Leafs VP states incorrect fact about Tyler Bozak. Internet will burn

Cam Charron
July 29 2013 04:03PM

Kudos to Alec Brownscombe for yet another interview with a Toronto Maple Leafs higher-up. This time? Dave Poulin, VP of Hockey Ops.

The money quote is Poulin's response to this query from Brownscombe about Tyler Bozak's scoring ability:

AB: What makes Tyler Bozak a better match for Phil? Bozak finished 41st in scoring among centers. What does he bring to the first line center role that isn’t visible in his numbers?

DP: Rather than even focus on the actual numbers of Tyler Bozak, I’d look at the numbers of Phil Kessel while he’s playing with Tyler Bozak. I believe it’s only three or four players who have scored more goals than him in the last five years in the league. You’ll have to dig that one up to see if that is in fact what the stat is.  He’s produced at a high rate, but there’s been so much focus on that [number one center] position. When Tyler, and maybe he continues to grow into a more offensive role, when Tyler came into that position he had a pretty good chemistry with Phil Kessel and whoever has been on the left side has done fairly well themselves. And maybe you don’t look at it so much as your first line centre. If you said, hypothetically, that your first line is going to be JvR – Bozak – Kessel and your second line is going to be Lupul – Kadri – Clarkson, there’s not as much pressure on the first line center spot. I think there’s been an unfair criticism of Tyler Bozak in a role that he’s been put into and has continued to get better at.

It's worth linking these charts again from my Tyler Bozak mythbusters post:

Pretty unbelievable that nobody in the Leafs' front office thought to look at any outside information. It's worth noting Phil Birnbaum's point again, that analytics are usually best for avoiding bad decisions. Tyler Dellow recently tweeted out an idea that teams don't even need a statistical analyst to do every move, just somebody who can pull up a bunch of numbers for any move as a sort of devil's advocate to groupthink.

It is good to know Poulin also doesn't happen to have the stat handy, or know whether Kessel is 3rd or 4th on the list that we would determine as being a fairly important indicator of Kessel's success. More likely, Kessel scored a lot of goals with Bozak because he's a very good offensive player and happened to play with Bozak often. Correlation does not imply causation.

Kessel scored at a much higher rate away from Bozak than with Bozak. That tells you something, and it's not like 'goals per 60 minutes' is an advanced statistic any more than 'division' is an advanced mathematical concept.

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Cam Charron is a BC hockey fan that writes about hockey on many different websites including this one.
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#1 Dr Furious
July 29 2013, 04:27PM
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Basically I'm hoping the Leafs are the poster child for destroying the advanced stats movement.

His comments on Reimer were at least encouraging in that they view the JB acquisition as asset management, not necessarily upgrading. If they can sell one in a couple of years for a high pick like Vancouver did it could work out.

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#2 SD
July 29 2013, 04:28PM
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I agree, but just wondering if the sample size of Kessel without Bozak is enough to draw the conclusions?

I hope it is.

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#3 Jon
July 29 2013, 04:31PM
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I think if Kessel were to decide himself he would still rather be playing with Bozak. You can show all the stats you want, but in the end it all comes down to how the players feel. You know exactly what Phil would say if you showed him those charts himself... "Well Tyler played with me all season and the team was winning". I like reading about the analytically stuff, but I don't think it can change what happens in a locker room and what a player prefers.

Curiosity the Cam since I just kind of focused on the charts in that article, how many minutes did Kessel play with Bozak compared to not with Bozak, were the sample sizes very different?

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#4 Jon
July 29 2013, 04:32PM
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excuse the horrible grammar I tried to type that out quick ^^^

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#6 kadrimania
July 29 2013, 05:18PM
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I'd like to see Bozak and Kessel with and without from the perspective of quality (grade A) scoring chances. Bozak is a master and one of the top centers in the league at creating quality scoring chances.

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#7 David Johnson
July 29 2013, 05:26PM
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You know, the argument 'do not look at what Bozak has done, look at what Kessel has done' and "there’s not as much pressure on the first line center spot" might be acceptable arguments if your first line center place holder is earning $1-1.5M/yr. I can understand the argument that a small hit in first line production can be made up elsewhere since they can spend more on the second and third lines and on defense. It's clear Kessel doesn't need an good center to score goals at a good pace so it may not be a necessity to have a good offensive center to play with him. I still think you could do better than Bozak with $1.5M but if it keeps Kessel happy, maybe it is worth it. At least I can understand the argument.

