Unfortunately I didn’t have as much time this week as I had hoped to do a full evaluation of unrestricted free agent centers like I did for wingers but it is free agent day and there was some big news regarding centers yesterday with the buy out of Grabovski so I thought I’d throw a little something together where I look at some offensive statistics of some of the top centers available. Let me start off by presenting you with the summary table.

 G/60 A/60 Pts/60 IPP GF20-TMGF20 FF20-TMFF20 OZBias Ribeiro 0.593 1.512 2.11 80.5 0.113 -0.025 102.6 Filppula 0.769 1.334 2.1 75 0.116 -0.878 104.7 Lecavalier 0.799 1.186 1.99 68.1 0.139 0.381 100.7 Grabovski 0.899 0.961 1.86 65.4 0.196 2.406 96 Roy 0.587 1.146 1.73 67.4 0.039 0.747 98.7 Weiss 0.652 0.821 1.47 65.6 0.07 -0.467 103.3 Bozak 0.566 0.775 1.34 54.2 -0.062 0.292 99.8

The numbers above are 5v5 numbers over the past 3 seasons and the players are sorted by Pts/60. I threw in Lecavalier because he was a UFA for a brief period of time and is at more or less the same level as the others. I included Bozak to highlight just how much he doesn’t fit in with the rest of the group.

• G/60 = Goals per 60 minutes of ice time.
• A/60 = Assists per 60 minutes of ice time
• Pts/60 = Points per 60 minutes of ice time.
• IPP = Individual Points Percentage, or the percentage of goals scored while on ice that the player had a point on.
• GF20-TMGF20 = How much better are his team mates on-ice goal stats when playing with him than without.
• FF20-TMFF20 = How much better are his team mates on-ice shot generation when playing with him than without.
• OZBias = OZ Starts*2 + NZStarts and gives an indication of the players usage.

List sorted by G/60: Grabovski, Lecavalier, Filppula, Weiss, Ribeiro, Roy, Bozak

List sorted by A/60: Ribeiro, Filppula, Lecavalier, Roy, Grabovski, Weiss, Bozak

List sorted by Pts/60: Ribeiro, Filppula, Lecavalier, Grabovski, Roy, Weiss, Bozak

List sorted by IPP: Ribeiro, Filppula, Lecavalier, Roy, Weiss, Grabovski, Bozak

List sorted by GF20-TMGF20:  Grabovski, Lecavalier, Filppula, Ribeiro, Weiss, Roy, Bozak

List sorted by FF20-TMFF20: Grabovski, Roy, Lecavalier, Bozak, Ribeiro, Weiss, Filppula

Mike Ribeiro: Easily the best play maker of the group and is most consistently involved in the play.

Valterri Filppula: Better goal scorer than Ribeiro but not as good as a play maker as Ribeiro but better than the rest.

Vincent Lecavalier: Similar to Filppula in value but better at the possession game.

Mikhail Grabovski: Not a great play maker but a good finisher and good at driving shot generation indicating he is probably good at puck retrieval.

Derek Roy: Kind of a poor mans Ribeiro but much less valuable.

Stephen Weiss: More of a poor mans Lecavalier. Easily had the worst line mates of the group and might do better in a different situation.

Tyler Bozak: Weak at goal scoring, bad at play making, not involved in the play and a drag on his team mates goal production. Not anywhere close to the same league as the others (and maybe be better suited for a different league too).

For me, Ribeiro is probably the best of the group in terms of pure offense because of his elite play making ability. Grabovski and Lecavalier are a little more balanced with better scoring and puck retrieval skills while Filppula is pretty solid all round as well and has the flexibility of being used as either a center or a winger (which is valuable if locking in long-term). It’s difficult to compare Weiss to the rest because he simply hasn’t had near as good of line mates but it is probably safe to say he’d be a bit of a step down from Grabovski, Lecavalier or Filppula. Roy, on the other hand, would definitely be a step back but still a decent consolation prize if on a lower priced contract with shorter term. Definitely not anything more than a #2 center though.

