Zach Bogosian won a Stanley Cup wearing blue and white, while keeping an admiring eye on another club in those colours.
The new Maple Leaf defenceman would like to flip that script next year or the near future as he transitions from the Tampa Bay Lightning to one with much the same offensive weapons, but lacking a winning playoff mentality.
“What I learned about (the Lightning) is their top players are the driving forces,” Bogosian said Sunday in his intro Zoom call with the Toronto media. “They keep things simple for the most part, then let their creativity take over. It was never about getting too high or too low; we knew we were a good team and confident, but always trying to find that happy medium of showing up and letting our skill level take over.”
He can’t wait to apply all that to impressionable teammates, such as Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.
“So many high end players … you look at all the big names, you could name off 10. Playing against them the past few years (as a Buffalo Sabre), knowing how good they are, I thought I could bring what I bring and try and help. They’ve been so close (to getting over the first round hump) the past few years and (general manager) Kyle Dubas has got a few other guys (T.J. Brodie, Wayne Simmonds) to set us up in the best possible position.”
Bogosian often looked around Buffalo’s rink, filled to the gills with Toronto fans.
“There’s a great fan base. I had a chance to play junior in Peterborough and I know how big Leafs Nation is. Every player, it probably crosses their mind a few times in their childhood (to come here), because of how storied the franchise is. I’m super excited to be part of it. I played against a lot of the veterans here a number of years. With the good young talent we have, I could be a good fit.”
A lot has happened to ‘Bogo’ the past year, starting with an ugly divorce from the Sabres, his home state team, after six seasons. “Chaotic” is his apt description as he struggled after off-season hip surgery, cleared waivers, refused a demotion, was suspended and signed with the Bolts.
“Things didn’t go my way in Buffalo, that was well documented. It is what it is. I made some life-long friends that I’ll never lose contact with. That’s the positive I’ll take out of there.
“You get down to Tampa, you’re excited and then COVID-19 happened and it’s full stop. But once I got into the round-robin (of the Toronto playoff bubble), I got my confidence back, played as hard as I could. I was finally healthy which I hadn’t been in a while. The driving factor is that my game is competing and trying to let that rub off on others.”
Just what the doctor ordered for Toronto, as he joins a new-look defence that includes Morgan Rielly, Jake Muzzin, Justin Holl and Brodie.
“I bring that physical edge. There are so many skilled forwards here, I just want to move the puck, give them time and space to make plays or for me to be killing (opposition) plays in the d-zone and being hard to play against.
“I tested the free agent waters and essentially came back to what’s best for me, my skillset and more to that, coming off winning the Cup, I thought Toronto would be a great fit. It was an easy decision for me.”