Tyler Bozak’s relationship to his adopted home has evolved over time. When he came to Toronto in 2009, he was a 23-year-old who was free — within reason — to spend downtime as frivolously as he pleased. Eight years on, the story is much different, but no less enjoyable.

“The city is great when you are young and having fun and it’s great when you have family,” says Bozak, now a married 31-year-old with a son. “There’s lots to get out and do.”

Just as there’s been a shift in the way Bozak uses his time away from the rink, his position on the team has changed, too. Gone are the days when he centred the first line on a squad that frequently put fans’ faith to the test. Instead, he anchors a still-dangerous third trio for a Toronto team that can score with anybody and figures to have something to say about who emerges from the Eastern Conference come playoff time.

There’s some notion that Bozak — set to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1 — could be dangled in a trade to help the blue line. Given the universally acknowledged need for depth down the middle, though, you can’t help but wonder if the Leafs would do well to retain a crafty player whose tenure with the Buds exceeds that of anybody else presently wearing blue and white.

“I don’t think many guys stay in the same place as long as I have, especially with the turnover we have had here,” Bozak says. “But it’s been cool, I’ve got to meet a lot of new teammates and make a lot of new friends. Hopefully [there are] more years to come here. We’ll see.”

Appreciating what Bozak can do is much easier now that he’s properly slotted on a winning team as opposed to miscast on a scuffling outfit. Put a 20-homerun guy in the cleanup spot and you’re going to have unrest; hit that same player second in the batting order and all of a sudden everybody can gush about what he is instead of carping about what he isn’t.