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26.01.2019 07:54
TORONTO – On the day he was introduced as the bombastic new president and general manager of the Maple Leafs in November of 2008 Antworten

TORONTO – On the day he was introduced as the bombastic new president and general manager of the Maple Leafs in November of 2008, Brian Burke declared the Mats Sundin era over in Toronto. Jermon Bushrod Saints Jersey . “He’s going to go somewhere where he thinks they have a chance to win based on my conversations with him,” Burke said almost six years ago to the day. “I don’t think we profile as a team that he’s going to sign with.” Sundin would ultimately land in Vancouver just a few short weeks later, and from the point of his exit, the city of Toronto has been obsessed with figuring out who would fill that void for the Leafs. Tyler Bozak has been the guy at the centre of the debate for the past five years. “If he’s not a no. 1 centre, who is?” Joffrey Lupul questioned. “We don’t have a Ryan Getzlaf so he’s the no. 1 centre. We don’t have Jamie Benn or Ryan Getzlaf or [Sidney] Crosby or [Evgeni] Malkin, but the majority of teams don’t so yeah, he’s our no. 1 centre and we certainly don’t undervalue any of the things he does.” Amongst the top-25 scorers in the league at this moment, and on pace for career-highs in most offensive categories, Bozak is in the midst of his finest season as a Leaf. His booming production though is directly tied to a surge on the power-play, one that’s unlikely to be sustainable for the remainder of the year. Bozak has scored more than half of his 11 goals on the power-play (adding another two shorthanded), quietly navigating into “soft spots” between attention-drawers, Phil Kessel and James van Riemsdyk. That was precisely the case over the weekend when he found an opening between Capital forwards, Joel Ward and Jason Chimera, confidently flipping a Kessel feed over an overmatched Braden Holtby. “Obviously when you’ve got guys out there like James, Phil, Naz, and Dion, a lot of attention is going to be on them so I just try and slip under the radar and get to spots where guys aren’t,” he said afterward. But this kind of production isn’t likely to last as triumphantly as it has. Consider that the 28-year-old, tied for second in the league at this point, is currently on pace for 21 power-play goals -- or more than he’s ever scored in a single season. Also remember that Alex Ovechkin led the NHL with 24 power-play goals a year ago. Bozak has already matched (through 23 games mind you) a career-high with the six markers on the man advantage. He’s scored on 33 per cent of the 18 shots he’s fired with a 5-on-4 advantage, a trend that will likely right itself over time. Consider that last season he shot just 10 per cent in such situations. The 28-year-old is shooting the puck more often in all situations, though. He’s on pace for nearly 200 shots this year or nearly 80 more than his previous career-high. “I used to look at him as more of a passer when Phil and I played with him, but now you can see he’s a little more comfortable shooting the puck and has a little bit more confidence as far as goal-scoring goes,” Lupul said, citing that increase in confidence as the likely factor behind such a shift. “I think initially he would probably always look to get the puck to Phil and now he’s starting to realize that he can score goals and you can see him getting a little more comfortable going hard to the front of the net and getting some goals there.” “Obviously when you play with guys like Phil and James and when I was playing with Joffrey, you want to get them the puck as much as you can in scoring positions, but I think I’ve learned to take a few more shots,” Bozak added. “And I think I’ve also learned just to find the better areas on the ice where if the puck does come to me I’ll be in a better position to have a good chance of it going in.” Bozak is a historically efficient shooter – career 17.1 per cent – something he says is by design, a recognition of where he figures he’ll be most able to score. “I don’t really take too many shots from the outside in areas where I don’t think I’ll be able to score,” he explained. “I try and limit my shots to the grade-A scoring areas and give myself a good chance to score every time I shoot.” The Leafs are generating more shots with Bozak on the ice this year than a year ago. And they’re also giving up a bit less too. Part of that stems from an increase in offensive zone starts – less time subsequently in the defensive zone – and less time matching up with opposing top lines, but also from what the team believes is defensive improvement on Bozak’s part. “It’s the work he does away from the puck to defend,” Leafs assistant Steve Spott said glowingly. After the worst season his career in the faceoff circle last season – which he attributes to injury troubles – Bozak is also surging there again this year. He’s up to 57 per cent, good for sixth-best in the NHL. The power-play boom does inflate Bozak’s overall production though. Nazem Kadri, whom many are dubbing a disappointment this year, has the same number of even-strength points as Bozak – 11 each through 23 games. That’s outside the top-30 for NHL centremen. All of which reverts back to the argument against Bozak as a bona-fide first line centre, an argument which also hinges around his dependency on Kessel and on his smallish frame – generously listed at 6-foot-1 and nearly 200 pounds. Bozak would be in the lower echelon of top centres in the Eastern Conference alone, comparable with the likes of Derek Stepan and Kyle Turris. Albeit under mostly different management, the Leafs haven’t made it a secret that they’d