As for Bozak, well, you simply don’t want him on your team. Maybe not at any price no matter what the bargain basement price is. I have tried and tried but I just can’t find any redeeming qualities for him outside of his ability to win face offs which has limited value. There simply is no reason why you would want to play him on any of your top 3 lines. None.

Being a Leaf fan and unable to keep Grabovski, my preference would be Ribeiro or Filppula but might be willing to take a chance on Weiss if the contract was right. Ribeiro’s play making skills with the Leafs wingers should be a good combination and Filppula is a good all round player who could shift to wing down if needed. Weiss seems like a solid 2-way player who might be able to step up his game with better line mates which he’d get with the Leafs. If they sign Bozak, I am not sure what I’ll do. It’ll be a sad day.

Even though I am a proponent of shot quality and the idea that the percentages matter (shooting and save percentage) puck control and possession are still an important part of the game and the Maple Leafs are dreadful at it. One of the better easily available metrics for measuring possession is fenwick percentage (FF%) which is a measure of the percentage shot attempts (shots + shots that missed the net) that your team took. So a FF% of 52% would mean your team took 52% of the shots while the opposing team took 48% of the shots. During 5v5 situations this season the Maple Leafs have a FF% of 44.4% which is dead last in the NHL. So, who are the biggest culprits in dragging down the Maple Leafs possession game? Let’s take a look.

## Forwards

 Player Name FF% TMFF% OppFF% FF% – TMFF% FF%-TMFF%+OppFF%-0.5 MACARTHUR, CLARKE 0.485 0.44 0.507 0.045 0.052 KESSEL, PHIL 0.448 0.404 0.507 0.044 0.051 KOMAROV, LEO 0.475 0.439 0.508 0.036 0.044 KADRI, NAZEM 0.478 0.444 0.507 0.034 0.041 GRABOVSKI, MIKHAIL 0.45 0.424 0.508 0.026 0.034 VAN_RIEMSDYK, JAMES 0.456 0.433 0.508 0.023 0.031 FRATTIN, MATT 0.475 0.448 0.504 0.027 0.031 LUPUL, JOFFREY 0.465 0.445 0.502 0.02 0.022 BOZAK, TYLER 0.437 0.453 0.508 -0.016 -0.008 KULEMIN, NIKOLAI 0.421 0.454 0.51 -0.033 -0.023 ORR, COLTON 0.401 0.454 0.5 -0.053 -0.053 MCLAREN, FRAZER 0.388 0.443 0.501 -0.055 -0.054 MCCLEMENT, JAY 0.368 0.459 0.506 -0.091 -0.085

FF% is the players FF% when he is on the ice expressed in decimal form. TMFF% is an average of the players team mates FF% when they are not playing with the player in question (i.e. what his team mates do when they are separated from them, or a quality of teammate metric). OppFF% is an average of the players opponents FF% (i.e. a quality of competition metric). From those base stats I took FF% – TMFF% which will tell us which players perform better than their teammates do when they aren’t playing with him (the higher the better). Finally I factored in OppFF% by adding in how much above 50% their opposition is on average. This will get us an all encompassing stat to indicate who are the drags on the Leafs possession game.

Jay McClement is the Leafs greatest drag on possession. A few weeks ago I posted an article visually showing how much of a drag on possession McClement has been this year and in previous years. McClement’s 5v5 FF% over the past 6 seasons are 46.2%, 46.8%, 45.3%, 47.5%, 46,2% and 36.8% this season.

Next up are the goons, Orr and McLaren which is probably no surprise. They are more interested in looking for the next hit/fight than they are the puck. In general they are low minute players so their negative impact is somewhat mitigated but they are definite drags on possession.