Problem is, Bozak isn't a $1.5M player anymore. He's at $4.2M/yr and at $4.2M/yr you need more than place holder production. When you are earning $4.2M you need to actively contribute to enhancing the production of your line. You can't be spending $4.2M on a place holder. It's just not acceptable.

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#8 Throwaway
July 29 2013, 05:30PM
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Cam, is it possible that the G/60 and P/60 points with Kessel - Bozak are a result of the times where Kessel sneaks onto another line and scores against a weaker defensive pair?

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#11 BamBam
July 29 2013, 05:33PM
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I still don't see what statement Poulin made that is factually incorrect.

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#12 MaxPower417
July 29 2013, 05:36PM
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@BamBam

That Bozak and Kessel have good chemistry together on the ice.

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#13 BamBam
July 29 2013, 05:40PM
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@MaxPower417

He used the past tense there.

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#14 MaxPower417
July 29 2013, 05:43PM
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@BamBam

That doesn't make it more correct.

Unless you're implying that they thought they had good chemistry in practice 3 years ago, and have left them in that position for years despite not thinking they've had good chemistry since.

Which you know, is only slightly more crazy than the truth.

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#15 BamBam
July 29 2013, 05:48PM
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@MaxPower417

No, it could just mean that they thought they had a good chemistry together in the 35 or so games they played together in 09-10 where Bozak outscored Kessel at a pretty phenomenal 2.53 P/60 rate and that stuck.

Of course that presupposes that "Chemistry" is a verifiable thing to begin with.

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#16 rw970
July 29 2013, 06:49PM
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The whole Bozak thing almost strikes me as like the reverse Peter principle. Instead of Bozak being continuously promoted because of his competence until he reaches a position at which he is incompetent, he is so incompetent, he can't be trusted at any position that doesn't receive the cushiest of assignments. Where, in effect, the damage he can do is limited because of Kessel's general awesomeness.

It's like if you had an employee of McDonald's who was so incompetent you couldn't even trust him at flipping burgers, so you put him on the Board of Directors, reasoning that at least the competent directors could outvote him.

As ridiculous as that reasoning is, it's better than the true reasoning, which is that the Leafs genuinely think that because Kessel is awesome and Bozak is there, that Bozak must be reponsible for Kessel's awesomeness.

As the master said:

"The bottom line is wins and losses. That is the bottom line. We were a better team in wins and losses."

"I would be more interested in our goals against than our shots against. In that, we fared pretty well and we were a better defensive team."

"Rather than even focus on the actual numbers of Tyler Bozak, I’d look at the numbers of Phil Kessel while he’s playing with Tyler Bozak. I believe it’s only three or four players who have scored more goals than him in the last five years in the league."

Post hoc ergo propter hoc. Why even bother with analysis? They won more games than last year, so getting out-possessed doesn't matter; they allowed fewer goals than last year, so getting outshot doesn't matter; and Kessel scores more goals than some other players, so his centre producing no goals doesn't matter. Forget about asking the right questions, the Leafs aren't even asking any questions.

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#17 leafnerd
July 29 2013, 08:11PM
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Bozak played shutdown roles without Kessel (lined up with Kulemin and Mclemment) while Kessel was on sheltered scoring roles (with kadri) so the stats you show are not surprising.

That is, a checking line won't score as much as a sheltered scoring line. I see these charts are misleading at best and will make Poulin and leaf management shake their head that advanced stats bloggers don't know how to properly interpret and use stats.

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#18 jasken
July 29 2013, 09:37PM
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Look at it from Leafs Management perspective, if they asked the following questions their responses from data collectors would be no data.

Which of Kessels points actually originated with Bozak starting the play?

How many of the points actually had no involvement of Bozak at all?

How many times did Bozak start a play but got off the ice before Kessel got points and never figured in on end result?

Would it surprise you 75% of time Kessel points actually have Bozak involvement somehow?

Now because there is no data on those questions. It is by some miracle, a player who plays 90% of the time with Kessel never once touched the puck on all those points he acquired while Bozak was off the ice. People believe this....

So who passes puck to Kessel as soon as its on their stick again? Bozak right no involvement good luck with that.

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#19 Alex
July 30 2013, 01:03AM
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@jasken

in order:

- Not as many as originated from Kessel himself, Franson, Lupul, JVR, or Phaneuf.

- More than any other TLC and his winger

- Twice, IIRC. Maybe less than that. Bozak is on the ice more often than Kessel, remember.

-Define "involvement". If "standing around with his stick on the ice in the slot" is involvement, no, that wouldn't surprise me.

- "No data" is just you being denialist. It absolutely IS recordable, you're just too lazy to do it to support your arguments. Besides, half the nonsense that Leaf fans gorge themselves on has no basis in fact or data at all.

