Front and Center: As Lights Dim in Toronto, Bozak Gets a Chance To Shine

Jon NeelyAnalyst IJanuary 13, 2010

TORONTO - SEPTEMBER 22:  Tyler Bozak #42 of the Toronto Maple Leafs shoots during warmup before playing the Pittsburgh Penguins during a pre-season  NHL game at the Air Canada Centre on September 22, 2009 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada .  (Photo by Abelimages/Getty Images)
Abelimages/Getty Images

It's about that time of year in Leaf land. The losses are less and less painful to watch as the numbness sets in on yet another disappointing season.

What makes it worse this season is that the Leafs in fact have a worse record than they did at this point last year. Frankly it's depressing, but as another night ends with a loss in Toronto, we the fans get more and more used to it.

So let's do our best to try and get over the fact that the Leafs don't have a first round pick after this year, or that the team looks about as effective as a beached whale, and look at something positive about the team. Anything.

And that anything could come in the form of Tyler Bozak.

Much has been made about the "center for Kessel" campaign, and though Tuesday night against the Hurricanes was Bozak's first game playing along side the Leafs prized sniper, he sure looked like he fit rather nicely.

He pitched in with one assist in his 15 minutes of ice time and was able to showcase a bit of that passing talent he has. Ron Wilson had him playing on a line with Kessel and Nikolai Kulemin for the duration of the night in a losing effort.

That assist means that Bozak now has two points in his two career games; both coming this season.

He even had some time on the power play and looked as if he could be effective in that role in the future. The 23-year-old also won five of seven face offs, an area the Leafs need to improve in with Mikhail Grabovski and Wayne Primeau out with injury for the next few weeks.

Overall it was an excellent second game in the career of Bozak, who is most likely up with the big club (if you can even call them that anymore) for a while now. He has a shot to cement his spot on the team for future endeavors if he can prove to be the guy (at least for now) who can center Kessel effectively.

Because God knows it ain't working out with anyone else on the team.

No word yet on whether Wilson plans on using the same Kessel-Bozak-Kulemin combination in the upcoming game against Philadelphia on Thursday night, but the three did combine for a plus one, three points, and seven shots in the 4-2 loss.

This isn't your usual Toronto-style hype-job of the "savior" finally getting his chance to take the Leafs back to Stanley Cup glory, because we all know how that's gone in the past decade or so; come out, come out where ever you are, Justin Pogge. This is a chance for a guy to show that he could be the missing link in the Kessel can't score saga.

Most likely Bozak is not the future number one center for the Leafs, but as far as this season goes; he's got as good a chance as anyone to be the interim number one and help this team finish out the final 35 games strong.

And if his first two games are any indication, it could be a successful second half of the season for Bozak

Whether or not that holds true for the Leafs, well, there's still a glimmer of hope when it comes to the playoffs. Unfortunately hope might just be all we have at this point.