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Seriously. Maria Genero has totally won my heart over…

…for Henrik Tallinder. (Don’t even get me started on Genero. I’ve said it before, I want her job, and I’d stop at nothing short of lumping her up to get it. That is, if I weren’t afraid of the ensuing arrest.)

Really, though, I’ve always liked Hank and thought he was a decent enough defenseman. And it didn’t hurt that during practices or whatever he always, always is smiling, and you can often her him shouting in celebration or just because they’re having fun. And that’s what I want from the Sabres. I want them to play well, but I want them to have fun.

Everyone knows that when you’re having fun and you’re getting satisfaction from your job or task at hand, than you’ll perform better while doing it. So if the Sabres are having fun, then they’ll most likely be playing a hell of a lot better than we’ve seen out of them this season.

Anyways, I just thought it was adorable during the Sabres Show, when Henrik was talking about sledding with this wife Ann(e) and their children Nathan and Amelie. He smiled and went all cute and sentimental on us when he said he loves to hear the kids giggle.


Come on, now. Big collective AWWW. =]

But that’s only the first part of my conviction.

The rest has to do with the long-term injuries suffered by Teppo Numminen (fractured jaw) and Andrej Sekera (ankle).

I’ve been saying it for weeks: The Sabres somehow needed to devise a defensemen rotation of sorts. Yes, before you even say it, I know it would screw up the pairings and the chemistry, blah blah blah, but we all know that our defense corps tend to break down and fall apart (i.e. every single one gets hurt) from the middle of the season, down through the stretch, and into the playoffs.

(I honestly believe that, had Jay McKee not contracted a ridiculous staph infection in his leg, due to a laceration from his pads, we would have a Stanley Cup banner in the rafters at the HSBC Arena.)

But now Chris Butler is really going to know what it’s like to be a regular NHL player. Teppo Numminen is not going to be there to show him the ropes now, and he’s going to have to step up even more than he has already to carry this team. Yes, I said carry this team. Out of the six defensemen that are going to be dressing now, I believe that Butler is the most consistent and most reliable. At least he has been since he was called up before Christmas.

And Nathan Paetsch?

I’ve been saying all along that Lindy Ruff needs to change the ways he deals with his seventh defenseman and his back-up goalies. If they have one bad game, they never again see playing time. You can’t expect a guy who sits about 10 games or more to come back to the lineup and play better than your starter(s). It just won’t happen. They either have to be played more often, or given a string of two, maybe three, games, depending on who it is (i.e. position).

Lindy did it last year with Thibault, and he’s doing it this year with Lalime.

The sad thing is, this thinking and method has seeped it’s way up to the press box, which has become much like a prison for Paetsch, I’m sure.

No matter how many bag skates this guy does, no matter how many extra minutes he logs with James Patrick, no matter how many times he hits the stationary bikes, he is not going to be used to game-play. It just won’t happen.

I can only hope that Nathan has a good game tonight. Well, actually, whether he does or not is slightly irrelevant, because no one is going to be getting a flight from Portland to Buffalo any time soon. Not a defenseman, at least. Mike Weber has been injured for some time now, and Mike Funk is recuperating in his hometown of Abbotsford, BC while he recovers from his second concussion since training camp of this year. (The first was suffered during camp, I believe the opening day. He returned from that on November 7, 2008, which just so happened to be the night I was there. The second concussion was suffered from a vicious hit from behind into the boards (which I still can’t find video of), mid-December. Funk has only played in 13 of Portland’s 37 games.) Out of the other d-men there, only two have seen any time up in Buffalo (Mike Card and Marc-Andre Gragnani, the latter used to play as a winger).

So like I said, hopefully Paetsch will have been worked in practice hard enough to be near game speed. I really hope he does well, because I’d hate to see him go. And the likely scenario is that he will if he doesn’t play well.

Die By The Blade has already furthered the trade rumor that could be bringing in veteran Mathieu Schneider to bolster the blue line in exchange for the mostly unwanted Maxim Afinogenov.

Could something along these lines happen? It will be interesting to see which rumors turn out to be actual moves once the trade deadline passes. But if this one does go through, the Sabres will be in a rut as far as bodies go. We’ve got too many defensemen, but most of them are very young. I’m anxious to see what Darcy and the management will do, come February and March.

Anyways, Go Sabres! (And Derek? Remember what I said about no friends on the ice. You shouldn’t even be friends with Greg Campbell off the ice, so definitely no niceties on the ice.)

