Conor Timmins surprised us more than any other Maple Leafs player in 2022–23
Photo credit:Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
By Alex Hobson3 months ago
Former Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Kyle Dubas made lots of trades during his time with the organization. The recent GM turnover in Toronto with Brad Treliving taking his spot has lots of people reflecting on his tenure, looking at the best and the worst of his moves. Arguably his sneakiest move, perhaps of his entire tenure, came in November of this past season.
After losing Morgan Rielly and T.J. Brodie to injury in a matter of two weeks, the Maple Leafs were looking to add some depth to the back end. They addressed that by trading 6-foot-9 AHL forward Curtis Douglas to the Arizona Coyotes in exchange for defenseman Conor Timmins. The 6-foot-2 native of Thorold, Ontario, originally a projected first round pick in the 2017 draft class, was selected by the Colorado Avalanche in the second round while playing for the OHL’s Soo Greyhounds.
The recurring theme of Timmins’ career so far has been injuries. The Maple Leafs are no stranger to this, with top prospect Nick Robertson running into injury issues every time he starts to make some strides either in the AHL or with the big club. In the former’s case, he suffered a concussion in the 2018 OHL playoffs, and wound up missing the entire 2018-19 season due to lingering symptoms.
Timmins stayed healthy for the most part in the following season, and actually muscled out a good chunk of the 2020-21 season with the Avalanche. He was moved to the Arizona Coyotes in the summer of 2021 in a package that brought eventual Cup-winning goaltender Darcy Kuemper to the Avs, and only got six games with the Coyotes before a knee injury forced him out for the entire 2021-22 season.
Looking to start fresh in 2022-23, he had a minor injury in October, but made his way back on a conditioning stint by early-November, and in the following weeks, he was off to Toronto in the aforementioned Douglas trade. Injuries aside, this was still a 24 year-old 6-foot-2 right-handed defenseman, so he was worth the gamble due to the potential alone. And in 2022-23, he offered us a glimpse into that potential as the subject of The Leafs Nation’s latest year-in-review.
The counting stats
Timmins had to wait about two weeks before making his debut with the Maple Leafs, but the amount of offense he brought from the get-go was a welcomed surprise. He recorded ten points in 12 games to kick off his tenure with the team, and scored his first NHL goal against the Philadelphia Flyers on January 8th.
Unfortunately for Timmins, experience eventually took over, and as players started to get healthy and the team began to boost their defensive corps with players like Jake McCabe and Luke Schenn coming in, he naturally saw his ice-time start to dwindle. Ironically, right before these trades happened, he signed a two-year extension worth $2.2 million, rounding out to an average annual value of $1.1 million.
After Dubas signed that contract, he reinforced that while Timmins’ ice time was likely to diminish in the coming months, it didn’t mean there weren’t plans for him long term with the team. How much that notion will change under Treliving is unknown, but I can’t imagine he’ll exactly be in a rush to dump him. He impressed in a small sample size last season, finishing his first year as a Maple Leaf with 14 points in 25 games, and could help the team in an area they struggled in last season.
The fancy stats
Just like Knies was in his year-in-review, it’s going to be hard to judge Timmins’ analytics for the sole reason that he only played 25 games. That having been said, there’s lots of encouraging signs when you look at his Corsi-for percentage, his expected goals, and his high danger chances among other things.
|Season||Corsi%||Expected Goals||High Danger Chance %|
The Maple Leafs were generally a better team and had the puck more often than not when he was on the ice. His corsi-for percentage ranked higher than any other defenseman on the team last season, and his expected goals rating was second only to Rasmus Sandin, who’s now on the Washington Capitals. It was the exact same story for his high danger chance percentage, second only to dearly departed Rasmus.
That said, Timmins had his defensive shortcomings like any other young, offensive-minded defenseman. Sheldon Keefe did what he could to avoid these shortcomings, starting him in the offensive zone 60% of the time as opposed to 40% of the time in the defensive zone (this doesn’t account for neutral zone starts). The team’s save percentage while he was on the ice was among the worst on the team, too, sitting at .883.
One encouraging statistic is that out of his 12 assists on the season, seven of them were primary assists, and all seven primary assists came at 5v5. This shows us that when he was assisting on goals, oftentimes he had a direct impact on how the goal came about rather than just happening to touch the puck on the same play. Overall, his fancy stats check out for a defenseman of his calibre.
Timmins’ impact on his teammates
Again, the numbers have to be taken with a grain of salt, but Timmins overall had a positive impact on the defensemen he played with. He played alongside Brodie the most by a mile, with Sandin and Mark Giordano rounding out the three d-men he spent the most time playing alongside. Below is a look at what these players’ Corsi-for ratings were playing with Timmins compared to without.
|Player||TOI with Timmins||Corsi with Timmins||Corsi without Timmins|
Timmins did a good job of maintaining a positive Corsi rating with just about every defenseman he played alongside, save for Morgan Rielly and Jake McCabe. As you can see, there was mostly a positive impact with the players he spent the most time with, but the biggest impact was made with Giordano by a long shot. The two didn’t spend a lot of time playing together, but when they did, they did really well when it came to maintaining possession of the puck.
Sandin is no longer with the organization, and Giordano’s status for next season might be up in the air depending on how much he’s got left in the tank. If he’s a regular, a pairing with him and Timmins might be something worth looking at. They’d have to be sheltered, given the age and experience of both players (for different reasons), but it might not be an awful idea for a bottom pairing in 2023-24.
What this means for next season
The Maple Leafs will find themselves in a little bit of a pickle with Timmins next season. On one hand, his numbers from last season suggest he’s definitely earned a spot in the NHL, and he’ll require waivers if the team wants to send him to the AHL. I can say with almost 100% confidence that he’ll be claimed by another team if he goes on waivers, so that’s out of the question. If he’s not going to be traded, he’ll be on the roster.
On the other hand, the Maple Leafs are in a position where the stakes are higher than they’ve ever been, and will continue to grow so long as the team’s “Core Four” are still in place. It’s entirely likely that Treliving looks to upgrade the defensive corps with older, more experienced defensemen, which is understandable. And who knows? Maybe there’s a way he can do that while also ensuring a spot for Timmins.
Either way, if he’s on the team, I think he should be getting regular playing time next season. If he’s not, he’s better served as trade bait over getting the 2019 Justin Holl treatment and spending the entire season on the bench. Much like most decisions ahead of Treliving and co., I don’t envy them having to make this one.
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