Ragin’ for Stajan: A Bozak Comparison

Funny thing about this claim, by any reasonable metric it’s 100% right. In the 55 games that Matt Stajan had his time overlap with Phil Kessel’s in Toronto Matt Stajan put up 41 points, a .745ppg pace, and not one that was entirely dependent on Kessel as Stajan was one of many centres rotated onto Kessel’s line. Arguably it was these numbers that made him capable of being a key piece in the deal that would bring Phaneuf to Toronto.

When you add in the games that Stajan played in Calgary that year, he would finish the season with 57 points (.69ppg), his career high, and the second time he would produce more than 50 points in a season during his career. Comparatively Bozak has one season that he has broken the 40 point plateau despite receiving more ice time than Stajan and playing with better linemates.

If you look at Stajan’s career point production at the same age as Bozak’s it is clear that with the exception of Bozak’s anomalous rookie campaign that Stajan is more offensively gifted. Perhaps there are other places where Bozak could close the gap.

Tyler Bozak ended last season with 1:38 ATOI on the PK unit to Stajan’s 1:57, but Bozak is averaging 7 seconds more a night than Stajan played when he was a Leaf. Bozak also sees 15 more seconds a night on the powerplay than Stajan had when he was a Leaf, though Stajan had 13 power play points with the Leafs that season to Bozak’s 9 in 46 games this season.

Since so much is made of Bozak’s faceoff ability it seems necessary to address this despite the minimal impact on overall performance. If you look at faceoffs last season it would appear that Stajan struggled with a 46.2% win percentage while Bozak had a solid season with a 52.6%, though there’s a funny thing about that too. Previous to this season Stajan never had below a 51% win percentage, and his last two seasons in Toronto he had 51.4% and 51.6%, both consistent with his career average. So the advantage we’ll give Bozak is he’s capable of winning two more faceoffs out of a hundred. That doesn’t seem overly significant especially when you consider how little Bozak can do with the puck once he gains control of it.

Looking at each player’s usage chart it supports the notion that Stajan has been consistently better than Bozak, though both are coming off of ridiculous campaigns that saw Stajan with a PDO of 1022 and Bozak with 1027.

Now that’s not to say that Matt Stajan didn’t struggle during his first couple of seasons in Calgary and find himself in the lower half of the forward group during those seasons he did. That’s also not to say that Bozak playing with Kessel didn’t outscore Stajan this season. He did. Even if you still think Bozak is better than Stajan it’s important to note that this is a player who was rumoured to be having the final year of his $3.5m a season deal bought out and compared to a player who just received a 5 year $4.25m a season deal signed and for there to only be marginal differences is discouraging. Stajan did have the better numbers age 23-26 and had better numbers with the Leafs than Bozak. I’m sure the Flames are happy to be done with Stajan when he is 30 at the end of the season. The Leafs  are committed to Bozak until he’s 32, 5 years away.

Congratulations Tyler Bozak for making me long for the days of having Matt Stajan as a first line centre. You truly are the worst.

  • beloch

    Wasn’t Stajan also centering Mats Sundin up until his final season as a Leaf. Wouldn’t that have affected his numbers similarly as Bozak centering Kessel?

  • OK a little context here in Bozak’s defence. While the comparison begins when each player is 23, it doesn’t reflect actual NHL experience. At 23 Stajan had 149 NHL gp already, while Bozak was a rookie, playing half of that year in the A. Bozak is only entering his 4th full season this year, a point when most offensive players have a break out campaign. Also, a proper comparison would also measure Kessel’s numbers while playing with each player. Kessel had a .78 Pts./G avg. while playing with Stajan 1 year vs. Kessel having a 1.08 pts./g avg. last year, and 1 pts./g the year before while playing with Bozak. With all of the Bozak bashing going on, it is important to look at the above info. to not let the hating get too out of control.

    • Stajan would have also been playing with a younger, not in his prime version of Kessel. Ideally you’d also have a player who is independently good and doesn’t solely rely on playing with Kessel. Another worthwhile point is that Cam has compared Kessel’s production with Bozak to his production with Grabovski and his numbers are better with (Grabbo) http://theleafsnation.com/2013/7/9/not-advanced-statistics-grabovski-is-still-better. Obviously Grabbo is more talented than either Bozak or Stajan, but it shows that his success is reliant on Bozak. The same way Greg Maddux kept Charlie O’Brien employed in baseball, Kessel is keeping Bozak in hockey. He’s the closest thing this sport has to a personal catcher.

