Toronto Maple Leafs: Tyler Bozak Says Good-Bye

TORONTO, ON - MARCH 17: Tyler Bozak
TORONTO, ON - MARCH 17: Tyler Bozak /

Toronto Maple Leafs longest-tenured player Tyler Bozak is moving on out

Tyler Bozak is a class act. For those who have yet to read it, Bozak penned a heartfelt thank-you to the Toronto Maple Leafs, the city and fans in the Players Tribune. It is worth your time.

The often maligned centre accepted a three-year 15 million dollar contract on July first with the St. Louis Blues. The former Maple Leafs centre was originally signed by Brian Burke April 2009. A highly coveted college free agent he spent the previous two years playing for the U. of Denver Pioneers posting 57 points in 60 games.

in 2009, Bozak signed an ELC along with another college free agent Christian Hanson: GM Burke had a nasty habit of trading away Toronto Maple Leafs high draft picks and needed some way to stock the prospect cupboards.  Often referred to as finding a free wallet, Bozak originally turned out to be more than anyone anticipated. He began his Toronto Maple Leafs tenure with the Marlies while having an immediate impact.  After scoring 20 points in his first 32 games, the Leafs took notice. Called up mid-season 2009 to play with a struggling Phil Kessel, he remained a fixture on the team throughout nine seasons.

Toronto Maple Leafs lacking centre depth, revisited again and again

Sound familiar? Since Mats Sundin retired, the Toronto Maple Leafs struggled to find adequate centre depth. When Bozak made his debut, the Leafs dressed Matthew Stajan and Mikhail Grabovski as their top two pivots. As a result, when called up, Ron Wilson pencilled him in as the number-one centre with Kessel on his wing. As the defacto top line C, Tyler Bozak struggled during his time in Toronto to live up to the lofty expectations of management and fans alike.

Over three and 1/2 seasons, Bozak scored 154 points in 238 games, a .65 ppg pace. On July 5th, 2013, Dave Nonis re-signed the restricted free agent to a five-year, twenty-one million dollar deal.  At the time of signing, the amount and term were controversial. Unfortunately for Bozak, Nonis also signed a disaster waiting to happen, David Clarkson to the worst contract in the history of the salary cap era.

Gone but not Forgotten

During his 594 games as Maple Leaf, Bozak’s 365 points rank him 24th in Maple Leafs franchise history. Although his time was often tumultuous based on fans expectations, there are highlights that are noteworthy and are worthy of remembrance.

Bozak and Darryl Sittler are the only two Maple Leafs players to score a 3-5 shorthanded goal.

More recently, Bozak scored the overtime winner in a wild comeback in game three during the 2017 Stanley Cup playoffs vs the Capitals.

Though the fans dumped on him year after year, Tyler Bozak never complained. He went about his business in a truly professional way. Bozak set a fine example for Auston Matthews and William Nylander. He also helped a young rookie Mitch Marner, blossom with confidence.

Both Brian Burke and Dave Nonis placed Bozak in an untenable situation where he never met fans expectations. Fortunately for Tyler, under the latest regime, he finally played within the coaches expectations skating sheltered minutes for Mike Babcock. The Leafs third line pivot with his longtime left winger James Van Riemsdyk never drove possession. However, he finally succeeded as a complementary player and not the go-to guy.

Next: You Just Don't Trade.......

Many fans will soon forget his contributions. To replace him there is a new guy #91 recently signed in free agency from the Islanders.  Nevertheless, Tyler Bozak is a consummate professional and should be remembered fondly. For his class and all his contributions to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Leafs Nation.

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