Has future Canuck Tyler Bozak been mis-cast in Toronto?

I’ve been repeatedly hammering the point that if Tyler Bozak were to come to Vancouver as the major piece in exchange for Roberto Luongo, the Canucks lose on the deal. There was my own surprise over at The Leafs Nation that Bozak even carries trade value, and I very much agreed with Dimitri’s post here over at Canucks Army last month.

But things like this keep popping up:

Vancouver has already flirted with the idea of acquiring a centre in a possible Roberto Luongo trade. One of them is Tyler Bozak, who Vancouver believes has been miscast in Toronto and, if acquired, could slot into the Canucks third-line centre hole, and do it nicely.

Jason Botchford, who has given Canucks Army writers the slogan “meticulous, number-crunching whizzes” continues to repeat that the Canucks have interest in Tyler Bozak. I can think of two reasons for this, a) the team is legitimately interested in Bozak, or b) it’s the lockout, he’s bored, and he’s trolling us.

For the purposes of this post, let’s assume it’s a).

When we say “mis-cast”, what does that mean with Bozak. How has he been cast? Well, with Mikhail Grabovski having sewn up all the second-line minutes, Bozak was shuffled between the first line with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul and a make-shift third line.

In the above Leafs Nation post, I suggested that Bozak was “mis-cast” not as a first liner last season, but as an NHL player. When Phil Kessel escaped the clutches of Tyler Bozak over the last two seasons, he has a puck-possession rate of 48.9%, according to Hockey Analysis. When the two are together, Kessel’s possession rate actually dips, to a mere 47.6%. How come?

Well, the general consensus is that Tyler Bozak just isn’t particularly good at hockey. He went undrafted for a reason, didn’t see his first NHL game until age 23 for a reason, and is only the third most trusted centreman (behind Grabovski and David Steckel) on a very weak team for a reason. He simply doesn’t have the tools to put it all together at the NHL-level.

But don’t ask me, ask Leaf fans. I posed the question to the Barilkosphere (named for famed Tragically Hip song subject Bill Barilko) what they thought of Bozak, or whether they thought he could handle Malhotra’s minutes. I apologize in advance for the bogus formatting, and think Twitter really needs to work on their embedding options:













Generally, there just isn’t a huge amount of optimism surrounding Leaf fans about this guy. Of course, the question posed is whether or not Bozak has been “mis-cast” not whether he’s any good.

Here are a couple of Bozak’s Behind the Net stats, his overall possession number per 60 minutes (Corsi), his offensive zone start rate (Ozone%) and his quality of competition (Corsi Rel QoC). I’ve also stacked him up against two successful Canuck third liners, and their two seasons before joining the Canucks:

  Corsi Ozone% Corsi Rel QoC
Bozak 2012 -4.99 52.5% 0.340
Bozak 2011 -7.12 52.4% 0.239
Malhotra 2010 6.61 45.3% 0.365
Malhotra 2009 1.21 43.4% 0.539
Higgins 2010 0.60 50.6% 0.615
Higgins 2009 -4.74 42.6% 0.438

Spot the differences here. Higgins and Malhotra both played tough minutes for poor possession clubs but had much better seasons that Bozak moving the puck. They also never had the luxury of playing alongside Phil Kessel, a natural centreman playing wing who does all the heavy zone-entry work. Bozak takes the face-offs, and though is pretty good at them, he still doesn’t translate puck touches into anything truly conducive to driving the play forward.

If not Bozak for Luongo, then who?

My own honest theory as a member of both the Canucks and Leafs blogospheres and being generally aware of each teams’ strengths and weaknesses has me pretty sure that there isn’t a match to be made regarding a Roberto Luongo trade without one team making out as a significant winner. Vancouver are building a championship roster and Toronto have so few players at every position that trading any of them even close to Luongo’s level will leave them handicapped at any spot.

The only way for the above image (courtesy @manbearpiglpu) to become a reality is if one team takes on a bunch of added salary or there’s some form of three-way deal. I can see other ways of Tyler Bozak landing up in a Canucks sweater (a player such as Keith Ballard is of more use to Toronto than Vancouver) but given the quality of Luongo as a hockey player, he’s not worth giving up because the Canucks might see some value in Bozak as a third-line centreman.

If they were looking for Dave Bolland, a proven player in that role at the top of his game, that’s a different story.

  • asdf

    I respect Botchford, I really do. Maybe I’m misremembering, but when Canucks traded for miscast players (e.g., Higgins, Lapierre) or even when they traded for Kassian, there was not a whiff of the name they were aiming for coming up. If there’s a sleeper target, my guess is we would never hear about it until it happened. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if the opposite were the case, namely that Canucks brass spreads mis-information, or only partial truths.

    If Bozak can take face-offs, maybe he’s possible for a different Malhotra role, namely 4th line d-zone centreman. And then Lapierre might be tried in the 3rd line role. Then a trade for Ballard would be possible.

  • asdf

    Much like everyone else, I can’t see any reason for the Canucks to be asking for Bozak. I suppose they think he might make for an OK winger as birky suggested, but then Botch goes on how they see him as a fit for 3rd line C. Don’t see how he’s a better option than Schroeder or Lapierre. If they want someone who can play 3rd line C and move up if need be, sign Arnott. That way they’re not wasting what is essentially their only trading chip on a worthless asset like Bozak.

    And I have a hard time believing that the return is just going to be Bozak and Kadri. If that’s all I don’t see why it didn’t get done in June. Kadri’s a nice piece, and brings an element I think the team lacks, but one nice piece and one worthless one does not a good return make. Has to be more to it.

  • asdf

    Despite being force fed Leaf games every Saturday on HNIC I can’t say Bozak ever stood out. I’d find it tough to swallow seeing him in any part of a Luongo deal. What exactly does he do well ?

  • asdf

    Great article Cam, I’ll make sure to send this to Gillis via twitter.

    If Gillis brought Bozo on board, I’d pretty much lose it. Stats and the eye test tell us all we need to know about him, how can the Canucks scouts believe otherwise? The Canucks scouts have come up with a lot of busts, esp in the draft. I would demand they all be fired if they thought Bozo was a legitimate option.

    Not only is he a bad NHLer on the ice, his off ice activities are David Booth like IMO. 3 years ago he went to a Halloween party with a painted black face. He caught a lot of flack for it. He thought it was such a great idea he did the same thing this Halloween. He has idiot written all over him. Anyone who is that out of touch needs to go elsewhere, or stay in Tor with Burkie. Match made in heaven.

  • elvis15

    I share the opinion that he’s not worth giving up a lot for, despite his decent point production and face off percentage. What I did find interesting though, was your article-ended point about Ballard being more useful to Toronto – potentially enough to warrant a trade involving Bozak without any Luongo connections.

    I would have thought Toronto had enough D, even if they might like another top 2/4 guy. They’ve already got Phaneuf, Liles and Gardiner (with Rielly in the pipeline now) as top end guys. Then there’s Holzer, Gunnarson, Blacker and the Leafs own paid-a-lot-but-doesn’t-play-like-it version of Ballard in Komisarek. Seems to me they’re pretty well set unless they get a real upgrade.