Sunday, January 18, 2009

You Gotta Know When to Hold 'Em, Know When to Fold 'Em

Friday I complained about the Sabres defensemen not being involved enough in the offense so far this season. Last night against Carolina two goals were the result of d-men putting the puck on the net (Toni Lydman's shot tipped in by Tim Connolly and Teppo Numminen's goal) . I'm pretty sure that makes me a genius.

Outside of that, I'm not sure there's a lot to say about last night's game. Kevin and Kate both remarked on how nice it was to see the Sabres win easily and it really did feel that way, didn't it? For the first couple of minutes we were worried because the Sabres didn't seem very intent on getting the puck out of their end but once they did, they never really seemed in danger of losing.

I say "we" because Kate (of the Willful Caboose) and I watched the game at Gambler's house. Gambler is the writer of Desperation Hockey and has long been on my to-meet list. I'll always remember her as one of the first people to comment on this here blog which is pretty cool. Gambler and her parents were all delightful and I was sorry to have to leave early to pick up Mark at the airport. I've said this before but one of my favorite things about blogging and hockey fandom in general is how many really neat people and friendships it's led me to. Gambler took a bit of a blogging hiatus during the last half of last season while she was spending a semester in the Land of Jochen Hecht but she's back at it now and if her blog isn't on your list of favorites, it should be.

The Gambler family also introduced me to hockey in HD. Yes, here at Top Shelf HQ we live in the sports dark ages. We started out watching in standard TV because the HD channel was having audio problems - first there just one guitar riff playing over and over and then the dubbing was off. We did eventually end up watching despite the dubbing issues. Rick Jeanneret was just a few seconds ahead of the play which was oddly comforting at times. As Gambler said, "It's like he's visiting from the future and assuring us, 'Don't worry, Sabres fans. That shot's going high and wide.'"

But the HD, oh the HD. If I hadn't gone straight to the airport to pick up Mark he just might have come home to a new television. I didn't even realize just how amazing the picture was until the mystery guitar riff returned and we flipped back to the standard picture. It looked kind of like this:

I'm pretty sure that guy plays for the Sabres. Tough to tell.

During the course of the game, we started talking about Drew Stafford and Kate and Gambler asked me how Mark was feeling about his Stafford jersey these days. I told them that not that long ago he'd confessed that he thought maybe Stafford had been a rebound favorite player choice after Chris Drury left and I mentioned that I'd once felt the same way about Tim Connolly. I had a very brief but intense love affair with Timmy and I have a CONNOLLY jersey (red and black) in my closet to prove it. Timmy is very out of character for me. On the list of Heather's favorite players he was preceded by Jay McKee and followed by Henrik Tallinder so he's the obvious answer to the question "Which one of these things is not like the other things?" Not only did I end up moving on from him, I ended up turning on him pretty hard. Jeez, what an absolute waste of a three year contract.

And then games like the Carolina game happen and even though I know Timmy is one second away from a career-ending injury at pretty much all times, I'm just blown away by him. When he's missing months at a time and then taking a while to get back in game shape and then going back out of the line-up again, it's really easy to forget how talented he is but jeez, he is so gifted. When he's playing like he did last night... he's just beautiful. He makes everything look so effortless. Thomas Vanek, as gifted as he is, looks like a gorilla on skates sometimes, chugging down the ice. Timmy looks like he's never breaking a sweat, gliding down the ice and then flicking his wrists a few times and pulling off something amazing. When he actually shoots the puck once in a while, his game can be pretty awesome.

Re-signing him is a terrible idea. It's terrible. He'll never make it through a whole season in one piece and that means he's taking up a roster spot someone else could be using. Him popping in and out of the line-up is disruptive to line chemistry and a distraction to the rest of the team. When he does get back from IR visits it takes him so long to look like himself again.

And then games like last night happen and I start thinking well, maybe he's worth re-signing to a really small contract. What's a million dollars or so for one year? Maybe he would be healthy for the whole year. Maybe he would be worth it. Maybe he'll finally get the happy ending that his talent deserves.

Hockey does funny things to your brain sometimes, you know.


Vanek's Hair said...

Re-signing Connolly to a low salary would be a good idea. I actually think it could happen. I don't know how many suitors he will have this offseason. He is, without question, the most talented Sabre. I had a hard time explaining that on Saturday to the predictably Buffalo crowd I was encountered with at the party I attended Saturday. "He sucks" was the consensus among them. Maybe I just enjoy being absolutely contrarian, but I seem to always find myself taking the other side in almost every sports discussion.

Heather B. said...

VH, I am shocked at the idea of you as Sports Contrarian. You're usually so peaceable!

