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:
|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:
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.