Case #19 revisited: Tim Connolly, his potential return and fan opinion

Almost three months ago, we discussed the potential of much-maligned pending-UFA center Tim Connolly returning to the Sabres, in a post we called Case #19: The Sabres might want to resign Tim Connolly.

That post got a lot of interesting feedback, some reluctant agreement, as well as a lot of disagreement. In the time since, Tim cooled off near the end of the year, failed to put up big numbers in the playoffs, and got hurt in Game 6 against Philadelphia, seemingly the death blow suffered by the Sabres. After Connolly took a cheap shot from then-Flyer Mike Richards, Buffalo never recovered and lost in seven games.

Incredibly, even seeing how the team suffered without him, fans were ready to move on without the team’s longest tenured player. The consensus is that he’s not wanted by the fans, whether he wants to be here or not.

When asked by 3rd Man In about the situation, Sabres president Ted Black was gracious enough to offer this:

“Darcy and the hockey department make decisions based on if/how that player can help us win the Stanley Cup. Our ultimate goal is to be as successful as we can be. Keep in mind we want players to be good teammates and good citizens off the ice as well. We’re aware that some players are more popular than others with our fans but the bottom line is we want to win the Cup. If the hockey department feels a certain player can help us accomplish that goal, then we will pursue (or retain, as applicable) that player.”

Basically, they’re going to do what they feel is best, whether the fans are going to love it or not.

In the case of Connolly, it’s a good bet fans won’t take too kindly to his return, despite the constant positive press he has received from The Buffalo News in his tenure as a Sabre.

Oh, I’m sorry, I meant negative.

Despite any stretches of good play or great special teams work, Connolly has been the media as well as the fans’ whipping boy.

When Darcy Regier locked him into the his recent contract, it was a pretty solid deal. With him on the verge of hitting the open market, Connolly was signed at the 2009 trade deadline for two years, $9 million. Not a bad deal for a player who was basically a point-per-game center that season. He was the team’s second leading scorer the following year. But after a rough start last season, all was forgotten.

The biggest affront to Buffalo sports fans tends to be if a player is perceived to be overpaid. Ask Thomas Vanek for the first three years of his deal, Maxim Afinogenov, Jason Pominville, Jochen Hecht, Paul Gaustad, Ales Kotalik, and even going back to Miroslav Satan and Alexei Zhitnik. If your salary isn’t on the bottom end of comparables, or just flat out low, you’ll never please a good portion of western New York. That’s just a fact. Money is a big deal to people in Buffalo. The perception was that Connolly was overpaid, when in fact, if you look at the big picture, he has not been in relation to players of his calibre.

So, should Brad Richards not take Uncle Terry’s piles of money to come play in wintry Buffalo after spending his whole career in balmy sunshine-frequented weather, the Sabres may only be left to try to retain the most despised man on the current roster.

While many intelligent fans agree that he can still contribute, but would preferably do so at a lower rate, even they might not be satisfied. The market forces are making a player like Connolly more valuable, and whether it seems right or not, Tim may be due for as much, if not more than he made last season. The comparables listed in my previous post linked above should indicate that it’s conceivable Connolly may be actually worth what he makes.

Supply and demand, folks. Have you seen what else is available? Not much, especially after Washington resigned pending-UFA Brooks Laich. Unless Brad Richards is walking out of that tunnel in October in blue and gold, Tim Connolly is the next best option. Otherwise, you may be looking at a downgrade at the center position.

And do you think the Sabres are willing to downgrade if they’re aiming for a Cup in 2012? I don’t think they are.

Posted on June 30, 2011, in Sabres/NHL and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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