Oct 12, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Toronto Maple Leafs head coach Randy Carlyle watches during the warm up before a game against the Edmonton Oilers at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Nick Turchiaro-USA TODAY Sports

Nazem Kadri vs. Tyler Bozak and the Leafs' Failing Meritocracy

The word I would associate Randy Carlyle‘s run with the Toronto Maple Leafs so far is “meritocracy”. Meritocracy is defined as:

  • A system in which advancement is based on individual ability or achievement.

Randy Carlyle was praised for running the leafs based more on a system of playing better equals more ice time. According to some in the media, his work with players and being a more direct coach in comparison to the previous regimes help led the Leafs to their first playoff appearance since 2004.

In case you don’t know what my position is on Randy Carlyle the coach, I’ll briefly give you my take; I believe Randy Carlyle is an average coach. An average coach. His teams have been poor in puck possession, his line matching abilities are overrated, and he was lucky in having the fourth-highest save percentage while in Anaheim. The only thing that I can positively say about him as a coach is he has a Stanley Cup ring. I’d go further but why would I when the good people at Pension Plan Puppets did it in five elegant parts.

The idea of the Leafs being run by a meritocracy is false. The reality is the Leafs are being moulded to the ideologies that Randy Carlyle believes in: toughness, tenacity, and other intangibles that some believe are real and others think are not. Carlyle obviously has every right to mould his team however he sees fit, but confusing it with a meritocracy is silly and borderline stupid.

Nazem Kadri has played just over 59 minutes of five-on-five time this year (before last night’s game vs. Edmonton). Tyler Bozak has played just over 77 minutes in the same situation. While Bozak has gotten 32.6% of his starts in the offensive zone, Kadri has a paltry 24.6 via Extra Skater. Despite this and the small dirty fact that Bozak has been the number-one centre for the Leafs, Kadri has outperformed him possession-wise:

CA/TMCA Corsi% CF/TMCF
Tyler Bozak 1.12 0.436 0.95
Nazem Kadri 1.02 0.488 1.24

So far this year, Kadri has been much better defensively than Bozak and his teammates suffer when he’s off the ice, compared to Bozak who’s pretty much average in this department. This isn’t just based off a five-game sample, either. Here’s last year’s table:

CA/TMCA Corsi% CF/TMCF
Tyler Bozak 0.98 0.452 1.03
Nazem Kadri 0.94 0.471 1.07

Though not as decisive, there’s still an advantage for Kadri in this debate. This brings up the myth of fair being fair on the Leafs. If Bozak is being outplayed by Kadri by a sizeable margin, why is Kadri at times being forced to play with the likes of Colton Orr and Troy Bodie while Tyler Bozak is still allowed to drag down James van Riemsdyk and Phil Kessel‘s production? If this was a true meritocracy, wouldn’t the roles be switched?

For another example, Leo Komarov played 182.97 more minutes than Matt Frattin last year. This table would tell you it should be the other way around, right?

CA/TMCA CF% CF/TMCF
Leo Komarov 0.89 0.457 0.97
Matt Frattin 0.94 0.481 1.11

While this isn’t as big a difference as Kadri-Bozak, Frattin still outplays Komarov which again devalues the myth of equal opportunity. Let’s not forget how Mikhail Grabovskiand Clarke MacArthur were criminally misused by Carlyle last year which led both of them to pretty much call Carlyle an idiot.

There has been a double standard that Carlyle has used since being the Leafs coach in late 2011-12. Carlyle clearly has his favourites (Mark Fraser, Orr, Frazer McLaren, Bozak) who can do no wrong in his eyes. Bozak could miss every scoring chance in the world (which he pretty much does already) and still go to sleep knowing he’ll get to centre JVR and Kessel next game. Orr and McLaren could take dumb penalty after dumb penalty and know they’ll get to face-punch another goon later on (they were fifth and 32nd in penalties taken per hour last year). Fraser can get into meaningless scraps knowing he won’t be taken to task by Carlyle and will still have his spot assured in the lineup.

Kadri has been hailed as the guy who’s benefited from a meritocracy in comparison to the Ron Wilson era where Kadri vs. Ron Wilson was the main event tilt in the Toronto media. The reality is Kadri excelled in spite of Randy Carlyle’s failing meritocracy due to being an underrated two-way player who benefited from a sky-high shooting percentage. A true meritocracy would see Kadri being on the top line with JVR and Kessel while Bozak mans the third line. Although if this was really a true meritocracy, MacArthur and Grabovski would still be Toronto Maple Leafs while Bozak would be somebody else’s albatross of a contract.

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Tags: Nazem Kadri Toronto Maple Leafs Tyler Bozak

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