      • Bozak is also not yet in his prime (only played 3 full seasons), so I guess it is too early to judge him as well. You seem too quick to discount Kessel’s exceptional production while playing with Bozak, and use a small sample size of instances where Kessel played with Grabbo to back up your claim. I’d also question Grabbo’s ability to be independently good, as he was outscored by McClement last year, while playing easier minutes, but that is another story. Most players need to play with good players in order to produce, this includes Kessel. Do you think Kessel puts up 100+ pts. if he is unchained from the awful boat anchor (opinions of some) that is Tyler Bozak? Maybe if he is with an Elite 1C, but those are hard to come by, and Grabbo is definitely not one.

        • Christian Roatis

          Bozak IS in his prime; just because it took him longer to reach the NHL than more talented players doesn’t mean his prime is off too. Age, not experience, determines prime. Also, Grabovski wasn’t asked to score points last year, he was asked to be a defensive stopper; a *monumentally* stupid thing to ask of him, but he did it, then got ripped by the coach for his lack of production. Unbelievable organization ya’ll have. Grabovski may not be an elite #1, but he’s at least a very good #2 (perhaps you remember what the MacArthur-Grabovski-Kulemin line was capable of), whereas Bozak really isn’t near good enough to be a top 6 forward, nor good enough defensively to be a bottom 6.

    • Christian Roatis

      So, because Kessel is better now that he’s entering his prime, that means Bozak is a better player than Stajan? I don’t think that’s logical at all.

  • 24% body fat

    Also, Stajan is a good player who does a lot of things well. He’s been a little bit miscast in Calgary, but did perform quite well when given an opportunity there last year, which is why he wasn’t bought out. I’d still rather have Bozak though.

  • This analysis is missing critical parameters. What about shoot outs, breakaway conversions and faceoffs? Also you didn’t include flow. And finally what about a corsi comparison?

    However, it is pretty clear to me that some fans want to whine. Just wait till bozak is gone and then people pine over Bozak like they now pine over stajan.

    • Christian Roatis

      That’s because all the advanced metrics have been used in [many] previous articles about Bozak’s lack of ability. They all rake him over the coals, by the way. But hey, his faceoffs will give you an extra goal every 15-20 games, so that’s better than Grabovski’s better Corsi and possession and points-per-60 numbers, right?

  • Christian Roatis

    Without knowing much about human anatomy and biology id assume a players prime is at age 24-27 or whatever because that’s when the human body is at its physical peak. Everyone’s different of course but that’s probably the age range for the average person.

    • Christian Roatis

      I think you guys are missing the point. The original point I was trying to make is that comparing a guy aged 23 with almost 2 seasons of experience (Stajan) with another 23 year old with 0 games experience (Bozak) and going from there is not a fair comparison. Experience matters a great deal, and often trumps the importance of the physical age of the player.

      • Christian Roatis

        No it doesn’t. Most players will improve after their rookie year, but you won’t improve significantly after age 27 (in just about all cases; there remain a few exceptions, of course, when using HGH and other PEDs). But essentially your point is that it’s okay that Bozak isn’t as good, because it took him longer to reach the NHL (because he wasn’t as good).

        • Christian Roatis

          Incorrect once again. Experience is what matters here, and offensive players tend to break out in their 4th season. Your statement regarding the age of 27 is flat out wrong, especially when applied to late developing college players like Bozak.

          • Christian Roatis

            How many late developing college players like Bozak are there though? They’re pretty rare comparatively. Even the better players out of college tend to produce at a high level in the NHL by their early 20’s (ie Kessel, Toews, Stepan, van Riemsdyk, Heatley, Vanek). Guys like St Louis don’t come along very often, hell even guys like Bozak are relatively rare.

            Offensive players who break out in their 4th season tend to be what, 22-24 years old? So sure, for a guy who enters the league at 18, 19,or 20 experience matters. For a guy who enters the league at 23, and is now 27, I’m skeptical that additional experience is going to mean a whole heck of a lot.

            People like Gabe Desjardins have looked at when players have historically peaked in terms of points per game. His work demonstrated that as a rule, players tend to peak around age 25. This doesn’t mean Bozak isn’t capable of bucking that trend – I just wouldn’t bank on it.

