What to Expect in 2011-12: Tim Connolly

Source: mapleleafs.nhl.com

Photo Credit: Getty Images

Leafs Nation was parked outside Brad Richards’ agents’ office on July 1st, singing songs they hoped would sway him to our little corner of the universe. It was not to be, along came Tim Connolly, the Leafs‘ silver medal. He has been notorious in his time in Buffalo for injuries that leave him absent from the team for large chunks at a time. At only 2 years, is Connolly a gamble worth making for the Leafs? Time to find out.

Here are the top 9 offensive contributors at forward for Buffalo in 2010-11:

NameGames PlayedGoalsAssistsPoints
T. Vanek80324173
D. Stafford62312152
J. Pominville73223052
T. Ennis82202949
T. Connolly68132942
D. Roy35102535
N. Gerbe64161531
P. Gaustad81121931
J. Hecht67121729

*Include ES, PP and PK

Despite missing 14 games this season, Connolly still managed to finish fifth in scoring on the team. His point percentage comes out to 0.62. If we stretch that out to a full 82 games, Connolly gets 51 points. Doing the same for everyone on this list, Connolly comes in fifth again, passing Tyler Ennis but falling behind Derek Roy. From a purely offensive standpoint, Connolly had one of his worst seasons in several years. In 09-10, Connolly’s points percentage was 0.89 with 65 points in 73 games. In 08-09, his points percentage was 0.98 when he scored 47 points in 48 games. It’s clear the talent is there for him to be a top center. The gamble comes in guessing whether he can stay healthy while playing up to his capabilities.

Here’s the Corsi breakdown for these same players:

NameCorsi ONCorsi OFFCorsi REL
J. Hecht11.57-1.4913.1
J. Pominville8.32-3.3411.7
T. Connolly9.55-1.6711.2
N. Gerbe7.801.016.8
T. Vanek4.33-0.264.6
P. Gaustad2.180.531.7
D. Stafford1.292.41-1.1
T. Ennis-0.851.78-2.6
D. Roy-0.385.76-6.1

*Includes only ES time

Corsi is a possession statistic. It tracks shots directed at the opponent’s net (with shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots all counting) and subtracts from that shots directed at the player’s own net. Corsi ON tracks a team’s Corsi when that particular player is on the ice. Hecht, Pominville, Connolly and Gerbe all had exceptional Corsi ON ratings. This means they had possession far more than their opponents and directed many more shots at the opponent’s net. Corsi OFF tracks a team’s Corsi when that particular player is not on the ice. Hecht, Pominville and Connolly again have great Corsi OFF ratings, because the more negative that number is, the worse the team is when those players aren’t on the ice. If we then subtract Corsi OFF from Corsi ON, we get Corsi REL, the “true” Corsi stat.

Connolly slides into third place on this list. The reason is that his style of game is well suited for even strength play. Roy, Stafford and Ennis are players that thrive on powerplay time and to their credit they do it very well. Connolly is a far more consistent performer, which the Leafs absolutely craved this past season. His strong powerplay skill is icing on the cake.

Lastly let’s look at some defensive statistics:

NameOzone%Fin Ozone%QUALCOMPBlocked ShotsHits
T. Vanek61.855.1-0.0061230
D. Roy61.353.9-0.0281616
J. Hecht59.053.30.0122632
J. Pominville58.052.00.0175035
D. Stafford57.652.5-0.014553
T. Connolly56.053.0-0.0095324
T. Ennis54.552.9-0.0082742
N. Gerbe50.348.5-0.0222353
P. Gaustad44.447.1-0.01144128

*Blocked shots and hits encompass ES, PP and PK

Ozone% tracks the percentage of shifts a player starts in the offensive zone, while Fin Ozone% obviously tracks the percentage of shifts a player ends in the offensive zone. From the very high Ozone% for Vanek and Roy, we can surmise that Buffalo was trying to shelter them from the defensive zone. This is unsurprising, as many top offensive players are noted as being subpar in their own end. Connolly ends up somewhere in the middle, indicating that while he may not be a defensive stalwart, he’s at least viewed favourably in his own end. Gaustad ended up with an absurdly low Ozone%, which suggests confidence in his ability to move the puck forward.

QUALCOMP helps us to give meaning to Ozone stats. It measures the stats of one player to those of his competitors. Most of these players have negative QUALCOMP stats, mostly because they’re quite talented forwards. However, some players, like Derek Roy, have been further sheltered by being placed against far inferior opposition. Connolly again finishes somewhere in the middle. However, he did come out on top for blocked shots among this group, while being only second among all forwards on Buffalo. An area in which Connolly does not excel is in hits. Expecting a gritty forechecker from Tim Connolly is asking far too much. He’s a dangling playmaker, through and through.

So what can we expect from Tim Connolly? A great offensive talent, with adequate defensive contributions. He’ll be a great benefit to Phil Kessel more than anyone else on the Leafs, as his style is exactly what Kessel needs to focus on scoring goals. The only downside is again his injury history and potential for further injury. That’s why Burke only pulled the trigger on a 2 year deal. Any longer would have been far too risky. At the very least, even if he completely flops for Toronto, it will have given Kadri and Colborne 2 years to properly develop. I have no problem with that.