Letâ€™s get straight to the point. Tim Connolly‘s play of late isn’t exactly what many of us can call surprising. If you look at his totals since the 2007-08 season you notice two familiar patterns.
The first pattern that everyone seems to cling to is his inability to play a whole NHL season, although we can notice he has remained healthier for the two seasons prior to 2011-12. In 2009-10 he played 73 games and last year he featured in 68 games for the Buffalo Sabres. Thatâ€™s 25 and 20 more than the number of games he played in 2007-08 and 2008-09 (48 games).
Even before he signed on with the Leafs he was called everything from glass man to IR pickup. But boy, can this glass man produce. This should come as no surprise. After all he was always flirting with a point-per-game NHL average. He never quite got there but if we examine his 4 most recent NHL seasons more closely we see that Tim Connolly featured in 237 NHL games which equals 59.25 games per season. We also see that during that time he scored 194 points which keeps his points-per-game at a very high 0.82.
And this is where things get really interesting. I wanted to look how his point totals look like when compared with other similarly valued players in the NHL. So, based on a completely arbitrary criterion Iâ€™ve compared Tim Connolly to Mike Ribeiro, Ville Leino and Sam Gagner. The size fits, the styles fit and the money average of the three almost fits (4.43 per). Truth be told, Connolly is clearly a better defensive player than those three but since Iâ€™ll strictly be looking at their offensive production that doesnâ€™t matter than much. Just to be clear, Connollyâ€™s deal is 2 years $4,750,000 ($5,500,000 year 1, $4,000,000 year 2).
Although a lot younger, with much upside left, Sam Gagner has a similar playing style and is also injury prone. Over the course of the four aforementioned seasons Gagner has averaged 72.75 games per season and managed to put up 173 points in those 291 games played. During that stretch his points-per-game is 0.59. Since Gagner is younger and therefore not fully developed I thought about removing his rookie year from the total, but that would lower his average even further. Mike Ribeiro is a more valid comparison age wise and money wise ($5,000,000 per until 2013) but doesnâ€™t get injured as often. In the last four seasons Ribeiro played 306 games for the Stars (76.5 per season). In that time he collected 285 points which gets his point-per-game up to 0.93. As things currently stand the salary, cap hit, term and production comparison to Ville Leino looks a little bit silly if you ask me. Leino has never had NHL consistency and the best regular season points-per-game average he had was 0.65 (2010-11) despite playing in 22 games more than what Connolly averaged through the 4 aforementioned seasons. Simply put, he got paid for one good playoff year.
So, if he stays healthy and keeps producing this way one can argue that all those players are on worse deals than Tim Connolly, except maybe Mike Ribeiro whoâ€™s about the same value for money but will earn 1 million more in actual salary in year two of his contract.
I also think Connollyâ€™s performance is something that canâ€™t be judged from a â€œbeing injury proneâ€ standpoint because unlike a majority of these players Connolly has been brought here as a stopgap. Now, I really hate that word and if keeps producing like this he may even stick around, but the term on his current contract doesnâ€™t really make him a cornerstone piece here. Surprisingly, his play does, but thatâ€™s beside the point. The point is you can look at â€œsimilar moneyâ€ players with longer contracts that were supposed to be the cornerstones of their franchises and point fingers at them being injury prone but canâ€™t use the same criterion when judging Connolly. Players like say, Rick DiPietro. DiPietro is a dead weight because all the term he carries. The way I look at Connolly is – every game he plays is a bonus for this team, especially if he keeps this up.
Why is that? Well, simply put, we didnâ€™t give up anything for a â€œwhen healthy almost a point-per-game playerâ€ who makes guys around him better when he does play (Bozak). He also offers guys like Bozak and Grabo a chance to learn the ropes from a savvy veteran and helps to make our special teams a whole lot better. Also, weâ€™re dead even to last season when he doesnâ€™t play at all. Sure, the cap hit remains there, but the term almost negates that risk and makes it a home run or a dead even situation. Donâ€™t know about you but I for one have always liked a possibility of winning big with little risk involved.