Get Kessel the puck and you essentially have a friend for life. Bozak understands this better than most and that is why their relationship works. He knows his limitations. He is not Joe Thornton or Jason Spezza. Instead, the no-frills puck distributor models his game after Boston’s Patrice Bergeron, a player who might not finish in the top 30 in scoring but who does so many other things — winning faceoffs, killing penalties, being strong defensively — that ultimately help his team win games.
Here we go again…
Quote from Phil Kessel in that article:
“Obviously he’s a good two-way player,” said Kessel, who has been living with Bozak for the past year. “He knows where I am on the ice. Now we’ve been playing together for a couple of years, we understand where each other is going to be and it makes life easier. He’s always looking to giving me the puck. I love playing with him a lot.”
I will give Bozak this: he’s okay at killing penalties. Last season, the Leafs gave up 41.9 shots against per 60 minutes at 4-on-5 time, good for fifth in the NHL. With Bozak on the ice, it was 45.2 (15.062 per 20 minutes times three), which would put him lower than the Leafs’ average, but would mean that a Leafs penalty kill unit that composed of only the times Tyler Bozak was on the ice would have been 12th in the NHL in shot prevention. Bozak did also, improve as a puck-possession player last season, posting his second ever positive Relative Corsi number, so he is improving as a two-way player.
But he’s not close to the style of player Patrice Bergeron is, and while this post may seem like beating a dead horse, I intend to beat it every time a myth about Bozak appears in the press. I like Traikos, but Traikos knows as well as anybody that Phil Kessel and the Leafs offence, for whatever, reason, does a lot better without Bozak on the ice than with Bozak.
With Kessel and Bozak on the ice, the Leafs score 2.60 goals per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 play. With Kessel and no Bozak, that’s increased by 28% to 3.32. That’s almost 900 minutes of play Kessel has played without Bozak, not some small pittance of a sample size. 867 minutes would have led all NHL forwards in ice-time during the 2013 campaign, and while I’d normally wait for about two seasons worth of data before forming a conclusion, the effect Bozak has on Kessel’s offence is dramatic enough than to wait for a conclusion.
As for two-way play, one of the things that makes Patrice Bergeron spectacular is that he makes every single player around him much better on both offence and defence. “Two-way” isn’t restricted to defence. There’s a case to be made that Bozak marginally makes his teammates more defensively responsible, he cuts everybody’s offence by so much that the Leafs don’t come out ahead.
Here is how teammates and opponents fare with and without Bozak. You see opponents do much better
without with him on the ice, and teammates fare slightly better off when they’re not on his side:
Corsi is all shot attempts, counting goals, saves, missed shots and blocked shots. If you think that quality of shots matters, check out goals. It’s a much more distinct look:
The Leafs score fewer than 45% of the goals with Bozak on the ice. The same teammates he plays with come in above even.
Perhaps there are other factors leading to that, but you should ask yourself: “if Tyler Bozak is such a good two-way player, why do his teammates produce much better results with Bozak off of the ice?”
As for faceoffs, I’ve covered this before. Bozak wins about 0.87 faceoffs per game more than a replacement faceoff-taker would. Tally up draws in the playoffs against Patrice Bergeron and you’ll find Bozak went 23-33—or 41%—not something to read in to, because it takes an awful lot of faceoffs to clearly separate oneself from the pack in the draw department, but Bozak really is out-matched against the elite faceoff-men in the game, the ones that win enough draws to be worth two possessions or more.
In the end, all I would like is for people to stop bringing up these outrageous myths about Bozak, or at least have the decent sense and courage to call him out on it. The reality is that Bozak is a decent option as any as a third-line centre, paid like a second-line centre, and plays as much as a first-line centre. He’s not young anymore. At 27, he’s at his physical peak and probably as good as he’s ever going to get.
No more Bozak myths. Please. If you cut it out with the myths, I’ll cut it out with the endless posts about Bozak.