love to improve in that spot, but as Lupul wisely pointed out, the Getzlafs of the world are found only in the draft (or in restricted free agency where few teams opts to stray). Given the dearth of high-end centres available both now and in the future, it’s likely that Bozak remains there with Toronto, inked for three more years at more than $4 million. “There’s been people saying that the whole time I’ve been here so I’m used to it now,” Bozak said of the no. 1 centre debate. “I don’t really look into too much. I’ve had a couple coaches and a couple GMs here that have had the opportunity to put me in a different role if they wanted to and I’ve stayed where I’ve been for the most part.” “He’s really emerging as a no. 1 centre in this league now, not only offensively as we’ve seen lately but defensively,” Spott said. “I think he’s a highly underrated centreman. He’s great on both sides of the puck and he’s finding that offensive touch now that you want from a no. 1 centre.” The debate continues. Patrick Robinson Jersey . While Chelsea stayed two points behind leader Arsenal courtesy of Etoos hat trick, seventh-place United slipped 14 points from the summit this weekend. And the gap from the Champions League places is growing as well, with Liverpool six points ahead in fourth. TreQuan Smith Jersey . And all things considered, the first 40 games have offered a little bit of everything from a hockey club that faced many questions in its first year under new management, with a new head coach and with a number of new faces in the lineup. However, with a recent dip in scoring, it seems some of the same old questions persist and several new ones have been raised after a somewhat troubling homestand. . Charlottetown scored four times in the third period en route to a 5-2 win over the defending champion Halifax Mooseheads on Friday.DUNEDIN, Fla. -- Colby Rasmus drove in two runs, Dioner Navarro hit an RBI double and the Toronto Blue Jays topped the Pittsburgh Pirates 4-2 on Friday. Pedro Alvarez doubled twice and scored both runs for Pittsburgh. Rasmus hit an RBI single in the first inning off Gerrit Cole. Navarros double scored Rasmus. Cole struck out two and gave up three hits in two innings. After spending last season with the Chicago Cubs, Navarro signed a two-year, $8 million contract with the Blue Jays in the off-season. Navarro, who batted .300 with 13 home runs for the Cubs, said he has been taking extra swings to improve at the plate. His main focus, however, is getting to know the pitching staff. "Every time I get the opportunity, I jump in the cage. But right now its all about the pitchers," Navarro said. "Especially with me coming to a new team (and) seeing a lot of new faces. Its all about them. I will get my swings in. I will do my work." Blue Jays starter Mark Buehrle allowed one earned run in two innings. He gave up two hits, one walk and struck out one. Blue Jays outfield prospect Ricardo Nanita hit an RBI triple in the eighth. Matt Hague hit an RBI single and Gaby Sanchez doubled for the Pirates. Toronto star Jose Bautista, who homered and doubled twice in the first two exhibition games, was given the day off. STARTING TIME Blue Jays: Buehrle threw 43 pitches. He said his command was good overall, but he felt like he had trouble keeping his sinker in the strike zone. "I wasnt happy with how sharp it was today," he said. "I wasnt throwing too many sinkers for strikes. But its the first outing. Things are going to turn and get better as we go along." Manager John Gibbons disagreed and said the left-hander looked better than he did during camp last season. "I thought Buehrle for his first start was really good," Gibbons said. "I told him I thought he was a little sharper in this camp than he was (at the same point) last year. DeMario Davis Saints Jersey. It showed today, thats a good sign." Pirates: Cole had a rocky first inning, giving up three hits and two runs. But the right-hander settled down in the second, striking out Dan Johnson and Ryan Goins and getting Maicer Izturis on a grounder. "I dont overcook their first outing," Pirates manager Clint Hurdle said of his pitchers. "They need to get out there. They need to reacquaint themselves with adrenaline, mound, rhythm and all that." "I thought Coles second inning was much more effective, just in terms of downhill plane, getting the ball downhill, mixing in the breaking ball." HAPPY TO BE BACK For the first time since sustaining a season-ending forearm injury last May, right-hander Brandon Morrow appeared in a game with the Blue Jays. Morrow allowed two hits and one run in two innings. He said he felt comfortable on the mound and was happy to finally see game action. "I felt great. I felt on time with my delivery," he said. "I was most happy with the life I had on my fastball and did what I wanted to." Navarro said he felt Morrow had strong command of his pitches, despite giving up a run. "He kept the ball down good, threw a couple good sliders and a couple good splitters," Navarro said. "I know people want to see zeroes on the board, but these guys are locating their fastball and then working off the fastball. As spring training goes on, velocity is going to go up." TRAINERS ROOM Sergio Santos was scheduled to appear in relief for the Blue Jays on Friday, but the right-hander was told to stay home after getting a stomach virus on Thursday night. Santos, who was 1-1 with a 1.75 ERA in 29 appearances last season, is expected to return to the Blue Jays on Saturday. His first outing has been rescheduled for March 4 against Philadelphia in Clearwater. Chad Jenkins took Santos place and allowed no hits in one inning of relief. 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