The Toronto Maple Leafs had one primary objective heading into the 2020 offseason – improve defensively.
Free agency officially opened on October 9th due to COVID-19. The Buds pounced immediately by locking up T.J. Brodie to a 4-year, $20 million contract.
A day later, Toronto continued to bolster their blueline without breaking the bank. Zach Bogosian, fresh off of a Stanley Cup championship, signed a 1-year contract valued at just $1 million.
Expectations for Bogo weren’t exactly astronomically high like they were for Brodie, but it was an exciting signing, nonetheless.
Many figured that Zach would be the perfect bottom-pairing defenceman – a veteran capable of checking in-and-out of the lineup as needed, depending on the matchup.
Fortunately, he’s ended up being quite the bargain. There were questions about his foot speed heading into the season but his ability to remain in position while defending has helped silence some of those critics.
As for checking in-and-out of the lineup? Well, that’s simply not happening (aside from the one game where he was a healthy scratch for load management reasons). After all, why take him out and mess with a good thing? He’s the perfect compliment to Travis Dermott, given their contrasting play styles.
He’s even taught Dermott a thing or two about dropping the mitts. His veteran leadership has positively influenced the entire clubhouse in quite a few ways.
TML Fight Class, with Professor Zach.
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) March 2, 2021
Things certainly appear to be going swimmingly for Bogo these days; however, that wasn’t the case for most of his career.
As a 3rd-overall selection of the Atlanta Thrashers back in 2008, the pressure to perform at a high-level has followed him around since the beginning.
Bogosian did manage to get off to a great start as he racked up nine goals, 19 points, and a plus-11 rating in just 47 games during his rookie campaign.
The next two seasons, however, weren’t nearly as impressive as he only recorded 15 goals and 40 points over his final 152 games as a Thrasher. Not to mention he had a cumulative minus-45 rating.
From there, Zach spent the next four seasons as a member of the Winnipeg Jets (although he didn’t technically go anywhere as the Thrashers, of course, were sold and relocated to Winnipeg en route to becoming the Jets).
His play wasn’t stellar during that timeframe, but the biggest problem was his ability to stay healthy. He only played 194 games out of a possible 328 and was dealt to the Buffalo Sabres as a part of the Evander Kane trade during the 2014-15 season.
In five-and-a-half seasons as a Sabre, Bogo’s injuries woes continued. He never played more than 65 games in a single season for Buffalo, and only played over 60 games twice.
The real turning point of his career came after he was placed on waivers/bought out by the Sabres on February 14th, 2020. Three days later, he was signed to a one-year, $1.3 million deal by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
— Ron Bohning (@RonBohning) February 24, 2020
He only got into eight regular season games with his new club, but more importantly, he played 20 games in the Stanley Cup playoffs. It was actually Bogo’s first time ever being on an NHL playoff team, and what a debut it was.
Now, at age 30, he’s having one of the healthiest, most productive seasons of his career. He may only have two assists through 26 games, but he’s giving the puck away a lot less compared to his career averages. Not to mention his CF% is 50.6 (just over two points higher than his career rating of 48.3%).
The Massena, NY native may not be making the big bucks anymore, but he’s thriving in his current role. Oh, and he’s also managed to avoid injury (knock on wood).
It’s been years since Toronto has truly had a competent bottom pairing, but they seemingly do now.
Ladies & Gentlemen, Boys & Girls, Children of all ages, the @MapleLeafs proudly bring to you, Travis Dermott & Zach Bogosian. The Tag Team Champions of the WORLD!!!
— Jeremy Ridgewell 18-7-2 #LeafsForever (@Jermz13) March 3, 2021
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