Oh, and I just feel the need to tell you that Thomas Vanek giggles like a girl, and he and Drew Stafford stuck Butler with the bill at Chef’s on Saturday. He laughed it off when asked about it, but still. Way to treat the rookies like that.

No one is happier than this girl to not only see this face again, but to see it bearing a grin.


Alright. Now that I’ve gotten that out of the way… Seeing as how Timmmmaaaay is returning tomorrow night, I thought it might be interesting to examine his case.

If you asked me if I could sum up Connolly’s career in one word, I’d chose unfortunate, the definition of which states that it is something marked or accompanied by or resulting in ill fortune. Tim Connolly is incredibly gifted and is a fantastic hockey player, but the poor guy has had more injuries that I can count.

The serious ones began back in his junior year, while playing down the 90 in Erie, with the Otters. In the 1998-99 season, Connolly broke his leg during a game, resulting in a rod being placed in his tibia.

This injury hardly affected his draft status, as the New York Islanders took him fifth overall that year. Despite just coming off of his broken leg, Connolly made the team out of camp. He played 81 games in his rookie season, recording only 10 goals, but snagging 20 assists for 34 points on the year. Not too shabby for a rookie, especially in the Old NHL, but more would definitely be expected of a first-round pick.

In his sophomore season, Connolly appeared in all 82 games, this time posting 10 goals, but 31 assists, improving his points total to a high 41.

The summer after that season, Tim was attending the high school graduation of his younger twin sisters, Caitlin and Shannon. Their graduation coincided with the second day of the NHL Entry Draft. Connolly admitted being excited, due to NYI’s acquisition of Alexei Yashin and Chris Osgood, and since the first day is usually when the wheeling and dealing occurs, he was completely shocked when GM Mike Milbury called–during the ceremony–to tell him that he and Taylor Pyatt had been sent packing to Buffalo, in exchange for Mike Peca.

So, Connolly suited up in the red and black. In his first season for the Sabres, Connolly again played all 82 games, but struggled to produce, improving on his previous totals, but hardly significantly. He scored 10 goals again, and tallied 35 assists, heightening his points total by four to 45.

In his fourth career season–second with the Sabres–Connolly severly underachieved, only netting 12 goals and 13 assists, for 25 points. Tim appeared in 80 games, and only missed the last two of the season due to a suspension, warranted due to swinging a stick at an opponent.

At this point in time, Tim looked reliable, at least health-wise. He was one of the leading Iron Men in the league, playing over 300 straight games (I believe he had a run of over 320, but I can’t find the exact number, and I think that put him at third in the rank).

But it all went downhill from there.

In the preseason of the 2003-2004 season, the Sabres were playing an exhibition game against the Chicago Blackhawks. This is what Tim had to say:

I took a mid-ice, shoulder-to-head hit with Scott Nichol from the Blackhawks. It was a clean hit, but I had just taken a shot, so I was in a vulnerable position where I couldn’t really brace myself. I didn’t get knocked out, I skated to the bench, but I was out of it. My legs gave out a little bit. I had never suffered a concussion before, but it was one of those situations where it wouldn’t go away. It took more than six months before my head was clear and I was able to work out and get back in the swing of things. (From ESPN.com)

Needless to say, as I’m sure you’re all well aware, Tim missed that entire season.

Cue the lockout. Tim opted to play in Switzerland, with HC Lugano. There, he played 16 games, had seven goals and three assists. His stay in Europe was cut short, though, due to a knee injury.

So Tim returned to New York, and rehabbed his knee to be sure that it would be ready for the upcoming NHL season.

In 2005-2006, Connolly was limited to 63 games in the regular season, due to a controversial knee injury. This happened when Darius Kasparaitis, then of the New York Rangers, checked Connolly low, causing him to miss time. In this season, though, Connolly recorded 16 goals and 39 assists, combining for 55 points, career highs across the board. At this point in time, he was registering .87 points per game. Hardly anything to sneeze at.

In his first playoff appearance, Connolly only played in 8 games, but registered five goals and six assists for 11 points, which would be 1.375 points per game. He did not conclude the Sabres’ playoff push with them, though, because he suffered a second concussion, thanks to a vicious, but clean, hit, from the Ottawa Senators’ Peter Schaefer, now with the Boston Bruins.

Because of problems thought to be related to his second concussion, Connolly sat out all but the last two games of the 2006-2007 season. In those last two games, he recorded one goal.

In the playoffs that year, though, Tim played 16 games, recording nine assists.

