Maple Leafs + Tim Connolly = ...

Pension Plan Puppets
July 03 2011 10:16PM


Use in case of callow centremen

After a quiet July first in which the only development was that the Leafs managed to present to Brad Richards and that Steve Simmons continued to display his idiocy, the buds signed former Buffalo Sabre Tim Connolly to a two-year $9.5M deal. Ultimately, as Dave Nonis noted on a radio interview, the Leafs had a list of targets along with limits that they were comfortable with in terms of length of the contract and the dollar figures involved. As anyone that followed the insanity saw pretty quickly, those limits were presumably met early and often but it was not entirely a bad thing

Of course, this deal is not without some controversy. There are a couple of common complaints about the deal which I'll break down after the jump.

"Oh man, ANOTHER AMERICAN!?!"

It pains me to think that there is a segment of the fanbase that actually cares about the nationality of the players rather than their abilities. To be honest, it's embarrassing to have a faction mirror the lunacy of the group of Montreal Canadiens fans that believe that the team should be more French. 


I'm on the lookout for headshots

"Tim Connolly Is Injury Prone"

Well, there's no arguing this one. After missing three games in his first four seasons Connolly has missed 14, 9, 34, 34, 80, and 19 games. This is the biggest drawback of the deal. It is possible that the Leafs will end up in the same position as they were last year at centre if Connolly keeps getting hurt. It could mean that the Leafs will have missed a chance to sign another one of these forward options. So it's not really that much of a gamble. But to get an idea of how injury prone Connolly is let's a look at a snippet of his history of injuries:

Transactions/Injuries/Suspensions

July 2, 2011 Signed as an unrestricted free agent by the Toronto Maple Leafs to a two-year contract.
April 26, 2011 Missed 1 playoff game (head injury).
February 4, 2011 Missed 2 games (hip injury).
January 23, 2011 Hip injury, injured reserve.
January 1, 2011 Missed 4 games (nasal surgery).
December 27, 2010 Nasal surgery, injured reserve.
December 21, 2010 Nasal surgery, day-to-day.
December 15, 2010 Missed 8 games (groin).
December 9, 2010 Groin, injured reserve.
November 23, 2010 Groin, day-to-day.
April 15, 2010 Missed 10 games (foot injury).
March 27, 2010 Foot injury, day-to-day.
March 4, 2009 Signed by the Buffalo Sabres to a two-year contract extension.
January 9, 2009 Missed 24 games (broken rib).
November 15, 2008 Broken rib, sidelined indefinitely.
November 1, 2008 Missed 10 games (back injury).
October 10, 2008 Back injury, sidelined indefinitely.
April 5, 2008 Missed the last 12 games of the regular season (hip injury).
March 12, 2008 Hip injury, day-to-day.
March 8, 2008 Missed 1 game (hip injury).
March 5, 2008 Hip injury, day-to-day.
February 23, 2008 Missed 1 game (groin).
February 21, 2008 Groin, day-to-day.
February 10, 2008 Missed 13 games (groin).
January 10, 2008 Groin, day-to-day.
December 26, 2007 Missed 2 games (illness).
December 21, 2007 Illness, day-to-day.
November 21, 2007 Missed 5 games (strained oblique muscle).
November 6, 2007 Strained oblique muscle, sidelined indefinitely.
April 7, 2007 Missed 80 games (concussion).
   

Maybe Burke could contact the real Vatican about the possibility of organizing an exorcism.


Someday I'll be free of these chains

"Tim Connolly Is Not An Improvement"

This is just patently absurd.  While some fans had visions of Brad Richards or Steven Stamkos dancing through their head there is a reason I've been referring to finding a #1 centre this summer as a hunt for a unicorn. In terms of the options that were available, Connolly provides a definite upgrade:


Player Season GP G A PTS GC +/- PIM EV PP SH S S% ATOI
Connolly 2009-10 73 17 48 65 22 10 28 9 7 1 206 8.3 18:37
Bozak 2009-10 37 8 19 27 9 -5 6 6 2 0 51 16 19:14
Connolly 2010-11 68 13 29 42 15 -10 20 7 6 0 151 8.6 16:55
Bozak 2010-11 82 15 17 32 13 -29 14 8 6 1 120 13 19:17

This is obviously a simplistic look at the two players' production but even then it's clear that Connolly has produced more with less ice-time than Bozak has over the past two seasons. The side benefit is that this allows Tyler Bozak, who is still far from a finished product, the time to continue to hone his game. He is strong on face-offs and ended the year with more ice time on the penalty kill.