I've gone back and forth on what kind of offers Timmy will get. On one hand, you wouldn't think someone who's creeping up on 60 games played in the last 3 years would get a lot of money/years. On the other hand, the NHL is full of idiots. I think he'd fit right in with Tampa about now.

And I do go back and forth on whether the Sabres should even bother being in the bidding. But for today, I'm saying it's worth looking into. Like we've both said, he's just so dang talented.

Jonathan said...

"On the other hand, the NHL is full of idiots. I think he'd fit right in with Tampa about now."


Mark B said...

I'd be tempted to re-sign him to say $200,000 for one-year with bonuses if he plays more than half the year.

But then I think about him taking up space that can be filled by Mancari or Gerbe and I have to say no. But if he plays the rest of the season injury free and comes up with some playoff performances like in 05-06, I might change my mind.

Anne M said...

I like Mark's idea of a low salary with lots of bonuses. Not much of a hit when he (inevitably) can't play, but still having access to his unbelievable talent when he's healthy. It seems like the best of both worlds. Who knows if the CBA would allow that kind of structure, though.

Connolly just breaks my heart--it is really unfair to have that much talent combined with such fragile health.

ElmaGolf said...

But then I think about him taking up space that can be filled by Mancari or Gerbe and I have to say no.

Well, in a weird way, Timmy is "Good News" in that regards.

Unlike Max - who takes a Roster Spot while the Sabres maintain their futile hope for a miraculous turnaround on the 4th line - Timmy at least has the decency to sit on the IR and give younger players a chance to mature.

I'm all for taking the risk on a lower salary because of the potential upside. The downside is that we eat $1.5MM - $2.0MM and he sits on the IR - still giving the other players a chance to play (unlike pure dead weight like Max). Further, if the CBA allows an incentive laden contract based on staying healthy, the downside risk can be mitigated even further.

But so much depends on the next 40 games. I don't think him staying healthy through February will be enough of a "iron man" streak to entice too many GMs to make a move for him for this year's trade deadline.

Tessa said...

I like Mark's idea of a low salary with lots of bonuses... Who knows if the CBA would allow that kind of structure, though.

It doesn't, unfortunately. You can only have contracts with incentives for players over 35 and those who have missed more than 3/4 of the season with injury - neither of which will likely apply for Connolly.

Heather B. said...

Tessa is correct. Only three groups are eligible for incentive based contracts under the current CBA: players over 35 who are on one-year contracts, players who were on IR for 100 days of the last season of their previous contract and are now on one-year contracts and entry level players. No idea how much time Timmy has spent on IR so far but I'm guessing he'd have to miss quite a bit more to get to 100.

(Thanks, Tessa!)

Patty (in Dallas) said...

HD is the best thing ever. After TiVo. TiVo is 1 and HD is 1a.

Heather B. said...

Patty, I'm a Tivo disciple. We got rid of ours in favor of the cable company's DVR a few months ago and it's fine but it's just not the same. I miss my Tivo.

Circuit City is having a liquidation sale. I've been lobbying for us to take an HD TV off their hands.

Becky said...

I just took my son's word for it that the MSG games weren't on on HD. I even spent a few minutes watching Montreal & Ottawa for that hockey in HD experience when all I had to do was do a google search for T-W's lineup. It coulda been Sabres & Carolina in HD. I'm new at this HD thing. Next time.

Circuit City is calling you, Heather!

Jennifer said...

No idea how much time Timmy has spent on IR so far but I'm guessing he'd have to miss quite a bit more to get to 100.

But the season isn't over yet!

I have paid very little attention to Connolly in the past and when I did, I was complaining that he was being paid WAY TOO MUCH to be sitting on his ass. But since he has come back this time, I am just in awe of his talent and ability. I always said that I loved Hank for the way he skates and I can always spot him on the ice, whether I can see his number or not, but Timmy has him beat. It is sad that he has spent so much time injured. He could have had such a wonderful career.

Heather B. said...

Becky, my understanding is that the Sabres home games are all in HD while their road games are not. Don't quote me on that though.

Anne and Jennifer, Timmy really is a walking (sometimes) tragedy. So much talent that's been unused so far.

Gambler said...

Thanks for the fun times the other night, Heather! And for the kind words about my blog here! It was lovely meeting you.

Sorry you didn't get the full HD experience, what with the audio problems, but that picture of "regular definition" TV had me laughing. Now just imagine how I feel, going from my parents' HD to crappy internet streaming video. I'm lucky if I can make out the numbers on the back of the jerseys sometimes. On the upside, it's made me have to get very familiar with the team's individual skating styles, so that I can identify them without being able to properly see their names or numbers.