Tyler Bozak: First Line Center?

Jan 31, 2013; Toronto, ON, Canada; Toronto Maple Leafs center Tyler Bozak (42) faces off against Washington Capitals center Matt Hendricks (26) at the Air Canada Centre. The Maple Leafs beat the Capitals 3-2. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports

A lot of talk has surrounded the name Tyler Bozak since he started playing first line center for the Toronto Maple Leafs (a lot of talk would surround anyone who took that position, it is the Leafs). Lately however the talk has been about replacing him, which is bizarre to me because if there is anything about the first line that isn’t working, Bozak isn’t it. Leaf fans seem to think that the team needs a real first line center but I don’t believe that is the case.

Currently Tyler has 12 points, 5 goals and 7 assists, and a plus/minus of -2. These are mediocre stats for a first line center but being a first line center isn’t always about the goals. Bozak’s most impressive stats are in the faceoff department. He is number 3 in face offs taken with 529 and has a percentage of 54.8. To put this in perspective, number one is currently Claude Giroux with 587 face offs and a percentage of 53.8 and number 2 is Sidney Crosby with 565 face offs and a percentage of 56.8.

One rumor I have heard is that there is talk of replacing Bozak with Joe Colborne, who is currently with the Toronto Marlies. I think this idea is completely absurd. There is a huge difference between playing in the AHL and playing in the NHL, and it would be a huge jump for Joe to start his career as a first line center for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Don’t get me wrong I love Joe and think he’s great, but for a fan base that is sensitive about rushing players this move makes absolutely no sense to me and I highly doubt it will ever happen.

The problem with the first line is not Bozak and if you take a look at some of the other stats the league keeps track of its starts to become clear who the real problem is. Two stats that I find particularly important are takeaways and hits. Currently Bozak is number one on the team in takeaways with 19, James van Riemsdyk is number 2 with 13, and the other first liner Phil Kessel is number 11 with 6. In hits, Bozak is number 10 on the team with 29, JVR is number 12 with 26 and Kessel is number 22 with 6 (Now I’m not saying that all forwards need to have 92 hits like Leo Komarov but if you’re on the ice for the amount of time Kessel is you should have more than 6). These numbers are troubling especially since the only people with fewer hits than Kessel haven’t played for more than 3 games. The takeaways stat is even more troubling as Kessel has less than half the amount that his line mates do. It seems to me that Kessel is the one not pulling his weight on the first line not Bozak.

I think that trading Bozak would be a mistake at this point, because even if you do trade Bozak it is not going to solve the “number one center problem” Leaf fans seem to think they have.

Topics: James Van Riemsdyk, Phil Kessel, Toronto Maple Leafs, Trade Rumors, Tyler Bozak

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  • Tim Bayer

    Hits and takeaways? Really? Phil Kessel isn’t a strong defensive forward. He isn’t going to crash and bang, that’s not his game. Phil Kessel’s job is to score goals and put up points. Five goals and 17 points in 23 games may be a little low for him, but he’s also been victim to a 6% shooting percentage. He’s still generating chances and has shown great chemistry with James van Riemsdyk. Bozak isn’t gifted offensively. He could be a fine third-line centre, perhaps, but he clearly isn’t the answer on the first line. He’s up for a new contract in the off-season, so if he’s asking for first-line centre money, he shouldn’t be given it. In that case, the Leafs would be smart to deal him and use that money to take a run at Ryan Getzlaf.

    • Katrina Capp

      How come Phil is allowed to have a slow year but Tyler isn’t. Kessel’s name buys him a free pass and causes everyone to be blind to the fact that his luck has run out. He has a 6% shooting percentage because he doesn’t think when he shoots the puck, he is too afraid of getting hit. To be on the first line you need to have some defense, 6 hits and 6 takeaways is unacceptable. I’m not saying he has to be Komarov but at least do something. If you think Bozak isn’t good enough for the first line what makes you think Kessel is?

      • Tim Bayer

        Because Kessel is one of the best offensive players in the league. Luck? Seriously? I’m pretty sure four consecutive 30-goal seasons proves he’s good at scoring. Bozak’s career high is 18 goals and 47 points, and he’s already 26 years old which means he’s probably hit his peak. Please stop making up bogus narratives to fuel your inexplicable vendetta against Phil Kessel.