I enjoyed the game tonight (and by enjoyed, I mean "enjoyed") at Casa di Pizza with some blogging buddies. The company was fabulous. The Sabres were not. The good news is, since I wasn't paying full attention to the game, it barely counts. Seriously, it was good meeting a lot of new people and finally putting some faces to names I've been talking to for quite a while. If I didn't get around to introducing myself (I partly wore the Tallinder jersey so I wouldn't have to introduce myself as people tend to walk up and say, "You must be Heather"), I apologize. Truthfully, as much of a blowhard as I am here, I'm a little shy in real life when it comes to new people. Next time I won't be so self-conscious and I'll be braver, I promise.
A week or so ago, I wrote a quick blurb about Mirtle's defensive defensemen rankings. A few days later Mirtle posted his defensive forward rankings. He used the same stats - quality of competition, goals against per 60 minutes of 5-on-5 and goals against per 60 minutes of shorthanded time - and came up with thirty names. There's a Sabre in the top ten and two additional Sabres in the top twenty. Before you look at the link (if you haven't already), think about who you'd say the top three defensive forwards on the team are and then think about who you'd say is in the top ten. Okay, now look at the link.
Surprised? I admit, I was. I probably would have gotten the top three correct if I'd tried to guess beforehand, but I would have put Jochen Hecht number one. I never would have put Tim Connolly in the top ten league-wide and if I'd missed someone, it would have been him. Again, the stats here aren't perfect but it's a pretty good system and I think there probably is a lot of truth in the rankings.
It really got me thinking about Tim Connolly. When he was re-signed last season, there was a fair amount of outrage from fans, understandably so considering how much money he got after missing so much time to injuries over the course of his previous contract. And while it's leveled off some since his recent hot streak, earlier in the season there was a fair amount of complaining (especially if your name is Jerry Sullivan) about Timmy not living up to his contract because he wasn't scoring goals and racking up assists. But evidently he was contributing elsewhere. If the Sabres have done as well as they have because of improved team defense, and Tim Connolly is arguably the best defensive forward on the team (and arguably one of the best defensive forwards in the NHL) has he been worth that contract after all?
I don't know. 4.5 million is still a lot of money (though 2 years is a great term these days), but I do think maybe this is another example of defense being underrated. That's partly the player involved, I know. If you signed someone like Henrik Tallinder, you'd do it with the attitude that any offense he chips in is a bonus whereas you're signing someone like Tim Connolly primarily for offense. But it's an interesting question. If nothing else, this whole revelation did make me like Tim Connolly a little better.