A player that was one of the key pieces of the Michael Peca trade back in 2001, Tim Connolly has been one of the most divisive players in the last few years of his Sabres career. A player that was oft injured and even more criticized about his play, it was time for a change of scenery for Connolly and change happened in the offseason. Friday night is Connolly's first return back to the unfriendly confines of the First Niagara Center with the hated rivals, Toronto Maple Leafs.
No matter what Tim Connolly did on the ice, it wasn't enough for Sabres fans as his play was consistently nitpicked by fans and the media alike. Connolly's best career was during the 2009-10 season where he had 65 points and 48 assists in 73 games, but most Sabres fans mainly remember Connolly's career for all of the concussions he had. Connolly suffered his first concussion in 2003 where he missed the rest of that season after suffering the concussion during the preseason. Connolly's second concussion, and probably most severe, occurred in 2006 during the playoffs against the Ottawa Senators. Connolly missed most of the 2006-07 season due to that concussion and never looked quite the same when he returned.
Connolly has had a good season this year with 15 points, six goals and nine assists, in 18 games with the Maple Leafs. While he isn't the leading scorer for the Leafs, he also isn't expected to be as he is playing on a line with Clarke MacArthur and Colby Armstrong. As long as Connolly contributes on offense and stay healthy, Leafs fans have to be happy with the deal.
It will be interesting to see how Connolly will be received by Sabres fans tonight. Many fans and pundits expect boos, which is the standard response for returning players. Hearing some Bronx cheers though wouldn't be surprising with how Connolly was received during his time here and how many Sabres fans are ambivalent about Connolly now that he is gone. Besides, after Joffrey Lupul's tweet last night, he may not even be enemy number one on the ice.
The Leafs and Sabres take the ice at 7:30 pm.