Monday, 4 July 2011

A Closer Look At The Connolly Signing

Alright let's be honest here. After months of speculation and hoping that the Toronto Maple Leafs would be able to acquire Brad Richards in free agency, hearing that they just signed Tim Connolly is a bit like having to settle for the ugly chick while your best friend takes home the beauty queen. In fact, once news broke that star centre Brad Richards had chosen the Rangers over the Leafs, it appeared as though half of Leafs Nation would need to be placed on suicide watch. However, now that we've all had a few days to get over the disappointment of losing out on the Richards sweepstakes let's take a closer look at the situation.

First of all, while Tim Connolly has never put up numbers like Brad Richards has, he has had a few very good seasons derailed by injuries in which he was on pace to eclipse the 70 point mark. Lets take a look at Connolly's last 6 seasons. So in order of games played, goals, assists, points, and just for fun-pro rate those numbers over the course of a full 82 game season:

2005-2006: 63GP 16G 39A 55P (on pace for: 71 total points)

2006-2007: played only 2 games, nothing to see here

2007-2008: 48GP 7G 33A 40P (on pace for: 68 total points)

2008-2009: 48GP 18G 29A 47P (on pace for: 80 total points)

2009-2010: 73GP 17G 48A 65P (on pace for: 73 total points)

2010-2011 68GP 13G 29A 42P (on pace for: 50 total points)

Now obviously, the most concerning part of these statistics is that its been a long time since Connolly was able to play a full season. The man has a reputation of being made of glass, so yes, that is a huge gamble to take. Fortunately for Toronto, if Connolly makes his usual trip to the injured reserve the Leafs are only committed to him for 2 seasons. And seeing as how the Leafs dont give up anything but cap space, its not that bad of a risk to take.

Now on the other hand, if Tim Connolly really is over the injury bug and can string together a full season, the numbers above show that he does have the talent to be roughly a 70 point centre-and in fairness his last two seasons have been close to full ones. He doesn't score alot of goals, but a pass first centre is exactly what the Leafs need to get Phil Kessel to the next level. Considering that Kessel's set up man last year was 32 point Tyler Bozak, its clear that while Connolly wasn't the player Leafs fans were hoping would be signed, he is a pretty big upgrade at the centre position. His signing also allows Bozak to move down into a 3rd line role where he will not be expected to play above his head every single game.

Lastly, Tim Connolly brings one more element that the Toronto Maple Leafs were sorely lacking last year-he is a standout penalty killer. This video was brought to my attention by a Buffalo Sabres fan, and while many Sabres fans have conflicting opinions on Connolly's game, one thing they all seem to rave about is his penalty killing ability.

So if Tim Connolly can manage to stay healthy, he has the talent to be Kessel's set up man while being a staple on the penalty kill. Here's hoping that settling for the ugly chick wont be so bad!