Kulemin is the next biggest drag on possession which might come as a bit of a surprise considering that he has generally been fairly decent in the past. Looking at the second WOWY chart here you can see that nearly every player has a worse CF% (same as FF% but includes shots that have been blocked) with Kulemin than without except for McClement and to a much smaller extent Liles. This is dramatically different than previous seasons  (see second chart again) when the majority of players did equally well or better with Kulemin save for Grabovski. Is Kulemin having an off year? It may seem so.

Next up is my favourite whipping boy Tyler Bozak. Bozak is and has always been a drag on possession. Bozak ranks 293 of 312 forwards in FF% this season (McClement is dead last!) and in the previous 2 seasons he ranked 296th of 323 players.

Among forwards, McClement, McLaren, Orr, Kulemin and Bozak appear to be the biggest drags on the Maple Leafs possession game this season.

## Defense

 Player Name FF% TMFF% OppFF% FF% – TMFF% FF%-TMFF%+OppFF%-0.5 FRANSON, CODY 0.469 0.437 0.506 0.032 0.038 GARDINER, JAKE 0.463 0.44 0.506 0.023 0.029 KOSTKA, MICHAEL 0.459 0.435 0.504 0.024 0.028 GUNNARSSON, CARL 0.455 0.437 0.506 0.018 0.024 FRASER, MARK 0.461 0.445 0.506 0.016 0.022 LILES, JOHN-MICHAEL 0.445 0.443 0.503 0.002 0.005 PHANEUF, DION 0.422 0.455 0.509 -0.033 -0.024 HOLZER, KORBINIAN 0.399 0.452 0.504 -0.053 -0.049 O_BYRNE, RYAN 0.432 0.505 0.499 -0.073 -0.074

O’Byrne is a recent addition to the Leafs defense so you can’t blame the Leafs possession woes on him, but in Colorado he was a dreadful possession player so he won’t be the answer to the Leafs possession woes either.

Korbinian Holzer was dreadful in a Leaf uniform this year and we all know that so no surprise there but next up is Dion Phaneuf, the Leafs top paid and presumably best defenseman. In FF%-TMFF%+OppFF%-0.5 Phaneuf ranked a little better the previous 2 seasons (0.023 and 0.003) so it is possible that he is having an off year or had his stats dragged down a bit by Holzer but regardless, he isn’t having a great season possession wise.

If you follow me on twitter you know I am not a fan of Tyler Bozak and I have written about him in the past. As a Leaf fan I want to keep writing about his poor play because I really do not want to see him re-signed in Toronto. He isn’t a good player and simple does not deserve it, especially if he is going to be making upwards of \$4M/yr on a 4+ year long contract.  Let’s take a look at how he ranks in a variety of categories over the previous 3 seasons combined as well as this season.

 Statistic 3yr 2012-13 5v5 G/60 219/324 130/310 5v5 A/60 168/324 144/310 5v5 Pts/60 199/324 139/310 5v5 IGP 265/324 195/310 5v5 IAP 202/324 221/310 5v5 IPP 288/324 268/310 5v5 FF20 155/324 173/310 5v5 FA20 319/324 309/310 5v5 FF% 275/324 291/310 5v4 G/60 116/155 57/147 5v4 A/60 144/155 98/147 5v4 Pts/60 150/155 89/147 5v4 IGP 76/155 66/147 5v4 IAP 131/155 110/147 5v4 IPP 139/155 114/147

The above are his rankings among other forwards (i.e. 219/324 means 219th among 324 forwards with >1500 5v5 3yr minutes, >300 5v5 2012-13 minutes, >400 5v4 3yr minutes and >75 5v4 2012-13 minutes.  2012-13 stats for games up to but not including last nights).  For 5v5 ice time we are essentially talking the top 10-11 forwards on each team, or their regulars and on the power play we are talking the top 5 forwards in PP ice time per team.

In 3-year 5v5 goals, assists and points per 60 minutes of play Tyler Bozak is ranking approximately the equivalent of a good 3rd line player. The thing is, he is doing that while playing on the first line but his terrible IGP, IAP, and IPP numbers indicate he is doing a terrible job keeping pace with his fellow first line mates.  If you look at his 3 year fenwick numbers (FF20, FA20 and FF%) which are on-ice stats you see when Tyler Bozak has been on the ice the Leafs have been mediocre at shot generation and terrible at shot prevention. Only a handful (literally, just 5 players) have a worse shot prevention record when they are on the ice.

