Connolly, Liles give PP more kick

Terry Koshan, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 5:43 PM ET

More power or just a little more pop?

The Maple Leafs signed Tim Connolly and acquired John-Michael Liles this summer for a number of reasons, and there’s the hope that each will provide some punch to the Toronto power play.

With three seasons with Ron Wilson as head coach, the Leafs haven’t finished in the top half of the National Hockey League in the department of producing with the man advantage.

The Leafs were 16th with an 18.8% success rate in 2008-09, dead last in 30th at 14% two years ago and 22nd in 2010-11 with a 16% clip.

Of Connolly’s 42 points in 2010-11 with the Buffalo Sabres, 19 (six goals and 13 assists) came when the Sabres’ opponent had someone in the penalty box. There’s the potential Connolly could man the point for the Leafs on the power play, but with his playmaking skills, the team might be better served to utilize him down low.

Liles had six goals and 40 assists last season with the Colorado Avalanche. He scored three power-play goals and set up 15 others.

Unless there is a drastic change in the way the Leafs move the puck around when they have a man advantage, it’s not easy to see them taking big leaps and bounds. Tomas Kaberle was known to be a power-play guy, and it wasn’t great when he was in Toronto. The Leafs figure Liles will take his place.

In Connolly and Liles, the Leafs have the potential to improve when they’re up a man or two. But the players have to make it happen.

FIRST JAGR, NOW YASHIN?

If it often seems like the New York Islanders don’t read from the same book as every other NHL team, it’s no wonder.

Back to the days of Mike Milbury, who never could wait for young players to develop when he was the Isles’ general manager, the club has made a series of strange decisions.

It could be on the verge of making another. Reports on Friday said the Islanders have been talking to centre Alexei Yashin about a possible return to the NHL.

The 37-year-old Yashin has not played in the NHL since 2007, when the Islanders bought him out. The Isles still owe Yashin $2,204,000 in each of the next four seasons. If they re-sign him, the buyout money he is owed will not be affected.

Yashin, who has spent the past four seasons in the Kontinental Hockey League in Russia, has been skating at the Isles’ practice rink and GM Garth Snow told Newsday that Yashin “looks great.”

Jaromir Jagr created a buzz when he signed a few weeks ago with the Philadelphia Flyers, after it appeared as though he was destined for the Detroit Red Wings or the Pittsburgh Penguins. If nothing else, Yashin would certainly draw plenty of gawkers if he became an Islander again. It also would be yet another chapter for the bizarre tales that have become part of Islanders lore.

A REALLY EARLY LOOK

No less than 36 of the top prospects for the 2012 NHL entry draft will gather at the MasterCard Centre Aug. 17-18 for the NHL’s research, development and orientation camp.

It might seem early, but in going up against each other on the ice, the players will show the gathered NHL personnel who can rise above other members of their own age group.

Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma and Phoenix Coyotes coach Dave Tippett, along with NHL hockey operations staff, will guide the players over two days.

The 2012 draft is expected to be a deep one. Among those players who have confirmed their attendance at the mini-camp are Sarnia Sting forward Nail Yakupov, Belleville Bulls goalie Malcolm Subban and Owen Sound Attack forward Jarrod Maidens.

HIRINGS

The Montreal Canadiens hired Randy Cunneyworth and Randy Ladouceur as assistant coaches ... The Winnipeg Jets added Pascal Vincent to their coaching staff.


Videos

Photos