|Tim Connolly #12, Toronto Maple Leafs|
After three straight loses and an injury to Gunnarsson, the Leafs had to juggle their lines heading into tonight. I don't disagree with the decision to juggle the lines, but I can't say the same for the players Ron Wilson decided to promote. Tim Connolly was jumped up to the second line, where he played the wing with Grabovski and MacArthur, and Mike Komisarek started the game on the first defensive unit with Dion Phaneuf. You would think with the salary spent on these two players, over nine million dollars per season combined, they would deserve their new assignments, but if you've watched many games this season its quite the opposite.
In Komisarek's defense, he wasn't playing on the top defensive unit for long. He finished the game with over 15 minutes of ice time, second lowest of the six Leafs defenders. Mike Komisarek has a no movement clause, so unlike Jeff Finger, the Leafs can't bury him in the minors and take his salary off the cap. That being said, he clearly isn't capable of playing in the NHL. Toronto has to suck it up, eat the money, and put the best guys on the bench and on the ice. I would much rather see Keith Aulie or Korbinian Holzer playing. At least if they make a mistake, you can justify it in many ways that you can't for Komisarek. They're young, they don't make big money, they have a good future in front of them. Komisarek has none of those things going for him.
And now, the main attraction, Tim Connolly. "Cheap man's Brad Richards", "Plan B", or as I like to call him, "useless". His lack of effort is sickening. I can't handle watching him coast around the ice and exerting no visible effort. Lately I've seen a "skating top speed" radar on TV broadcasts, they should do the same for Connolly to see how slow he's skating.
He's a waste of talent, and he has quite a bit of it. He's has exceptional vision, and was supposed to be the top line center. He was supposed to be playmaking with Phil Kessel. Hard to imagine that as Kessel would be in the offensive zone and Connolly would still be at the defensive zone face-off dot, coasting up the ice.
But hey, at least he doesn't make over seven million dollars a season, like Scott Gomez. I must say though, he is definitely in line to take over where Gomez left off when he scored a few days ago. If there's any justice in the Leafs organization, he should be benched until he comes out to play hockey. Nazem Kadri gets benched for rookie mistakes and lack of effort, yet Tim Connolly, a veteran in the NHL, gets promoted to the second line to play like crap... He's junk, wasted money, teach him a lesson and bench him!
It's nice to see the fourth line work their ass off and average around nine minutes of ice time a game. I wonder what Darrly Boyce thinks to himself while he's warming the bench watching Connolly glide around offering no help in the defensive zone, let alone the offensive zone. Boyce and Brown go hard on the forecheck, cycling the puck and finishing their checks and they get minimal ice time.
Ron Wilson needs to start rewarding effort and benching players who aren't trying. By letting Connolly play 16 minutes, including power play ice time, you send a message that you tolerate lazy players with no drive to compete. You're looking to discourage that type of play, but your action are in turn encouraging it. If Wilson can't get these guys going, then its about time Wilson gets going.
The Leafs are in Edmonton tomorrow night. A fifth straight loss will cripple their playoff aspirations. The Leafs have thus far been lucky that Capitals, who trail the Leafs for that last playoff spot, are in a losing slump as well. The Maple Leafs are the only team in the top eight in the Eastern Conference with a losing road record (12-14-2). They need to get things in the right direction tomorrow with a win over the Oilers.