Yesterday, fellow college boy Scott Maxwell wrote an article entitled “5 Reasons Why The Leafs Should Trade Bozak Now”. It was, as one would expect, a dive into the benefits of firing the underperforming Leafs centre into the sun immediately, one which examined Bozak’s defensive woes throughout his career and his lackluster performance this season as justification to move him as quickly as possible.
’Tis the season, it seems. Articles calling for the longest-tenured Leaf to be traded seem to pop up around this time every year, likely due in large part to everybody’s amazement that yet another offseason has come and gone and Bozak remains a member of the team; a peculiar carry-over from those Ron Wilson and Brian Burke teams that we’ve otherwise scrubbed from our memories, and for good season.
What’s more is it’s hard to argue against a Bozak trade. His defensive woes are well-documented, spanning his entire career, and his ability to finish and be a consistent contributor on the team has always been questionable at best, and completely maddening at worst.
For this reason, this article will not be arguing against trading Tyler Bozak. Rather, it examines a few justifiable reasons to put a Bozak trade on the back-burner, for the time being at least.
1. Don’t Sell Low
This should be the most obvious reason.
Tyler Bozak has sputtered out of the gate this season, being demoted to the fourth line on numerous occasions and seeming to occupy an increasingly regular spot in Mike Babcock’s doghouse. And rightly so. He’s gone disastrously cold in the face-off circle, averaging 42.4% over his last three games, and has been pointless in four of his last five games (he did record one goal in the game against Los Angeles last week).
For this reason alone, trading Tyler Bozak right now makes absolutely no sense. In order to guarantee a decent return for him, the Leafs need to consider the importance of selling high, or at the very least not selling this god-awfully low.
The argument could be made that Bozak should have been traded during or after last season, a career year that saw Bozak finally break the 50-point plateau and put up 18 goals on a line that was led by Mitch Marner’s elite playmaking abilities. Of course, hindsight is 20-20 in regards to selling high, but now is absolutely not the time if you want anything decent in return.
2. He’ll Likely Bounce Back
As a follow-up to the first point, Tyler Bozak may be a polarizing figure, but he simply is not this bad.
As for what will be the catalyst for Bozak’s rebound if and when it does come, it’s tough to say. Part of this will boil down to Bozak’s individual play, but part of it is going to have to depend on his line getting going again. Mitch Marner has had a down season thus far but appears to be getting his legs underneath him in the last few games, and hopefully, the points will start to follow soon.
If Bozak’s line can start clicking again, hopefully he can get going again as well. It wouldn’t be out of the question to start exploring a trade once his value has increased again, but that will all be circumstantial. Right now, the Leafs’ number one priority in regards to Bozak should be getting him back to performing at or near his usual click and evaluating the situation from there.
3. Centre Depth Is Still An Issue
Barring getting a decent centre in return for Bozak via trade, the Leafs’ depth at centre beyond their NHL regulars is still an issue.
Assuming Bozak were to be traded without a centre coming back, the Leafs’ centre depth would consist of:
The above centre depth does not tell the full story, to be fair. William Nylander could theoretically be moved to centre, though that would mean separating one of the most dynamic duos in hockey. Patrick Marleau has logged some minutes at centre over the past few games of line-juggling, so this could work in theory, if only to avoid the Leafs’ bottom two lines being centered by Dominic Moore and Eric Fehr.
The biggest risk in the depth department would arise if the Leafs were to suffer an injury at centre. If Nazem Kadri or (God forbid) Auston Matthews were to go down and miss a significant amount of time, the Leafs could face a crisis down the middle even with Patrick Marleau slotting in as a stop-gap. In this sense, keeping Bozak, even if his production is modest, is better than risking the alternative when the going gets tough down the stretch.
4. Time A Trade Wisely
If the Leafs were absolutely dead-set on trading Tyler Bozak, even if his production does not bounce back, the least they could do would be to wait until a team is desperately in need, and attempt to shake something decent out of them in return.
Even if the Leafs remain miraculously healthy again this season, the injury bug will inevitably bite another team, and depth at centre will be needed. A desperate enough GM could be taken advantage of at an inopportune time, and could net a decent enough return to justify moving even a less-than-good Tyler Bozak. If his stock fails to rise naturally as the season goes on, it’s best to at least wait until the need is artificially inflated externally.
5. We Need More Kanon / Dad Moments
I mean, come on, who doesn’t need more of this in their lives?
This is not a Tyler Bozak Truther™ article as much as it’s an attempt to examine the downsides of making a knee-jerk move when the timing doesn’t make much sense.
The Leafs are currently mired in a losing skid, and people are understandably frustrated with the underperforms (and the non-performers) on the team right now. That being said, there is a fine line between the right time and the wrong time, and times can change quickly. If Bozak bounces back quickly or injuries arise elsewhere, pulling the trigger quickly on a Tyler Bozak trade might be in the Leafs’ best interest. However, selling this abysmally low on Tyler Bozak, especially considering the risks the Leafs would be running losing help down the middle, seems ill-advised, and could do more harm than good.