-Everyone passes a lot to Kessel. Bozak is also involved in a disproportionate amount of "whoops, there's a turnover, back down the ice we go" where Phil gets to display how much Carlyle made him work on his backchecking!

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#20 Jord
July 30 2013, 03:57AM
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Alex, there actually isn't any data on a lot of the stuff mentioned by Jasken. There are many ways to spin the data listed in Cams chart above, both good and bad for Bozak.

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#21 Ryan Fancey
July 30 2013, 05:48AM
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David Johnson wrote:

You know, the argument 'do not look at what Bozak has done, look at what Kessel has done' and "there’s not as much pressure on the first line center spot" might be acceptable arguments if your first line center place holder is earning $1-1.5M/yr. I can understand the argument that a small hit in first line production can be made up elsewhere since they can spend more on the second and third lines and on defense. It's clear Kessel doesn't need an good center to score goals at a good pace so it may not be a necessity to have a good offensive center to play with him. I still think you could do better than Bozak with $1.5M but if it keeps Kessel happy, maybe it is worth it. At least I can understand the argument.

Problem is, Bozak isn't a $1.5M player anymore. He's at $4.2M/yr and at $4.2M/yr you need more than place holder production. When you are earning $4.2M you need to actively contribute to enhancing the production of your line. You can't be spending $4.2M on a place holder. It's just not acceptable.

^ THIS

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#22 Badger M
July 30 2013, 08:43AM
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Dr Furious wrote:

Basically I'm hoping the Leafs are the poster child for destroying the advanced stats movement.

His comments on Reimer were at least encouraging in that they view the JB acquisition as asset management, not necessarily upgrading. If they can sell one in a couple of years for a high pick like Vancouver did it could work out.

It wouldn't be the first time a low Fenwick team has had some level of success. To be honest, if teams like the 2010 Giants (19th in OBP) and the 2005 White Sox (24th in OBP) can win the World Series, then I have no doubt that low Fenwick teams can succeed in the NHL.

Stats like Corsi/Fenwick are absolutely useful, but I don't think they're strong enough predictive measures to stand on their own. It's why the advanced stat community is always looking for new statistics to measure like, most recently, zone entries.

Curiously enough by the way, the Leafs had control on a greater percent of their zone entries than any other team in the playoffs (mainly because Kessel is a zone-entry machine). So who knows what's in store for the future.

http://www.shutdownline.com/hurricanes/statistical-analysis/tracking-the-playoffs-zone-entries.html

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#23 Jeremy Ian
July 30 2013, 09:16AM
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Dr Furious wrote:

Basically I'm hoping the Leafs are the poster child for destroying the advanced stats movement.

His comments on Reimer were at least encouraging in that they view the JB acquisition as asset management, not necessarily upgrading. If they can sell one in a couple of years for a high pick like Vancouver did it could work out.

I agree that the statement about Bernier explains the rationale. And I agree that this is encouraging news -- about long-term player development, even if it does look like a slight against Reimer in the short run. It's too bad that Reimer has to prove again that he's a worthy No. 1, but I think that says more about the state of the business than anything else.

What we might gripe about is the inconsistency. Some player decisions are made with good managerial sense; others (like the Grabo buy-out) appear to be much more personalized. I would have liked to hear DP clearer on that one.

Overall, a very insightful interview.

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#24 Back in Black
July 30 2013, 11:45AM
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@jasken

Cody Franson assisted on more of Kessel's goals than Bozak did. If Bozak was creating scoring chances, he'd have more points. Period.

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#25 leafer4life
July 30 2013, 12:06PM
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leafnerd wrote:

Bozak played shutdown roles without Kessel (lined up with Kulemin and Mclemment) while Kessel was on sheltered scoring roles (with kadri) so the stats you show are not surprising.

That is, a checking line won't score as much as a sheltered scoring line. I see these charts are misleading at best and will make Poulin and leaf management shake their head that advanced stats bloggers don't know how to properly interpret and use stats.

^ This

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#26 Back in Black
July 30 2013, 12:22PM
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@leafnerd

These charts are for four seasons. That means that for Kessel, the minutes without Bozak were spent with Grabovski, Connolly, and others - not just Kadri.

It's not surprising at all that Bozak's numbers go down without Kessel - that would be true for anybody. What's interesting is how much Kessel's go up.

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#27 Dr Furious
July 30 2013, 06:09PM
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Leafs need a better center, and Go Habs Go.

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#28 leafnerd
July 30 2013, 06:11PM
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Leafer4life is an absolute moron.

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