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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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