Recently, Tyler Bozak gave us reason to question his off-ice decision making skills, when he posted a picture of himself going "blackface" as part of a Halloween costume. Whether you think it was racist or not, there’s no denying that it showed some questionable judgement on his part. Now, I’m not trying to throw cold water on it, because it’s an issue that is certainly worth discussing. But at this point, everything that needs to be said has already been said.
Instead, let’s take a look at Tyler Bozak the player, rather than the person. It makes sense to do this, because after all, it’s what we do best on this platform.
Considering that I live Vancouver, I have watched an unjustifiably large amount of Toronto Maple Leafs hockey over the past few years. Whether it’s TSN, or more prominently, Hockey Night in Canada, they have been unrelentingly shoved down my throat. It turns out that the pull towards the centre of the universe is quite strong. But I’m a sucker for hockey, so I stick around.
I feel like I have taken in enough Leafs hockey to know that Tyler Bozak is not the answer, regardless of the question. Which is why I have found the reports that Tyler Bozak would be the centerpiece of a package coming to Vancouver in return for Roberto Luongo rather perplexing. Things got real this past weekend, when Jason Botchford – in a Twitter dialogue with fans of the team – made it clear that the Canucks seem to value Bozak as a third line centre.
Am I personally missing something, or is it Mike Gillis and company that are losing the plot?
Click Past the Jump to Find Out.
As Cam Charron wondered out loud on Leafs Nation the other day, why exactly does Tyler Bozak carry some sort of trade value? It’s a question that I have been asking myself for the past few days, trying to grasp at some sort of a viable answer. During times like these, I find it’s best to play a little game to ease the mind. Below are last season’s numbers for three different players. Can you guess who’s who?
Player B is Cody Hodgson, who as Canucks fans surely remember, was handed exceptionally soft minutes in an attempt to make him more appealing to potential trade partners. There was a lot made about how that indirectly hurt the team.
Ironically enough, Player A played was sheltered to an even greater extent than Hodgson last season. That player is none other than Mr.Bozak, who the Canucks are unfortunately considering as a viable option for a position that requires taking on the "heavy lifting" in the defensive zone. Bozak – a negative possession player when piggybacking onto Kessel – saw his offense fall off of the map when he was removed from the top line. He’s the definition of a replacement-level player; he’ll never make anyone better, and he’ll get whatever he is spoon-fed with. And that’s it.
What does it say about Tyler Bozak, that he was a marginally effective player last season, while playing his minutes against secondary competition next to a dynamic forward like Phil Kessel (whom he was attached at the hip to for roughly 85% of his shifts)? What’s going to happen to him when the player streaking down his right wing is Chris Higgins? And what’s going to happen when his minutes are chopped down substantially, and his near three minutes of power play action are taken away?
Now, in fairness to Bozak, he does have one discernible skill in his arsenal – winning faceoffs. He was above average in the circle last season, taking 1198 of them along the way. For a team that is structured the way that the Canucks are, this skill holds more clout. Remember, the one thing that the bottom six needs to be able to do is to win a draw in its own zone, and get the heck out of there.
But in reality, we’re talking about a guy who would at best fill a spot on the team that doesn’t even really need filling. Which brings us to Player C. I have been pushing Player C’s candidacy for the gig for a while now, and with good reason. His name is Max Lapierre, and he is quite clearly the best option available. I’m not sure what the deal is, but for some reason, the Canucks seem reluctant to hand the keys over to him – heck, they even thought a washed-up Sammi Pahlsson would be a better alternative.
Lapierre has definitely proven to be somewhat of a loose cannon over the years, but he seemed to reign it in last season, playing a smarter game. In fact, last season he drew penalties at a higher rate than he took them. He also excelled in that particular role during the team’s run to the Stanley Cup final, and has all the tools to handle it on a full-time basis. With his contract coming up this summer, it would behoove the Canucks to see it through. Chances are that he won’t be able to replicate what Malhotra did pre-eye injury, but he has shown that he can play the role of ‘enabler’ adequately.
And I can’t say that Tyler Bozak has shown anything during his two and half years in the league that would lead me to believe that he could. There are people out there that will try to sell you on the fact that Bozak has been "miscast", being used in a way in which he can’t properly flourish during his time in Toronto. Unfortunately, I’ve yet to hear a valid basis for this argument. Although it’s possible that he has a lot of heart, I guess. Replacement-level players usually seem to.
Tyler Bozak is who we think he is. And I’m not particularly keen on the idea of "crowning his ass" as a reasonable return for an elite goaltender (anchor of a contract or not), mostly because he’s a hockey player that isn’t all that good at the game of hockey.
I’ll let the man who he would ultimately be traded for have the final word: