Tim Connolly! Our Saviour?
It seems as though a lot of time has passed since July the 1st. While many were disappointed that Brian Burke did not lure prized center Brad Richards to Toronto, I was actually quite happy. While he wasn't able to acquire the franchise center the Leafs desperately needed via trade or free agency, he did add a definite upgrade at the position.
Tim Connolly is his name; injuries and underachieving seem to be his game… At least if you ask Steve Simmons. Now while he hasn’t even been in Toronto long enough to hit the ice, Connolly does bring both hope and another question mark to Leaf Nation.
First things first, the biggest knock on Connolly thus far has been his character, or lack thereof. This isn’t the first time the Leafs have had an addition to the team questioned for his locker room presence. When Dion Phaneuf was traded to Toronto. his character came into question and nobody of note from Calgary came to his defense. Now the team captain, we know that Dion is a great person and while often slow to answer questions posed by the media -- seriously, you can see the gears turning in his head… -- we know he is a great locker room guy. When Connolly's character was criticized, former teammate Ryan Miller came to his defense. Miller says Tim is a great guy, blessed with talent and simply on the wrong end of some unfortunate injuries. If Miller says he’s a good guy, that’s good enough for me.
Connolly will likely begin the season flanked by sniper Phil ‘The Thrill’ Kessel and hard-nosed Joffrey Lupul. With Lupul driving the net, Kessel shooting, and Connolly making plays, this line has the potential to be a difference maker for the Leafs.
Tim Connolly notched 13 goals and 29 assists in 68 games this past season. While those numbers are not spectacular, it’s important to note that over the course of 82 games Connolly could have achieved 34 assists,. And that’s why he was brought to Toronto; to give Kessel a legitimate NHL level playmaker. And while 13 goals is not spectacular, any goals Connolly can chip in will only help in his line's effectiveness.
Phil Kessel, now a three-time 30-goal scorer in his young career, has become known around the league as a lethal sniper. This past season, Kessel was able to put up an impressive 32 goals and 32 assists for 64 points in 82 games. However, anybody who watched a single Leafs game knows that Kessel could have easily had 45+ assists if Tyler Bozak was capable of hitting an empty net. Now, with Connolly as his center, I truly believe Kessel will reach 40 goals. Thanks to Connolly's playmaking ability and soft hands, Toronto will boast another offensive threat besides just Kessel.
Connolly will make a large impact in a Leafs uniform; he needed a change of scenery and got it, now it’s time for him to show us what he’s capable of. I chose to not include Lupul in this blog because I truly believe somebody is going to take his spot on that line by the end of the season.
Is Tim Connolly the Toronto Maple Leafs saviour? Simply put, no. But he’s as close to one as they're going to get right now.