cast as an NHL player last season, unfortunately in an organization that is pretty starved for talent at the centre position.
Even Average Leaf Fan can't get too excited about Bozak's abilities:
@camcharron A bit of a softie, but plays hard. Better solution at centre than Grabovski.— Average Leaffan (@AverageLeafFan) October 27, 2012
As a defensive centremen, or as a third liner away from Kessel over the last two campaigns, Bozak has allowed slightly fewer Corsi events (goals, saved shots, missed shots, blocked shots) against him per 20 minutes of play without Kessel, but his offence has been hurt. Basically, he's been worse on the puck without a player to piggy-back on:
|For / 20 minutes||Against / 20 minutes||Corsi Rate|
That said, the Leafs are going to be working under the impression, when a new collective bargaining agreement is signed, that the Vancouver Canucks want Tyler Bozak to play for their team. Perhaps he's a MacGuffin, and the Canucks truly covet a different player in the organization, using Bozak as a distraction in negotiations. This is the problem with insider reporting, that we don't really know who is feeding information to Botchford or Cox, it's tough to figure the motivations of these teams.
If Tyler Bozak has managed to retain some of his trade value, then that's very positive for Toronto, and they ought to flip him for a stronger asset, perhaps a player who is stronger and younger, and more suited to playing beside Phil Kessel and helping him play defensively-responsible hockey.
But this modern revelation, that Tyler Bozak has trade value, really ought to be exploited by the Leafs. Even if you can't get Luongo unless you throw in Jake Gardiner, there's no sense in just holding onto this guy. I can't get a read on why his stock would be high, but it's clear that the perception of a player's value is more important in trades than the player's actual value. If a few NHL GMs think he's been mis-cast, then jump all over that one, Mr. Burke, and put Mikhail Grabovski where he belongs.