Toronto Maple Leafs: The Curious Case of Tyler Bozak
It's going to be a busy summer for Toronto Maple Leafs President and General Manager Brian Burke. He's got to re-sign key players like Luke Schenn, Clarke MacArthur and James Reimer, while worrying about adding more talent up front to bolster the offense.
Yes, he's sure got work to do, but one big question he'll have is what to do with Tyler Bozak.
After playing at the University of Denver, the undrafted centerman was signed by the Leafs in 2009 and made his debut with the club late in the 2009-10 season. He looked to be an immediate stud, recording eight goals and 27 points in 37 games—garnering some to suggest he would be up for rookie of the year consideration had he played a full season.
The future looked bright for Bozak, who entered the 2010-11 season as one of the top centers on the team, vying to prove he belonged in the NHL and in the club's top six.
Needless to say, it didn't exactly go well.
Bozak played all 82 games—45 more than the year before—and recorded just 32 points—five more than the year before. He also finished the year with one of the worst plus/minus ratings in the entire league, at minus-29.
It was not the season he, nor the team, was looking for as far as improvement, and his step back in progression now has some wondering if he's NHL material, let alone worthy of a new contract.
He's a restricted free agent as of July 1, but does he even deserve a spot on the team.
Bozak certainly is not No. 1 center material. Heck, slotting him in as your No. 2 is also a stretch. His role, if at all, is probably going to be serving as a third-line center, while seeing time on the penalty kill as well—a role he fills effectively.
And frankly, if he is in the top six at the beginning of the 2011-12 season for the Leafs, then Burke has not done enough to improve the club. It is no secret the team needs more skill up front, and without that, they'll be stuck in a similar situation they were in this year.
And too many more season's without playoff hockey in this city might spark the next Great Depression—or are we already in the 44th year of that?
So while Burke furiously takes care of the big names on the club, while looking to add a few more, keep in mind there's a decision to be made with Bozak this summer. Does he have a place on the Leafs or not?
Fans have their opinions, as does Burke, no doubt, but in the end it will come down what Bozak's done already in his career, and what he can do in the future. Which one outweighs the other might answer the question.
And for players who perform poorly in the NHL these days, finding a new contract isn't the easiest thing in the world. And for the Leafs, if a mediocre player Bozak isn't deemed good enough to make the club, it probably proves the club is that much closer to ending this playoff drought.
Now, we wait and see. As per usual.
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