On to the 2007-2008 season. Connolly struggled throughout the year with bone spurs in his hip, which eventually required surgery. He suited up for only 48 games, scoring only seven goals, adding 33 helpers, but in the end only posted 40 points. Obviously more is needed from Connolly, whose points per game total for the season then sat at .83.

Thus far this season, Connolly has had fractured vertebrae and a broken rib, limiting him to only six of the the Sabres’ 40 games. In those six games, though, Connolly has put up two goals and five assists, for a points per game average of 1.167.

None of this goes to show how skilled Connolly is, though. He has long been Ruff’s PP QB, and always sees ice time on the PK. His teammates will always say how gifted he is, and how difficult he can be to play against.

But what do his numbers really mean to us? Why is he valuable to this team?

Let’s allow his career totals to do the talking, shall we? In the nine seasons Connolly was with an NHL team (the season he missed due to concussion symptoms and the current season included), he’s only played 444 of a possible 696 games (only 63.8%). In those games, he’s recorded 72 goals and 176 assists, for a total of 248 points. That’s only an average of .558 points per game, which would equate to 45.8 points on a season.

Like I said, I love Tim Connolly more than the next Sabres fan. I have since we acquired him, but that’s a whole ‘nother story. My point is, his numbers suck. They definitely do not portray the player we all know Connolly has the potential to be. The problem is, he is so injury-plagued that he probably will never live up to his own expectations, let alone ours.

But I’m glad to see he’ll be back tomorrow. Our power play sure as hell needs him, and it wouldn’t hurt to have a center who can really see the ice and find good passing lanes out there.

The question remains, how much longer will Timmy be wearing blue and gold? Will he be gone by the trade deadline? Is he going to leave that day? Over the summer? Or will he stay with us? Your guess is as good as mine, seeing as how Afinogenov is a bigger problem, and Kotalik would probably garner the most interest from other teams. It doesn’t hurt that the coaching staff loves Connolly. If he does stay, though, he’d better be willing to take a sizeable pay cut, because there is no way, talent aside, that a guy that injury-riddled deserves a salary of $2.9 million per season.

*****

Speaking of trades, there are rumors spreading up in Portland. They’ve hit a snag this season with goaltending, as Adam Dennis recently required season-ending hip surgery. That means Jhonas Enroth has been shouldering all of the duties, now coming up on his (I believe) 11th game in a row.

Their need of a goalie, combined with the Sabres’ supposed interest in keeping Chris Butler (we’ll see about that one) and Matt Ellis up in Buffalo, would obviously present the Sabres with a predicament. In order to keep extra bodies up in the NHL, they’d have to clear roster space. The obvious bodies to move would be Afinogenov and Paetsch, Max for obvious reasons, and Paetsch because he’s the odd man out. Kotalik and Connolly could also be moved due to contract years, but that’s hardly likely; Kotalik is a force on this team, and Connolly has virtually no stock.

Maine Hockey Journal reported that Kevin Dineen, the coach of the Portland Pirates, had some interesting sound bytes one the subject, suggesting the Buffalo brass have something in the works:

“(Goalie search) has been put off for a reason and won’t be clarified til Friday at the earliest,” said Dineen.

It’ll be interesting to see what happens, that’s for sure.

*****

And seeing as Derek Roy actually called up Kiss 98.5 this morning, I can tell you what he had to say. Honestly, though, I think this is the first actual D.R.R. in about a month, mostly due to the holidays falling on Thursdays…

– Andrew Peters’ thumb is bruised, was bleeding yesterday, and it still hurts.
– Derek suggested that Andy’s fingers taste like chicken wings.
– He says you shouldn’t bite people unless your life is in danger. Nick added, “Unless you’re on Chippewa.”
– He’s excited to play against Chris Drury.
– Is he doing anything differently? No. He’s sticking with his system.
– VitaminWater flavor? Endurance/Mango.
– Sometimes works out after games.
– January has a ridiculous travel schedule. He may just leave his suitcase packed.
– Doesn’t have any pets.
– Did he send a baby gift to Rob Ray? No.
– He was 3 when he first skated. His brothers were about that age as well. He was awful, falling everywhere. Couldn’t stop until he was “like 10 years old.”

Finally, he called them, and finally some oddball information.

Well, kids, it snowed again. Big surprise. I’m off to shovel, and the hopefully I’ll feel spry enough to head to the gym. That’s my plan, at least. I’ll be back if I hear any juicy information.

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