The St. Louis Blues’ 2020-21 season had its highs and lows but ultimately ended in disappointment after the team fell in four games to the Colorado Avalanche in Round 1. In this series, we’ll look back on the season, player by player, and evaluate each player’s performance as an individual, with an eye towards their future with the team.
At 35-years-old, Tyler Bozak demonstrated this season that he can still play at the highest level and find success along the way. He was one of the few bright spots for the Blues offence this season and was an integral part of the Blues penalty kill unit. Bozak’s terrific playmaking ability often leads his lines to success and gave his team a boost of energy each time he came onto the ice.
Bozak did have issues with staying healthy this year, forcing him to miss nearly half of the regular season. Bozak may not be producing to a level he once did, but there is no question he can still be a game-changer whenever his number is called.
What Went Right: Driving Force on Offence
It’s no secret that the Blues had their fair share of struggles this season on the offensive side of the puck, but Tyler Bozak was a key part of any success found. With fantastic hockey IQ and vision, Bozak easily created scoring chances for his teammates, whether in transition or while working within the offensive zone.
Bozak’s ability to read the ice allowed for him to find weaknesses in the defence, which he would exploit for his own gain. By utilizing his explosive skating ability to get dangerous shots off close to the net, Bozak kept defences on their heels whenever he entered the game and forced opponents to match his high-tempo pace.
Bozak’s biggest strength this season was undoubtedly his production as a member of the penalty kill unit. Able to showcase his speed and acceleration, he often caused disruption and the puck, leading to dangerous turnovers on the other end in favour of the Blues. Scoring two short-handed goals in the regular season, as well as one in the playoffs coming off an absolute snipe from the far side of the ice, Bozak excelled at putting the pressure on some of the top power-play units in the NHL.
With his plethora of success working with the puck, Bozak showed that even on the wrong side of 30, he has no problems playing at the high pace of today’s game. Based on his play this year, Bozak leaves no doubt that he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
What Went Wrong: Unfortunate Injuries
Bozak was fantastic for the Blues this season, with the biggest knock on his output coming from his overall games played. After missing 25 games this season, the Blues struggled without Bozak’s offensive abilities.
Bozak suffered a concussion in January after a hit from Vegas Golden Knights star Mark Stone. This hit sidelined him for a few months, only to return and develop a nagging upper-body issue afterwards.
None of these injuries were due to age or any fault of his own, all purely casualties from the physicality of the game. The severity and timeliness of these injuries hurt the Blues for the bulk of this season, but the blame is not placed on Bozak.
Had he been able to maintain a healthy season, Bozak was on pace to have another stellar year. Providing valuable minutes and production as a third-line centre, Bozak used his veteran knowledge and skillset to elevate his team’s play, but unfortunately for him and his team, his absence caused them to struggle for a large portion of the regular season.
- 3 shorthanded points (career-high)
- 56.8% on face-offs (career-high)
- 25 games missed
Final Grade: B
Overall, Bozak had a strong season. While injuries kept him sidelined for nearly half of the regular season, when he was healthy, Bozak made a major difference in the lineup. With his ample success on special teams and his ability to generate offence for the Blues, Bozak served to be a dependable and vital member for the club.
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Due to his limited amount of games played this season, Bozaks overall grade results as a solid “B”. Had he been able to stay healthy and take part in more games, we could have seen an increased output in his stats, as well as towards his teams success that could have resulted in a grade nearing the “A-” area.
What’s Next for Bozak?
Entering the 2021 NHL free-agency pool, the Regina-native may not be seeing any offers like the $15 million over three years he received from the Blues in 2018. It is hard to speculate on what kind of deal Bozak will be offered, but at 35 years old, it likely will not be long-tenured.
Bozak’s future with the Blues remains up in the air, but after this season, there should be no reason that the Blues don’t at the very least put out a team-friendly offer for him. After being a key member of their forward-core for the past three seasons, having a veteran presence that is familiar with their game-plan could be critical in the Blues’ quest to return to Stanley Cup contention.
Time will tell what Bozak will decide to do for his future, as his career is starting to come to a close. In what could be his last contract signed within the NHL, it will be an interesting process for Blues’ fans to keep their eyes on as we move closer to the opening of free agency on July 28th.
Originally from Owen Sound, Ontario, Matt Eichhorn has spent the past 4 years studying the field of Sport Media at Ryerson University. Eichhorn is a life-long hockey fan with experience working in a variety of media roles around the game. Currently, Eichhorn covers the St. Louis Blues for The Hockey Writers.