FanPost

Kessel, Bozak and the Curse of Matt Stajan

Editor's Note: Here's a fanpost from our dearly departed FTBer Blurr1974. In it, he finds that while Stajan and Kessel had a few hits, Bozak and Kessel are making some beautiful music together. Following the Leafs can be horribly depressing so here's some sunshine courtesy of a little California Dreamin'.

I wanted to take a look at this season's game logs to see how many games Phil Kessel played with Matt Stajan versus Tyler Bozak.

Kessel-tbl1_medium

As you can see on the table above, since Stajan was traded on 1/31, I had Kessel + Stajan at 44 GP (give or take. Not sure if Matty missed any...) Since then, Kessel's played 20 games with Bozak as his center. Looking at those numbers, I was curious about a few things. What if Stajan had never been traded? Or (better yet!) what if Bozak made the Leafs at the beginning of the year, and had a full season of centering Kessel. What would that look like...?

After the jump, a caveat heavy view of what a sickeningly positive outlook resembles.

The Man, the Myth, the Stajan…

Kessel-tbl2_medium

Over the first 44 games, Kessel scored 17 goals and 33 points. Of those 33, 10 were scored on the PP. This gave Kessel a PPG rate of 0.75, and a GPG (Goals per game) rate of 0.39. Honestly, not too shabby. For all my admittedly anti-Stajan bias, I have to say, the Leafs could have done worse.

Looking across the league, for the full season so far, players scoring at a similar clip (+/- 0.05 GPG) include Teemu Selanne, Rick Nash and Jarome Iginla (hey, doesn’t Stajan center that guy…?) on the high end. On the lower end of the scale (0.34ish…) there are guys like Henrik Zetterberg, Corey Perry, Martin St. Louis and some guy named Alexander Steen…?

Looking at those names, it’s apparent that with Stajan as his center, Kessel was scoring goals at arguably an elite level of production.

Eye of the Bozak…

Kessel-tbl3_medium

Since the trade on January 31st that sent Stajan and a few others (Niklas Hagman, sigh…) to Calgary and saw the Leafs pick up Dion Phaneuf and a few (fewer) others, Kessel has played with Bozak for 20 games (again, give or take…) In those 20 games he has scored 13 goals and 21 points. That’s a PPG rate of 1.05 and a GPG of 0.65. We can argue over sample sizes, QUALCOMP, CORSI and such later (as in, not this post, but somebody else's), but for now, a moment of silence as we bask in the glory of those numbers.

Taking another look at the rest of the league, I searched for players who had played at least 15 games this year, with a GPG rate between 0.70 and 0.60 to get that same +/- 0.05 as the previous look. What I got back was two names; Sidney Crosby and Steven Stamkos. That’s it.

CAVEAT! – Obviously, this is over a whole season, and not just the 20 games Kessel has been producing at. Please spare me the sample size arguments (sadly, that’s what HE said…)

Kessel’s Little Helper, or the Ballad of Phil and Tyler?

Two things I’m curious about; how would things look if Stajan centered Kessel for a full season, and how would they look with Bozak?*

Kessel-tbl4_medium

* Here’s another of those caveats. This is a "pie in the sky"," if everything went exactly as planned" type of view. I understand that there will always be mitigating factors. For this rosy outlook however, let’s put our Negative Nancy hats in the corner…

So, as we can see, it appears that Kessel and Stajan made some pretty sweet music together. They were the Kessel’s Keith Richards to Stajan’s Mick Jagger of the league. Although not overly handsome, they make for a fairly impressive, pair.

However, if Stajan and Kessel were Jagger and Richards, then Bozak and Kessel were Lennon and McCartney (or vice versa.) Sure Jagger and Richards wrote some excellent songs, and yes the Stones had nine #1 hits, but that’s nothing compared to the Beatles twenty six #1 singles.

What I mean by all that music heavy metaphor, is that with Matt Stajan centering Kessel, the Leafs had a pairing that was fairly adept in most situations.  Like the Stones (stick with me here...) Stajan and Kessel could play all situations well.  As the Stones were as adept in the studio as they were live, and as capable as Mick, Keith et all have been at navigating multiple sub-genres of rock, so are Matt and Phil on both even strength and man advantage scenarios.  They may not have lit the world/league on fire, but you'd be hard pressed to improve upon them.

As I said earlier, Bozak and Kessel seem to have found a unique chemistry.  Yes, their man advantage production is sorely lacking, but at even strength there could be the potential for greatness, much like John Lennon and Paul McCartney found together.  The Beatles eventually abandoned playing live altogether, and began cranking out some of recent history's most popular pieces of art in the music world.

Not since the 2001-02 season have the Leafs seen a 40+ goal man.  If Phil and Tyler can continue the strong and creative play they've found on a line together, Phil Kessel just might crack that elusive 40 goal plateau.

Now, the real questions begin. Can Tyler Bozak and Phil Kessel maintain that kind of pace for a full 82 games? Will Bozak suffer the dreaded sophomore slump, or can he become Marc Savard-ian in his puck dishing abilities, and take full advantage of Kessel’s ability to find open space and fire rockets into the net?

With this dreadful season mercifully coming to a close, I know that I want something to look forward to besides draft pic..oh.  Ya...never mind.

PensionPlanPuppets.com is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of PensionPlanPuppets.com.

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