Toronto has once again proven that they're bat-shit crazy. Signing Connolly to a contract with $4.75 million hit only makes sense when you consider how completely garbage that team was last year. Yet, here I am, a couple days out, and I'm still seeing asinine defenders of the contract, of Connolly himself. Maybe its just that those of us happy to see him gone are calmed by the knowledge that we won't have to live in a constant sense of worry that he'll shatter into a million pieces when he takes a body check into the boards. Or maybe we're also happy to know that Buffalo's per capita interest in water sports has just decreased significantly, and that's never a bad thing. Either way, the anti-TC crowd has been largely quiet over the past few days, and we're left with some apologists who want to rewrite Timmy's history with the Sabres.
Now, before I go off on my journey of debunking a particularly absurd thread of this thinking, it bears mentioning that I like Connolly. During Episode #8 of the CrapTastiCast, while talking about Stafford's signing, I made it clear that I would have been happy with resigning him for the right price. I estimated my threshold at around $2 million/yr, reasoning - like many fans - that such a salary was commiserate with TC's actual value to the team. More than that, though, I wanted Connolly to come back and succeed as a Sabre. I'm not that complicated of a man, and when a player dons the Blue and Gold, I want nothing more than to see that player set the league on fire. Such was my hope for TC, always, and no one was more aware of those flashes of brilliance that we saw from time to time. I saw those moments and knew this was a dude who was trying, who cared about winning and winning with the Sabres. And, for all the talk about fans being unfairly harsh to the guy - and the speculation about the emotional toll that it may have taken on him and his play - I'm sad that TC never learned the reality that Sabres fans were just as eager to see him succeed, to cheer him on with full voice, to forgive him for the past failures as he rediscovered his ability to produce, to score.
One of the things mentioned about Connolly, and the reason for this post in the first place, is that he has always been a producer, a creator, even if not a scorer. And, the statistics bear this out of late - in 2009-10, especially, TC was on an absurd pace, and really ramped up his assist total during the Sabres' Northeast Division campaign. This year, while that production dropped a tick, it was still decent, not to mention his utility as a PK and PP guy. I get it, and its those considerations that made me think him worth a look at $2 million. But, the dealbreaker for many fans, myself included, will remain the the counterpoint - that he was goal-less in 29 playoff games - and that there is simply no justification for that kind of play when you're making as much as TC was with the club. As Yachter and I discussed last night after craft beers in the heart of Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn, Connolly had the misfortune of being one of the guys who we kept instead of #48 and #23. Expectations were high, as was his price tag, and he simply has not delivered.
Surprisingly, in response to this central, unassailable point about Connolly's playoff production, I recently saw the most ridiculous claim coming out of one of the Sabres' blogs twitter feeds the other day: That we who refer to "no goals in 29 playoff games" stat should basically shut it, because TC was still productive over that time, with 12 assists and a +2.
I'm not even going to bother attributing this argument about TC's assist and +/- totals since (a) my plan is to demolish this thought so thoroughly that I could really care less about demolishing the person that wrote it, and (b) I think its all-too-likely that a lot of fans would make, or have made, this same argument, so really, this post is meant to put you all in your place as well.
I could spend a few paragraphs of rage on the stupidity of thinking that 12 assists over 29 games is actually an argument for Connolly. I mean, that's just stupid. Stupid, stupid, stupid. But, too easy. I could also mention how the +/- statistic is both overrated and that it, as applied to this situation, drastically distorts the reality of Connolly's play., as it was simply padded 2007 playoff run, when he was a +6. He was -2 in both 2010 and 2011. [As for run in 2007, his +/- breaks down as follows, for anyone who cares: +2 against the Isles (no games in minus); +3 against Rangers (no games in minus), +1 against Ottawa (Game 1, -2; Game 2, +1; Game 3, even; game 4, +2; Game 5, even)]
But, these are obviously points lost on some in the remote corners of Sabreland, since we still get the argument that there is value and creativity evident within Connolly's meager playoff stats. So, instead of just concluding that his less than a 1/2 point per game over this span is reason enough to throw his scraps to the dogs just up the QEW, we'll just assume for a second that such assist production, when one isn't scoring any goals one's self, is at all justifiable. Fine. You want to actually argue that those 12 assists tell us something about the great player TC is, or that he's worth the cap hit to the Leaves?
Sabres vs. NYI, 2007 ECQF, Game 1
Sabres @ NYI, 2007 ECQF, Game 3
Incidentally, you know who else scored this game? ADAM MAIR. The first goal, if you care to check. Adam Mair produces more than TC in the playoffs. Print it.
Sabres v. NYI, 2007 ECQF, Game 5
(Also, while we're here, watch the 4th goal, too. ATLAS!!!)
Sabres v. NYR, 2007 ECSF, Game 2
Sabres @ NYR, 2007 ECSF, Game 3
Sabres @ NYR, 2007 ECSF, Game 4
By way of full recognition, I will also say that this was a GREAT game from Tim. The highlights are full of even better moments from him, including a sick toe drag to his backhand shot as he dances through the defense. One of those moments of potential that don't mean shit when he hasn't put that potential to any real use in the years since.
Sabres v. NYR, 2007 ECSF, Game 5
Sabres v. OTT, 2007 ECF, Game 2
Soldiering on, as I must...
And, again noting who else scored that game - Jochen Hecht. #55, who now has a $3.5 million cap hit, had 4 goals in 2007 playoffs. Injury-plagued since then, at least during the postseason runs of late, he's only played one playoff game since then, registering one assist.
Sabres @ OTT, 2007 ECF, Game 4
Does anyone else miss playing against Ray Emery regularly? Yeah, me too.
Sabres @ BOS, 2010 ECQF, Game 4
Sabres @ PHI, 2011 ECQF, Game 2
Sabres v. PHI, 2011 ECQF, Game 3
But you can't get on Twitter and tell the world that Timmy was actually producing in the playoffs just because he was getting a few assists, and expect people to think you're anything but a mindless, apologist twat. And this is coming from the guy on the blog with a guy named The Apologist. Seriously, Aps is NEVER that stupid, trust me.
Of those 12 assists, I count eight that I would classify as completely ordinary. Of the four that I find at all impressive, one was only an assist because TV is a stud (Game 2 v PHI), one needed Drury to be a magician and Emeery to blow (Game 3 v OTT), and one was on the 2-man advantage with an inordinate amount of space (Game 3 v NYI). That leaves ONE ASSIST. One out of twelve, and already absurdly low number, where I can legitimately say that Connolly created the opportunity that led to the goal. Maybe my standards are too high, but I've watched enough hockey to know when an assist is either (a) the result of the goal scorer being a pimp, or (b) the result of nothing more than luck. Connolly benefited from both of these factors on 11 of his 12 playoff assists since 2007, and to state otherwise is both asinine and ignorant.
So, if you want to bemoan the fact that we lost TC, or you want to credit Toronto for the signing, fine by me. I disagree, but I also get that he is a good player who might do well with a change of pace But don't get on twitter and tell me, by implication, that my reference to Connolly's playoff lack of production is somehow misguided. It makes you look like a contrarian boob who is picking a fight just to pick a fight.
NOTE: Video below changed as per suggestion of @ScottyMCSS, hereby anointed as most excellent dude, and savior of this post. I may like Monty Python, but this is FAR better. I give you,. Philip Seymour Hoffman, playing the part of Connolly Apologist.