On the power play things aren’t much better. He is second powerplay unit material at best but he is near the bottom of the pack in every assist and point generation and only a bit better in goal production.

Overall his numbers look a little better in 2012-13 but they certainly aren’t much to write home about, especially his IGP, IAP and IPP. He still looks to be a 3rd line offensive player with terrible defensive ability.

Another thing we can look at is his WOWY numbers with his most frequent line mate Phil Kessel.

 Bozak w/Kessel Bozak wo/ Kessel 3yr GF20 0.874 0.648 3yr GA20 0.995 1.297 3yr GF% 46.8% 33.3% 3yr CF20 19.60 17.43 3yr CA20 20.89 20.82 3yr CF% 48.4% 45.6% 2012-13 GF20 0.956 0.000 2012-13 GA20 0.918 0.419 2012-13 GF% 51.0% 0.0% 2012-13 CF20 19.50 8.38 2012-13 CA20 21.53 25.55 2012-13 CF% 47.5% 24.7%

When Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak are on the ice together they are not even breaking even. When Tyler Bozak is on the ice without Kessel they are significantly worse. Individually, Tyler Bozak has scored just 3 of his 26 5v5 goals (11.5%) and 8 of his 68 points (11.8%) over the previous 3 seasons when separated from Kessel despite playing nearly 20% of his ice time apart from Kessel. When not with Kessel his goal and point production drops significantly and as we know from above it wasn’t all that impressive to start with.

Not shown are Phil Kessel’s numbers when he isn’t playing with Tyler Bozak but they are generally better than when they are together. Phil Kessel when not playing with Tyler Bozak has a GF% of 50.4% and a CF% of 51.5% over the previous 3 seasons. Tyler Bozak appears to be a drag on Kessel’s offense.

The only argument you can for keeping Bozak is that the Kessel-Bozak-Lupul/JVR line has been productive and is working so why break them up. To me that argument only works when Bozak is making \$1.5M and is not a significant drag on the salary cap but you can’t be paying a player \$3.5-4M to essentially be a place holder between Kessel and Lupul/JVR.

Related News Article: James Mirtle wrote an article on the tough decision Leaf management has regarding the re-signing of Tyler Bozak.

(I am going to try and include a glossary in my posts for advanced statistics mentioned in the post so those not familiar with advanced stats can find out what they mean but a full glossary can also be found here).

Glossary

• G/60 – Goals scored per 60 minutes of play
• A/60 – Assists per 60 minutes of play
• Pts/60 – Points per 60 minutes of play
• IGP – Percentage of teams goals while player was on ice that were scored by the player
• IAP – Percentage of teams goals while player was on the ice that the player had an assist on
• IPP – Percentage of teams goals while player was on the ice that player scored or had an assist on
• FF20 – Fenwick (shots + missed shots) by team per 20 minutes of ice time
• FA20 – Fenwick (shots + missed shots) against team per 20 minutes of ice time
• FF% – % of all shot attempts (shots + missed shots) while on ice that the players team took – FF/(FF+FA)
• GF20, GA20, GF% – same as FF20, FA20, FF% except for goals
• CF20, CA20, CF% – same as FF20, FA20, FF% but also includes shot attempts that were blocked (corsi)

There has been a fair bit of talk recently about Tyler Bozak and what the Leafs should do with him as he is clearly not suited for his #1C role but is set to be a UFA this summer and if the Leafs intend to keep him he’ll need a new contract.  To get an idea of his worth, I decided to see if I could identify a few comparable players.

