Tyler Bozak espouses Tyler Bozak myths; is not Patrice Bergeron

Ugh, I don’t want to get into this again. From Michael Traikos:

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.

Here are statistics from the last three seasons, via Hockey Analysis:

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.

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  • Peachy

    I think you’re getting a bit paranoid Cam…

    The article clearly gives the impression that Bozak is not, in fact, comparable to Bergeron. In Bozak’s own words, no less:

    “Obviously, he’s a guy that I would love to be even close to his level”

    Traikos further uses paragraphs such as the below to demonstrate that he’s skeptical of Bozak’s capabilities.

    “That line of thinking would not work on most teams, where the No. 1 centre is one of the most important positions. But if the Leafs are weaker down the middle with Bozak and the inexperienced Nazem Kadri as their top two centres, they are deep on the wings with Kessel, Lupul, van Riemsdyk and David Clarkson.”

    The only bit that’s truly incorrect is an off-hand comment at the end: “because of his chemistry with Kessel.”

    I dunno, I’d just let it go and pick a better (or new) battle.

    • BayStParade

      Peachy nailed it. You can model your game after anybody you want but that doesn’t make you as good as they are. That’s what you try to emulate. If I was a centre in the NHL that wasn’t Crosby, Stamkos, Tavares and a few others of course I would want to model my game after Bergeron. Why wouldn’t you? He’ll have 500 points by the time he’s 30, is one of the top faceoff guys in the league and went from playing top 6 minutes in Boston to play 2 a game in the Olympics without complaining. I would take him on the Leafs any day. Its better than Bozak modelling his game after someone like Olli Jokinen. We get that you don’t like Bozak but find a new target you’ve beat this one to death

  • “I love playing with him a lot.”
    “I love playing with him a lot.”
    “I love playing with him a lot.”
    “I love playing with him a lot.”
    “I love playing with him a lot.”

    I cannot get enough of this line.

  • BayStParade

    The charts above are from the past three seasons.. I would be curious to see the breakdown per season rather than totals. Sure, Bozak isn’t an elite centre, but he has improved since 2010 and I would think the numbers reflect this.

  • There is more to hockey than analytics.

    Sooner Cam realizes this, the brighter he will be.

    Lupul, JVR, and Kessel all have had great seasons with Bozak as center.

    Winning is the name of the game, not compiling meaningless possession stats or 58pts on a losing team.

  • How about a pie chart of how many goals Bozak prevents when JVR and Kessel are up ice trying to score goals?

    Seems simple doesn’t it for bloggers who do not have an agenda against Bozak.

    Maybe Cam you never got over Grabovski being bought out since he is analytics poster boy for failure.

    Problem with Grabovski when he didn’t possess the puck, he didn’ have a clue how to play without it. Something Bozak does.