Last week I wrote a post entitled “Can Bozak Be Toronto’s Bergeron” and, understandably, I took a lot of flak for it (see comments). I thought that I’d take the opportunity to clarify what I was trying to get at, because it was clearly missed by some readers. Bergeron, it could be argued, is one of the best players in the NHL. If I were a GM, he would likely be among my first choices of players, one which I could build my team around. The reason being is that I believe that a two-way center that is effective (and consistent) in the face-off circle is quintessential to a team’s success.
A Component for Success
Staring with that premise, why did I write the article comparing the two players? The Leafs, despite being in a play-off position, are not a team anyone would currently hang a hat on. There’s certainly some talent, but there is a even more inconsistency. My post, therefore, wanted to compare how Bergeron stacks up against Bozak, given that I feel a Bergeron-esque player is necessary to be successful in the current NHL. What the statistics I presented revealed, is that Bozak is being used much like the Bruins use Bergeron (note that in the time between these two posts, Bozak now has taken the 2nd most face-offs in the NHL): lots of ice-time, lots of shifts, and in different scenarios at both ends of the ice (5v5, PK, PP). I certainly think Bergeron is a much better defensive forward then Bozak is, but I think what he may lack defensively, he might make up for with speed and offensive talent.
This begs the question: is Bozak a reasonable facsimile of Bergeron? And if not, should Nonis pick up his phone (for once) and make a trade? If he is, then he’s a bargain at his current salary. Personally, I quite like Bozak and think that he’s certainly worth his Leafs salary (and if he continues to score this season, maybe a bit more). That said, I don’t think he’s quite the player the Leafs need him to be. This brings me to my motivation for writing this post: the Leafs (i.e. Nonis) have spent their salary cap dollars so unwisely, that there really isn’t any room to bring in the player that they need.
Why does it matter?
Bozak in the Leafs last game against the Jets, went a deplorable 33% in the face-off circle. Kadri, on occasion, can pick up this slack but he was scratched for the night due to injury. The Jets, in this example, were 61% from the face-off circle – definitely a troubling number, and even worse, were 69% in the Leafs zone. Unsurprisingly, the Leafs allowed 40 shots and 5 goals. This game is just an illustration of where the team lacks the depth (and thus consistency) to win games. Until they shore up their roster, half-measures (read: firing Carlyle) won’t change much. Unfortunately, Nonis and his poor deal-making skills may have sealed Toronto’s fate for the foreseeable future.
Economist/epidemiologist interested in the intersection between sports analytics (advanced stats) and intuition.