The way Dave Pym sees it, the Calgary Roughnecks have their own version of NHL superpest Claude Lemieux.
Although Craig Conn has just finished an average regular season, the Riggers head coach can envision the 26-year-old forward raising his level of play for the post-season, just as Lemieux used to do.
Lemieux won four Stanley Cups, and often, his goal totals would go through the roof regardless of what he did during the season.
Conn had a history of great playoff performances.
In three straight playoffs with the Arizona Sting, Conn was a monster, scoring 19 points in three games twice and 11 in two games the other year.
Heading into Saturday’s meeting with the Edmonton Rush (1 p.m., Saddledome), Pym hopes his ‘Claude Lemieux’ shows up angry and fired up.
“That makes me laugh,” Conn said. “I kinda wish it was a different player. I hope he meant it as a compliment.
“I’ve had some good playoffs. I don’t know because if it’s do-or-die with everything on the line … I can’t really explain it, but I hope it happens again this year.”
Conn admittedly didn’t have a great first year in Calgary after getting traded from the Toronto Rock for a first-round draft pick.
The 5-foot-11, 200-lb. righty scored 19 goals and added
23 assists in 16 games.
None of that matters now if he shows up for the playoffs.
In 2005, Conn scored
20 goals in 13 games between the Minnesota Swarm and Sting. In three playoff games, he had 12 goals and seven points in helping the team to the Champion’s Cup final. Two years later with the Sting, Conn scored seven goals and added 12 helpers in another championship final run that ended in defeat.
“It’s one of the reasons we brought him in,” Pym said.
“When you put up playoff performances like that, it’s indicative that he elevates
his intensity during the playoffs. It shows he has some character and grit.”
After the Sting folded following the 2007 season, Conn was taken by the Buffalo Bandits in the dispersal draft.
That summer, he blew out his knee — wrecking the ACL, MCL, PCL and patella tendon — and he spent the entire next season on the injured list.
There was a second dispersal of Sting players, and Conn was picked up by Toronto. He moved back to the Centre of the Universe from Vancouver to rehab his knee and spend time with his parents, who live in St. Catharines, Ont.
Conn played 11 games with the Rock last season, but he’s just now feeling 100% with his injury.
“It was frustrating, and it took longer than I would have liked to get back into the flow and feel like I’m where I want to be,” said Conn, who works as a roofer as a day job.
“I still wear a brace and it still gives me some problems, but it’s not something I worry about anymore. I feel comfortable out there on it.”
When Conn came to Calgary, he was reunited with assistant coach Curt Malawsky, but he had to take the retired player’s spot in the lineup.
Conn and Malawsky were teammates in Vancouver (2004), when Conn was just
20 and Malawsky was his coach for the junior Burnaby Lakers at the time.
“I think maybe Curt is a reason I’m in Calgary right now,” Conn said. “He’s a guy I look up to and I owe a lot to in my lacrosse career.”
Conn is no stranger to playoff games at the Saddledome.
In 2007, he scored one goal and added five helpers as the Sting beat the Riggers.
In 2005, Conn had four goals and two assists as the Sting ended hopes of a Riggers title defence.
After three years away from post-season action, Conn wants to be a Rush killer now instead of a Riggers killer.
“I would absolutely love to do that,” Conn said. “Nothing would make me feel better than to spoil Edmonton’s hopes and dreams this year. We will give it our all, and we expect a good outcome.”