"Tim Connolly Does Not Address The Team's Needs"

The Toronto Maple Leafs' powerplay has stuttered along as an awful clip for the past few seasons. The firing of Keith Acton and Tim Hunter may possibly help the powerplay but moreso will be picking up a forward that put up 3.04 assists per 60 minutes of powerplay time. As a comparison, that's almost triple the nearest Maple Leaf. The sample size is forwards that played at least 40 games and averaged at least one and a half minutes per game on the powerplay. Connolly would have immediately been the Leafs' best forward on the PP. He has some experience as the quarterback of the powerplay so he could slide into the slot that Tomas Kaberle vacated and that Tim Brent and Brett Lebda took turns trying to fill last year.


Tim Connolly is walking through that door

In terms of the defensive side of the game, Connolly's face-off struggles are a bit of a concern but not much. You can poke through some advanced stats here and look at his zone starts here. In sum, he is decent defensively which will be important since he'll likely be centering Phil Kessel and Joffrey Lupul.

Ultimately, the defensive side of his game will be secondary. His success will be gauged on whether he can reboot a moribund powerplay and whether he can help his line take advantage of facing secondary defensive opposition. The 800-lb gorilla in the room is his concussion. If he suffers another one and misses a big chunk of time then Burke's gamble will have failed. However, if he stays healthy all year then odds are that this will be looked at as a big success. Connolly can help bridge the gap until Colborne or Kadri or another option at centre is ready to take the reins. 

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#3 Wanye
July 03 2011, 11:29PM
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I was more impressed by the restraint the Leafs showed during the frenzy than anything else. This signing is but a fraction of the circus Burke could have created had he pulled trigger like some other GMs in the league.

In an unrelated note: nice work Philadelphia.

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#4 Kent Wilson
July 04 2011, 12:50AM
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I wasn't thrilled by the dollar figure given to Connolly, but the term lowers the risk significantly. And the dude can certainly play when he's healthy.

Overall, not a bad signing. Leafs probably have two legit scoring lines now that Grabovski has emerged.

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#5 Rick
July 04 2011, 09:33AM
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With the latest Preds trade, I think Burke still has a couple moves up his sleeve. The best one for me would be seeing him either move Komisarek to clear space and possibly get a 1st rounder and also sucker Stevie Yzerman into trading Stamkos's rights to him when he refuses to sign so we can give him the big bucks! As for the Connoly trade, like its already been said, much worse could have happened. Hopefully McArthur aint gonna cost us a boat to resign.

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#6 MikeM
July 04 2011, 01:58PM
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More like a stop-gap centreman for Phil Kessel which is not necessarily a bad thing but not really a good thing either. He'll help Phil pot some more pucks over these couple years and then move on somewhere else which will help Burke keep rationalizing the trade but ultimately does nothing for the team.

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#7 theartfuldodger
July 04 2011, 05:50PM
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Someone please explain to me why on earth Stamkos would want to leave Tampa?

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#8 theartfuldodger
July 05 2011, 11:38PM
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Stamkos will go no where. He has Lecavielier, Yzerman and St Louis in his corner. I think he knows and his agent that leaving would be so silly, even for a couple million extra. This kid is just getting started and made it to the Eastern Conference Finals. I say he doesnt go anywhere even if they offer him 10-12 mil a year... Not even Toronto.

Even if he went To Toronto or the likes his play would decline not being surrounded by such a hockey culture. Yzerman has the Detroit culture in Tampa.. Long term not short term goals...

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