Let’s start off offensively. The first thing I looked at was primary points per 60 minutes of 5v5 ice time (primary points = goals + first assists). From last year through this past weekend’s games Bozak had a PrPts/60of 1.085 so as an initial cut off I pared down the list of comparable players to forwards a PrPts/60 of between 1.00 and 1.20 and who have had at least 1000 minutes of ice time. There are some pretty good players in this list such as Ryan Getzlaf, Stephen Weiss, Tomas Plekanec and Daniel Breiere but there are some less talented players like Eric Nystrom and Marcel Goc.

The next thing I considered is Primary Points Percentage (PrPts%), or the percentage of goals scored while the player was on the ice. Tyler Bozak’s PrPts% is a relatively weak 41.24% (Getzlaf, for example, is 52.38% and Plekanec’s is 56.22%). I then pared down the list to just include centers and this is what I came up with as comparable offensive centers, sorted by PrPts%.

 Player Team PPts/60 PrPts% NIELSEN, FRANS NY Islanders 1.091 47.98% SMITH, ZACK Ottawa 1.008 46.67% VERMETTE, ANTOINE Phoenix 1.173 46.55% LETESTU, MARK Columbus 1.138 46.32% NUGENT-HOPKINS, RYAN Edmonton 1.182 46.14% ZUBRUS, DAINIUS New Jersey 1.12 45.31% KRUGER, MARCUS Chicago 1.115 43.78% HANZAL, MARTIN Phoenix 1.078 42.27% STAJAN, MATT Calgary 1.064 41.87% BOZAK, TYLER Toronto 1.085 41.24% KOIVU, SAKU Anaheim 1.15 38.49%

That is a list of mostly 2nd and 3rd line centers along with not yet fully developed Nugent-Hopkins. So, what about Bozak defensively? To evaluate defensive play I looked at the players 5v5 corsi events against per 20 minutes (CA20) and the ratio of the players CA20 vs his team mates CA20 when they are not playing with him (TMCA20). This gives us an indication of whether their team mates are improving their defensive stats while on the the ice with the player.

 Player Name Team CA20 CA20/TMCA20 ZUBRUS, DAINIUS New Jersey 14.309 0.77 LETESTU, MARK Columbus 17.034 0.90 STAJAN, MATT Calgary 17.312 0.91 HANZAL, MARTIN Phoenix 18.122 0.93 VERMETTE, ANTOINE Phoenix 17.762 0.97 NIELSEN, FRANS NY Islanders 18.307 1.01 KOIVU, SAKU Anaheim 17.114 1.02 SMITH, ZACK Ottawa 18.771 1.04 KRUGER, MARCUS Chicago 15.940 1.05 BOZAK, TYLER Toronto 21.155 1.08

For CA20/TMCA20, the lower the number the better as this indicates their line mates CA20 is better with the player than not with the player. Bozak ranks dead last in this category and also ranks dead last (by a significant margin) in CA20.

So, what does this tell us about Tyler Bozak?  Well, it probably means he has 3rd line offensive ability but it is very questionable whether he is good enough defensively be a useful 3rd liner. As for the best comparable to Tyler Bozak, I’d have to say either Marcus Kruger or Matt Stajan or maybe Frans Nielsen but Bozak is probably somewhat below all of them in terms of value due to his poor defensive play.

Ok, let me justify that headline a little before people get all over me.  He isn’t completely terrible as in he shouldn’t be in the league terrible.  He’s just a terrible first line center, and probably not a very good second or third line center either (at least not until he improves defensively). He’d be an OK 4th liner and injury fill in depth player at close to minimum salary. Let me explain.

The last 2 seasons Bozak has mostly played with Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul became his second winger when he joined the Leafs. Those are two pretty solid wingers to play with so lets look at Bozak’s production with those two solid players.

I want to compare Bozak to other top 9 players and conveniently if we look at all forwards with 1250 minutes of 5v5 zone start adjusted ice time over the past 2 seasons we come up with 270 players which is precisely an average of 9 per team, or 3 lines per team. So, how does Bozak rank among these players?

So, despite playing predominately with first line players his individual offensive stats are at a 3rd line level.

