The Toronto Maple Leafs Tyler Bozak Experiment

Mike Smith February 9, 2013 1

Toronto Maple Leafs and the Tyler Bozak Experiment

Toronto Maple Leafs have thrust this 26-year-old former University of Denver Pioneers and British Columbia Hockey League leading scorer into a first line center.  The pressure is and will be on Bozak to produce in this shortened NHL season.  The Manitoba native has been with the Toronto Maple Leafs club since signing as a free agent back in 2009.  Looking at his stats back in 2009 at the time of signing I had placed him in the top six forward position and felt he could lead a second line power-play and support solid minutes up the middle behind a first line.

Is there an answer in a possible trade?

Here we are post lock out, 48 game season and as much as former General Manager Brian Burke attempted to find a first line center to feed Phil Kessel over the last season or so.  Is it enough?  Is Tyler Bozak an experiment in the eyes of Toronto Maple Leafs front office?  Is this the Tyler Bozak experiment and if it works stop looking for that number one power forward?

This is the NHL and a first line center is someone with a gifted ability to drive the puck deep into the offensive end of the ice but dictate the level of play.  Which leads me to this question;  Will we see a fumbling of the first line where James Van Reimsdyk gets a look at center?  Van Reimsdyk  must spend his time in front of the opposing teams net using his natural ability to find and push for loose pucks.  Will there be a JVR experiment in the making?

Early Number show that the Toronto Maple Leafs need a more productive first line

In no way am I pouncing on Tyler Bozak and saying he isn’t producing enough; just look at his stats along with James Van Reimsdyk and Phil Kessel leading into Saturday Night against Montreal.

Bozak – 3 goals and 4 assists with a total of 16 shots on goal

James Van Reimsdyke – 6 goals and 1 assist with a total of 37 shots on goal

Phil Kessel – 1 goal and 6 assits with a total of 46 shots on goal (Leads the team in shots on goal)

Phil Kessel continues to play hockey from the outside looking in

What is missing on the first line?  I think it is a productive first line center that can offer chances in front of the net.  Shots on goal and driving the puck into the middle of the ice.  Clearly this isn’t being done by Phil Kessel, who continues his shot attempts from outside the slot area and at poor angles.  All these shot attempts in line with Bozak being at the net just isn’t producing.  Yet, on the second line Nazem Kadri is getting into the right spots around the net to score.

The top line of the Toronto Maple Leafs is a joint -9 playing against other teams checking lines.  Something has to give!  As trade deadline approaches it is clear that Phil Kessel needs someone to play strong offensive hockey with.  James Van Reimsdyk and Phil Kessel being led up the middle of the ice now by a player that is a third line center at best on most teams.  Is Kadri too young for the number one center spot?  Should Kessel roll down to the number two spot and play against other teams top line and send Nicolai Kulemin to the top line?

The list of struggles in mediocre Toronto.

Nicolai Kulemin is a struggling right-winger.

Phill Kessel needs a first line center.

Tyler Bozak needs to drive the puck towards the net.

How does James Van Reimsdyk become the center of annoyance parked in front of the opposition net?

Will the Toronto Maple Leafs remain a mediocre team this year with the lines as they are or will Coach Randy Carlyle look for some new chemistry soon?

What are your thoughts?  Share them here or send me a note on twitter.  In our Leafs Forum I will post line combinations I would like to see.  Feel free to leave yours there as well.

Kadri using the open area of the ice