To what extent have the Leafs missed Tyler Bozak?

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Tyler Bozak didn’t make his return to game action at the behest of team doctors on Saturday night. The worry with Bozak is that his hamstring issue may be a nagging one for him this season, given he wanted to play despite the doctor’s orders and was limping around the practice rink the day before.

In any event, we’ll find out as the day progresses if Bozak will play his first game since exactly a month ago today against the same opponent he sustained the injury, the Columbus Blue Jackets.

Update:

 

Since that October 25 injury, his usual running mates James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel have been playing less minutes and producing less consistently:

 JvR TOI/gKessel TOI/gJvR Points Per GameKessel Points Per Game
Before Bozak Injury21:07:4620:17:161.0 (9 in 9)1.09 (12 in 11)
After Bozak Injury19:15:2117:50:100.58 (7 in 12)0.75 (9 in 12)

The reality is that the problem is far more complicated than to arrive at a simple “Bozak’s gone” causation.

The intimation here is not that Tyler Bozak is the team’s vastly underappreciated number one center who is doing thankless work away from the puck that allows Kessel and JvR to produce at optimal levels. The fact of the matter is that Kessel’s production history is better without than with Tyler Bozak.

His absence has, however, contributed to throwing the lineup out of whack and a reduction in JvR and Kessel’s minutes.

Indeed, this is perhaps more accurately labeled a “Leafs obliterated down the middle” issue, of which Bozak is a part, as opposed to exclusively a “Bozak’s out” issue.

When Bozak first went down, Kadri jumped onto the top line and Kessel, JvR and Nazem combined for a whopping 15 points over three games against the Penguins, Oilers and Flames. Once Dave Bolland went down to injury in the Vancouver game, the struggles for the duo began. In order to try to balance the lineup, Carlyle shifted JvR to center and bumped Naz down a spot. The JvR at center experiment saw JvR-Kessel duo amass a total of one point, a Kessel goal on the powerplay, over the four games. Also in the mix was a three-game suspension to Kadri.

Are those time on ice numbers different if Bolland was available? Without a doubt. Kadri could have kept on centering Kessel and JvR without the need for change. And when Kadri was suspended, Bolland would have been centering the top line without much issue, as Carlyle trusts Bolland a great deal.

But we’re also aware that Carlyle trusts Bozak to center the team’s dynamic offensive duo, and Kessel and JvR’s minutes and production are down at least in part due to his absence. Even if it’s just for the penalty kill and getting the top line back to its familiar set up and ice time, the Leafs could use #42 back in the lineup.

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Alec Brownscombe is the founder of MapleLeafsHotStove.com, where he has written daily about the Leafs since September of 2008. He was also the editor of the 2009-12 Maple Leafs Annuals. You can contact him at [email protected]
  • http://i.imgur.com/MyKj5C3.gif ingy56

    Well, one silver lining is Phil’s had dinner waiting every evening.

  • BERNYAY

    A fair look at the situation.
    I still hope he’s back tonight, as a non Bozak fan.

  • phaneufoundlander

    ingy56 lol….awesome

  • phaneufoundlander

    @BERNYAY 4.2 Million per still blows my mind

  • TheGroobster

    http://mapleleafs.nhl.com/v2/ext/live/

    Was this the game liles got smoked?

  • vinoa

    phaneufoundlander UFA price. Is Clarkson really worth a 7 year contract? Cost of the salary cap era.

  • Great Dane

    Alec, I believe that it should be split in different buckets:
    With Kadri, Bolland
    WithJVR at center

    My gut feeling is that Kadri, Bolland improves production, JVR at center was not a hit and worse than without Bozak and Holland. Holland or Bozak would be about the same production from JVR and Kessel

  • Mind Bomb

    vinoa phaneufoundlander Yes Vinoa, very much so, Clarkson is worth every penny :) He has points in 4 of his last 5, hits, fights, forechecks like mad, excellent possesion player. 
    IMHO

  • Great Dane

    vinoa phaneufoundlander not in pure production, but he adds other dimensions.

  • vinoa

    Great Dane  I dunno. Holland hasn’t looked completely out of place with JVR n Kessel. Seems to at least have some top end skill unlike Bozak.