Sunday, February 8, 2009

How Do You Solve a Problem Like Tim Connolly?

Suddenly everyone is talking about what to do with Tim Connolly. And by everyone I mean, of course, Bucky Gleason and Jerry Sullivan. You can follow the links to read the columns but in a nutshell, Bucky is in favor of holding on to Timmy and attempting to re-sign him at a cheap price while Sully is all in favor of trading Timmy now while his value is high.

I hate to say it, but I agree with Bucky more than I agree with Sully. Sully and I had a debate during his Sabres Edge chat a few nights ago about this very subject and I think I made it very clear why the Sabres should not trade Timmy so I was a little disappointed to see him sticking with that opinion in his column. He's a slower learner, that guy. (Kidding, Sully.)

Sully mentioned in the chat and his column how many players have walked away the last few years and while I don't want to get into a deep conversation about that - lord knows we've covered that ground - I do want to reiterate that I think that's a silly argument. Yes, it stinks to watch great assets walk away but are you really going to trade one of your best players in the middle of a season where you have a legitimate shot at winning a championship? I have no doubt that the Sabres decided pretty early on that they weren't interested in re-signing 48 but I have no doubt they also knew that with him on the roster they had a good shot at winning the whole shebang. No way you trade one of your best players in that situation. If they had traded him and then the team had lost, people - including Sully - would've been roasting them alive for not having the guts to go all in. Last year, when it made sense to part with a player they weren't going to re-sign, the Sabres pulled the trigger and got a pretty decent return. And that's the thing. Sometimes it makes sense to deal a guy and sometimes it makes sense to let him walk. It depends on the player and it depends on where the team is. What do we get if we let Timmy walk at the end of the year? We get a point per game player through the rest of the season and the playoffs. We get someone to set up our very talented goal scorer during that period. We get someone to transform the power play during that period. That's not too shabby.

In the chat, Sully also argued that Sabres fans want it both ways. We want management to make decisions for the long-term AND the short-term. All I can say to that is... well, yeah. Every good organization, every good business has to think about both views, I think. Long-term I definitely want management to be looking at the best way to build on the young core that's signed long-term and the players in Portland who should be coming up in the next few years. But they need to look at the short-term too. I don't think there's anything hypocritical about that. Yeah, it would be nice to win the Stanley Cup but even if that's not going to happen this season, the team needs to make the playoffs. Management needs that so that the franchise continues to make money and remains a viable franchise in tough economic times. Parts of the fan base that have started to lose hope need that. Players need it too. I'm not sure how a second season of disappointment would effect them exactly but I don't think it'd be a pretty scene. The longer the team makes noise in the playoffs, the better and I think it's pretty clear that the Sabres have a much better chance of doing that with Timmy than without.

I have no doubt that there's a team out there that would take a chance on Timmy for a playoff run but what I do doubt is that they'd be willing to give much up for him. Rental players commanded a lot less last season than they did the season before that and as talented as Timmy is, everyone knows he's a UFA at the end of the year and everyone knows he's been riddled with injuries over the last three years including a pretty scary concussion history. The Sabres are not getting a valuable starter in exchange for him. They're not getting a talented prospect. They're not getting a high draft pick. Each player is different. I think what Timmy would bring to the Sabres in the short-term (the rest of the season, the playoffs) far outweighs what he could bring to them long-term via trade. Plus if he walks away at the end of the season, so what? He's barely played in the last few years. Removing him from the equation is hardly pulling out the cornerstone. And it clears his salary from the books. Get your veteran or whatever you decide you want that way instead.

See, Sully? It all makes perfect sense.

How do you catch a cloud and pin it down (without concussing it or injuring it in some other way)?

The one thing I have to disagree with Bucky on (and thank goodness there's something because I still feel a little awkward agreeing with Bucky) is that Tim Connolly does not owe the Sabres a gosh darn thing. The idea that the only way he can show he cares about hockey is to return the faith the Sabres showed to him by signing for the hockey equivalent of the low, low price of $19.95 is ridiculous. The Sabres knew exactly who and what they were dealing with when they signed Timmy to his current contract. It didn't work out but how exactly is that Timmy's fault? It's not. Yeah, it would be nice if he would do a solid for the organization but come on, this is pro sports not Montessori school. If I'm Tim Connolly, despite how much I love Buffalo and my teammates, I also know that my career is one good shot to the noggin away from being over. I'm seriously thinking about taking advantage of any team stupid enough to give me a billion dollars over the next five years.

As I was writing this post - yeah, blame Harrington for making this even longer - word came out that Darcy Regier is planning on talking to Timmy about re-signing with the Sabres so I guess it's not just idle speculation at this point. I have such mixed feelings about this. I can certainly understand falling in love with him again over the last few weeks. I've done just like a lot of other Sabres fans have done. But I'm not the GM of a hockey team. I'm not the one who's supposed to be thinking somewhat rationally. At what point does the amount of time Timmy's spent on IR override his obvious talent? At what point does him bouncing in and out of the line-up, changing the lines up all the time, hurt the team more than it helps? Are the Sabres wanting to re-sign him in hopes that he's turned a corner and will now stay somewhat healthy? Or are they feeling that any time he spends on IR is justified by how he transforms the team when he's playing?

The sentimental part of me that watches sports to see beautiful things would love to have Timmy back in a Sabres jersey next season. But I don't know, the logical side of me feels like maybe that ship has sailed. I'm not going to give the Sabres hell for signing Timmy to his current contract. The price would've been favorable if he'd produced like he has for a full three years and he was so good in 2005-2006 that I think they had to take a chance on him coming back strong. But do you take that chance again? There are a lot of quotes in Bucky's column from Ryan Miller in which Ryan talks about how much Timmy loves hockey and cares about being in the line-up but you know, all the love in the world doesn't change the fact that he's only played 70 games in the last three seasons. In the end, hockey players don't get paid for caring. They get paid for playing and producing. I'm not sure he's done enough of either to justify another contract.

So how do you solve a problem like Tim Connolly? Get everything out of him you can for the remainder of this contract and then go your separate ways.

I think.

(Get back to me if he wins the Conn Smythe though.)


Mark B said...

I feel that watching Timmy over the last few weeks has turned off the rational part of my brain that had been saying the last six months or so that we have to let him go.

My heart says to sign him to a reasonable 1 or 2 year contract, but my head say "ARE YOU FREAKING NUTS, MAN??"

It's a tough one for sure. I honestly want to re-sign him now and I'm still shaking my head as I type this!

Gambler said...

Why do I have the feeling that the question "How do you solve a problem like Tim Connolly?" is usually answered with "Penicillin"?

Unfortunately there isn't such an easy solution in this situation...

Vanek's Hair said...

Trading Connolly is a bad idea. The return value for a point per game player is just not there, particularly at the trade deadline or thereabouts. Particularly a point per game player with a checkered (isn't that generous) injury history. Plus, with the recent long term injury to a particular player, the Sabres need all the points they can attain.

By the way, Jason Pominville, now would be a nice time to find your scoring (on-ice) touch again. Give a cigar and rum to Jobu to wake your sticks up if that's what you have to do.

Ebscer said...

I would say to just play it safe and resign him to a short term contract. He's a good player and I would love to see him stay, but make the contract short so that if things don't work out the future isn't all doom and gloom either.

I'd risk another one or two years at Connolly's current pay...

Jennifer said...

I say sign him for another year or two, with a clause in his contract that he must remain covered in bubble-wrap at ALL times.