To the Pound

by Ryan

As sports fans, I think we live in an interesting time. Newspapers are either changing of falling off the face of the earth; and in Buffalo we have a major newspaper that has begun to change with the times. As newspapers have gotten smaller and column sizes shrink, more and more writers are taking to the Internet with blogs and providing content in new ways.

The problem is that all of this is still a work in progress. For every really useful feature a newspaper introduces, there is a clunker. The same can be said for any venture, really, but with such a new medium it’s especially evident. Case in point: Jerry Sullivan’s blog. Yesterday he introduced a new feature, The Doghouse. Now it’s good to see him start to embrace the blog and play around with a few concepts, I think it’s safe to say it needs some work.

Today marks the debut of a fun new feature on the Sully blog: The Doghouse. When the spirit moves me, I will assign someone to a dubious place in the house. It can be a player who has been struggling, a coach who has gotten under my skin (any nominees?), a general manager, a national sports figure. Heck, it could even be some knucklehead dictator or a member of Obama’s cabinet.

So who better for my inaugural Doghouse spot than one of my old whipping boys, an especially disappointing member of the struggling Sabres? Yes, it’s Tim Connolly, whose performance since getting that outrageous two-year, $9 million contract extension has been uninspiring, to say the least.

If you ask me the choice of Timmy is a bit… suspicious. It seems to me that not only were there other choices, his real target isn’t even Connolly at all. His point is that he hasn’t played well since signing his extension, but really every argument he has against Connolly can be levied against a number of players.

I think the problem with the feature is that it just isn’t a column. In order to get this running feature to work, he had to pick someone that wasn’t really the target he had in mind, and so it feels… clunky. So who is the real target? Darcy Regier, of course.

During the recent slide, most objective critics seem to agree that the Sabres are a soft team that lacks the physical will and competitive character to be a winner. Connolly reflects those shortcomings more than any other player on the team: And to think, they responded by giving him two more years. They poured $9 million more into an injury-prone player who reflected their most troubling qualities. Nice job, Darcy.

I think that to Sully, Tim Connolly is the guy who most immediately represents Regier’s failure as a general manager. Among the group of players who are not playing well, Connolly has the small sample size and big numbers that are eye-catching enough to make a point. Here are the stats Sullivan gives:

Tiny Tim scored two goals against Phoenix two days after the Sabres overpaid him on trade deadline day. Call it the Bernier effect. He has not scored since. Over the last seven games, as the Sabres’ season has gone spiraling down the drain, Connolly has two assists and is a minus-3. Over his last 19 games, he has scored twice. Yes, other than the game against Phoenix, a cadaver of an opponent, he hasn’t scored. Timmy hasn’t scored in a road game since January. He has nine assists this season at even-strength.

It’s not Connolly’s performance that is the problem, but Darcy’s. All of the above arguments about Timmy can very easily be applied to someone like Jason Pominville. Pominville only has two goals since the deadline as well, and has only had three goals since New Year’s. He has done slightly better in the seven game nosedive (1+4 and a -6), but his overall points per game and performance this season has been downright pathetic. Also, it was Pominville who was coasting next to Connolly on the aforementioned Thrashers goal.

So why not just call Pominville out? Too easy? Well, his monstrosity of a contract doesn’t kick in until next season and was signed long enough ago that people forget it even happened. If you ask me, that deal is more incriminating of Regier, and even worse of a deal in the long-term.

I guess what I don’t understand is the point of the post. Sullivan has made it clear many times that Darcy Regier made the wrong moves and is responsible for the collapse of this team, so why not just drop the hammer and move on? How many times can you single out a player while alluding to the real target? Is that the point?

It’s not an awful concept, but it needs… work.

3 Comments

  1. so why not just drop the hammer and move on?

    First time reading the BNews?
    I can’t wait for him to put Briere and Drury in the house for not living up to their contracts. They still play here right?

  2. Steve

    I don’t think you can really pin Pominville’s bad performance on Darcy. Looking back, okay, 5 years at $5.3 millions seems a little steep for a guy with two good seasons, but after that 80 point year you had to assume he was going to keep playing at an All-Star level and I was just happy to have him locked up. Sure it looks like a terrible deal right now but I think he’ll bounce back next year, and there’s no way Darcy could have foreseen his disappearance this year. However when we extended Connolly my first thought was, “Oh no.” I think a lot of people thought Timmy should have been let go; not so with Pominville last summer. If Sully wanted to point fingers at Darcy he picked the right player.

  3. I don’t think you understand what I’m trying to say. It’s not about blaming Darcy for the way either player has performed, but rather using their performance as a reflection of Darcy’s decision-making. If you ask me, Pominville is the larger concern. The contract is worth more for a longer term, and he’s been consistently terrible all season. In fact, a big reason Connolly has struggled recently is because he has spent time on ice with Pominville and Hecht, two of the biggest letdowns of the season.

    Sully isn’t pointing fingers at Darcy, not directly. In fact, that’s exactly the point. What you say is true: more people wanted Connolly to leave, which is why I think Connolly was the target. The immediacy of the contract meant more, but I think in the long-term the Pominville deal is more incriminating. Connolly will be fine. Who knows how Jason’s head is next year.