Leafs make line changes ahead of western trip
Time for Tim Connolly to start doing something.
Don’t get us wrong — the 30-year-old veteran has played a significant role in turning the Maple Leafs’ penalty killing around. Among Toronto forwards, only David Steckel has averaged more ice time a game when the Leafs are shorthanded.
But Connolly draws a salary of $5.5-million US this season, the second-highest paid Leafs forward after Phil Kessel, and costs the Leafs $4.75 million against the salary cap.
For that, so far, you get seven goals and 18 assists in 44 games. The past 16 games? Zero goals and three assists. Even if, say, Connolly is playing with a minor injury, those numbers are unacceptable.
It’s a bit ridiculous that Leafs coach Ron Wilson is at the point, when every game is crucial and a playoff spot is anything but a guarantee, that one of his richest players needs a kick in the pants.
But that’s where Wilson finds himself with Connolly, who has been moved to the right wing on a line with centre Mikhail Grabovski and winger Clarke MacArthur.
Nikolai Kulemin has been dropped to the third line, and Matthew Lombardi will move to the middle on that unit, taking Connolly’s spot.
“Grabo has been playing exceptionally well, and this is to get both Kulie and Timmy going a little bit,” Wilson said. “A different look with Timmy going over to the wing. Take some of the responsibility defensively away from him and get him thinking about playing with a couple of guys who have been pretty successful this year and hopefully he can get out of his little mini-slump here.”
Connolly said he was frustrated, but only to the point that the Leafs have fallen down recently, losing three in a row for the fifth time this season.