So, what about PP situations?  There are 169 forwards with 250 5v4 PP minutes over the previous two seasons while Bozak has played 417:28 which puts him among the top 65 forwards in the league. How has Bozak fared?

Think about that for a minute.  Of 169 forwards with >250 5v4 PP minutes over the past 2 seasons he ranks 5th last in shots/60 and has the 30th worst first assists/60 rankings. That means he is playing on the PP but isn’t shooting much and isn’t a primary set up man for the shooters either.

The only redeeming factors for Bozak is that he seems to be developing into a really good face off guy and he seems to be able to play with an elevated shooting percentage. His 5v5 ZS adjusted shooting percentage ranks 30th of 270 over the past 2 seasons while his 5v4 PP shooting percentage ranks 14th of 169. If you look at Bozak’s shot locations for last season you will see that the majority of Bozak’s shots and goals come from close in and 5 of his 11 5v5 goals last season came on rebounds.

So, to summarize, Tyler Bozak doesn’t shoot much, isn’t a great playmaker, isn’t good defensively (explained elsewhere) and yet coaches seem to insist on using him as a first line center. His main contribution to a team is winning face offs and going to the opposing teams net waiting for the puck to come to him so he can pot an easy close in goal. It is not completely unreasonable to believe that a guy like David Steckel could give you as good or better performance on face offs and similar lackluster offensive results with better defensive play if given the same opportunities to play with top end players that Tyler Bozak has had. That isn’t to say I want Steckel to be the Leafs new first line center, I was just trying to put Bozak’s usefulness (or lack of) into perspective.

Earlier today I wrote a post about Tim Connolly and his offensive production at even strength. Shortly after posting that I thought a similar article comparing the performances of Bozak, Kadri and Conolly would be an interesting piece since they are sort of competing for roster spots (more so Kadri and Connolly than Bozak though). Of course, in the mean time Connolly has been put on waivers so to some extent he isn’t relevant anymore but I am including him for interest sake.

Here is a look at their individual offensive performances for the last 2 seasons for Bozak and Kadri and last year for Connolly (since he wasn’t with the Leafs in 2010-11).

Bozak:

 Season ESTOI Goals Assists Points TOI/Pt 2011-12 1121:53 14 20 34 33:00 2010-11 1190:08 8 12 20 59:30 Combined 2311:01 22 32 54 42:48

 Season ESTOI Goals Assists Points TOI/Pt 2011-12 263:24 4 2 6 44:04 2010-11 382:22 3 7 10 38:14 Combined 645:46 7 9 16 40:22

Connolly:

 Season ESTOI Goals Assists Points TOI/Pt 2011-12 940:12 11 20 31 30:20

What is interesting is of the three, Connolly had the best TOI/Pt last year, even better than Bozak who benefited from playing primarily with Kessel and Lupul. Kadri’s most frequent line mates were Lombardi, MacArthur and Connolly while Connolly’s played with almost everyone but had the most minutes with Crabb, Kessel, Lupul, Lombardi and MacArthur (between 180 and 260 with all of them). It seems Connolly was far from the least productive Leaf forward at even strength.

That said, it seems irrelevant now what Connolly has done so more important is to look at Bozak vs Kadri. Overall they have had similar point rates over past 2 seasons but Bozak was much better last year. If all that came from playing with Kessel and Lupul then maybe Kadri is at least equally good.  And when you factor in that Bozak is a downright terrible defensive player I’d almost certainly give Kadri ice time over Bozak.

To put the above stats into perspective, here are Grabovski’s over the past 2 seasons.

 Season ESTOI Goals Assists Points TOI/Pt 2011-12 1126:42 18 23 41 27:29 2010-11 1232:33 19 24 43 28:40 Combined 2359:15 37 47 84 28:05

Clearly Grabovski has produced much more at even strength than any of the other three and pretty consistent too. To put Grabovski into perspective though, Malkin had an even strength point every 16:37 last season. That’s domination.