July 3, 2011
A scout's scoop on Connolly
By MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI Agency
TORONTO - Tiny Tim?
Or Tim Terrific?
Which version of Tim Connolly are the Maple Leafs getting?
The brittle, injury-plagued guy who has missed 190 games since the lockout, causing certain individuals around the team to nickname him “Tiny Tim?”
Or the extremely gifted center who his former coach, Lindy Ruff, described as being a potential game-breaker, when healthy?
In order to better understand the player the Maple Leafs inked to a two-year, $9.5 million US deal on Saturday, here is a break down of western New York native Tim Connolly.
Check that. Maybe “break down” is not the best phrase, given his injury history. Let’s go with “analysis” instead.
Here is the skinny on Connolly’s game courtesy of a veteran NHL pro scout who was contacted by the Toronto Sun on Saturday night.
The good: “He has got real good skills ... A great skater with great hands ... He sees the ice very well ... He moves the puck easily ... One of his greatest assets is his ability to find his teammates around him and get them the puck ... Has a real good stick ... Excellent special teams player, both on the power play and on the penalty kill.”
The bad: “He does not have outside speed ... If he was a consistent player who performed to his ability every night, he would not keep getting just two-year contracts, which his past two have been ... His injury history is an issue. Sure he has had some flukey ones but there have been some serious concussions too.”
The verdict: “When you look at it, it’s an upgrade from what they had ... It should be fun to watch how he dishes the puck to Phil Kessel, who hasn’t really had a playmaker like this during his time in Toronto ... They might have trouble going up against big physical defencemen though ... He got a slight bump in salary from the (two-year, $9 million) deal he had in Buffalo ... His injury history keeps landing him short-term contracts, which is the case here ... All in all, not a bad risk/reward pickup with an upside.”
The numbers game
Connolly has registered 395 points in 627 career NHL games, which averages out to .63 points-per-outing. Over an 82-game schedule, that equates to 52 points, which would have ranked him fifth on the team behind Kessel, Clarke MacArthur, Mikhail Grabovski and Nik Kulemin in 2010-11. Of course, playing with Kessel should pad both their point totals.
On the down side, despite landing an annual salary of $4.75 million, he has never scored more than 18 goals in a season. Only once has he recorded more than 55 points, that coming in 2008-09 when he had 65.
The trainers' room
When you’ve missed 190 games since the 2004-05 lockout, you’ve obviously suffered more than your share of injuries.
While he has been concussion free since 2006-07, he had a couple of scary ones early on. One caused him to miss the entire ’03-04 campaign; another kept him out of the lineup until the final two contests of the ’06-07 regular season.
Since then, check out this laundry list of ailments: Bone spurs on his hip; a broken foot; a broken rib; two cracked vertebrae; a broken nose; a separated sternum.
Is there a doctor in the house?
View from Buffalo
In the end, there is no one better to evaluate Connolly than his long-time coach with the Sabres, Lindy Ruff.
“All in all, I like Tim,” Ruff said in a phone interview on Saturday night. “I’ve coached Tim his entire time in Buffalo and you can sum it up this way: He’s had periods of brilliance and he has had the most brutal injuries. He’s had an up-and-down career.
“He can be fearless at times, which caused his first concussion when he was cutting over the middle. On the penalty kill, he’s very good and doesn’t hesitate to block shots.
“He’s had some injury problems. But when he’s healthy, he alone can be a difference maker in games.”
When he’s healthy ...
In the end, that will be the ultimate factor in whether this turns out to be a good deal for the Leafs.