There’s a line that gets used a lot when discussing hockey players – especially good players who aren’t quite up to elite status. ‘Player X can’t lead Team X to the Cup,’ a fan, or a writer will say, as though that were the end of it. After all a Stanley Cup is the goal of all 30 NHL clubs, and if Player X can’t lead his team to the cup that’s the end of the matter, isn’t it?
That’s just one of the idiotic clichés Jerry Sullivan employs in his asinine piece in which he suggests the Buffalo Sabres desperately need to trade Tim Connolly. Sullivan says that any talk of the Sabres’ winning is “lip service if they continue to pretend that Connolly can lead a team to the Cup.”
Connolly’s a highly-paid player to be sure; the third-highest paid forward on the team, consuming almost 2/25ths of the Sabres’ cap space – comparable to players like Jordan Staal in Pittsburgh and Johan Franzen in Detroit in terms of where he ranks on the forward pay scale. In short, Connolly isn’t being paid to lead his team to the Cup; he’s being paid to be part of a capable top-six.
Sullivan goes further, however, saying that the Sabres “have a young, promising team, but they won’t begin to grow up until Connolly is out of here.” Why Connolly has such a negative impact on young players, acting as a ceiling on their potential, is left unstated. But that’s not the limit to Connolly’s negative impact on the team; according to Sullivan “the Sabres became a reflection of Connolly”, a “soft, finesse player with a history of injuries.”
It’s a tack taken all too often in the press and on blogs, and it’s an idiotic tack. I’m not sure how or why we’ve come to regard hockey players as being so pathetically incapable of being responsible for themselves, but that seems to be where we’re at. They need leaders and veterans to teach, inspire and show them the way. Players who might distract must be shunned, and players like Connolly can, by their very presence, destroy the work ethic of young players and keep them from reaching their potential, while at the same time transforming the entire roster to reflect their frailties and weaknesses.
Impressive leadership, especially from a player incapable of leading his team to the Stanley Cup. It’s a shame he won’t use those powers for good instead of evil.
Sullivan, quite correctly given how dangerous Connolly is, says the Sabres need to trade him immediately, and “they don’t need to get equal value in return. It’s addition by subtraction.”
Connolly’s not a perfect player. He has been hampered by injuries – including a serious foot injury he played through in these playoffs, and a concussion that cost him a season. He’s also had his share of playoff heroics in the past, although those were cut short when he was knocked unconscious on a hit by Peter Scheafer, the hit that cost him the season I mentioned above. But he hardly deserves to be picked out as the sole scapegoat on the team, however convenient a one he makes.