          • Christian Roatis

            Ok, first off, ignore the Jordan who wrote above he’s a tool. Now, some of you seem to be misunderstanding my point so I’ll put it this way. Do you expect a player to typically have more avg. Pts over years 1-3 of his career or do you expect more over years 4-6 and beyond? I think the answer is obvous but others don’t seem to. Bozak is older so maybe people expect more from him bc of this, but I dotnt think he has peaked yet. At the sane time, tons of players have their best seasons well after 27. There are more reasons to believe that the best is still to come with Bozak. Also, the analysis of the above article remains very weak bc of the facts already outlined.

  • Christian Roatis

    Why in the world would a fan here write abuut going away for the week, and telling us if another person by the same name writes a comment, it Won’t be from him.Stupid.

  • Christian Roatis

    This comparison is absurd, and further proof that there is clearly no statistic that properly measures good defensive play by an individual player.

    Stajan, like Grabovski, is an offensive player. Period. Neither have even been remotely good defensively, although Grabovski at least competes in his own end.

    (If your response to this point is to site possession statistics, please read and write my first sentence 1000 times on your nearest blackboard)

    Bozak, on the other hand, is an above average defensive player, who contributes on offence. Does he contribute enough offensively? That’s a fair debate.

    But it all comes back to point #1. If you think you can tell who is a better defensive player based on the stats, then go ahead and rank them that way.

    I think it’s a very flawed idea, and that when players are compared statistically it consistently favours the offensive player.

    • Christian Roatis

      I’m just curious as to what makes you think Bozak is an above average defensive player – because I’ve got no idea personally what it is. He did a good job killing penalties for 48 games? How about his play 5 on 5? Based on my own unreliable biases developed from watching games, all I remember is Bozak floating around and blowing coverage on backchecks. Want to argue with me about that? That’s cool – how are we going to do that? Want to get together sometime and sit down and watch all 48 games from last year and track every time Tyler Bozak goofs up in his own end? Want to go back a few years further? Or should I just take your word for it?

      It’s cool that you don’t think stats prove anything – that’a lot of people don’t. How about providing some other kind of evidence to substantiate your own claims? Otherwise I’m just taking the word of someone who has just tried to tell us all that Mikhail Grabovski is worse defensively than Tyler Bozak, and uh, I’ve got a real problem with that.

      • beloch

        “How about providing some other kind of evidence to substantiate your own claims?”

        Seeing as how I don’t think stats substantiate anything for a defensive player, the only real way IMO to talk about a players defensive worth is to analyze actual plays in games, etc.

        But I’m not asking you to take my word about anything. That wasn’t my point at all.

        In fact we can totally argue whether Grabovski is a better defensive player than Bozak. You can even use stats! Or we can, as I prefer, watch a game and talk about actual plays and what not.

        Indeed, I wasn’t arguing Bozak vs Grabovski at all.

        The point is, stats are never going to be conclusive in evaluating a players defence, which is a HUGE part of playing hockey.

  • beloch

    Flames fan here.

    Stajan is remarkable both for his mediocrity and consistency. His shots/minute rate has remained pretty much the same since he was in Toronto. Butter (Brent Sutter) absolutely despised him though, and his average TOI was slashed in half as a Flame. To make matters worse, his PDO cratered simultaneously and his point production showed the effects of both for two seasons after he came to Calgary. By the end of Butter’s reign he seemed to be struggling with a whipping-boy complex (he even called himself a whipping-boy in an interview). He was playing on the fourth or sometimes third line and, while not getting clobbered, was completely failing to take advantage of the goons and mooks he was facing.

    Last season, under Hartley, his TOI was restored, he was shuffled up to the top two lines, and his PDO finally regressed towards something that can be described at “not utterly cursed”. He was deployed against top competition and, as usual, had mediocre possesion. Still, mediocre possession against top competition is a triumphant comeback after his previous season!

    Stajan was definitely misused by Butter and the counting stats from his Butter years do not reflect the kind of player he is. You’re not going to get accurate results if you use data from his first two full seasons as a Flame to compare him with Bozak.

    This season the Flames will probably try to fluff up Stajan’s counting stats a little so they can get a good return for him. It’s a contract year for Stajan and it doesn’t make a lot of sense for him to re-sign with Calgary, so he’s definitely going to be on the auction block. Want him for a firstie? 😉 You guys are totally making the playoffs this year, so it’s a fair trade!