Help pick the 2016-17 Tim Connolly Award Winner

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Jack Eichel's 11 game point streak was the longest for a Buffalo Sabre since 2009-2010 when Tim Connolly recorded a 16 game point streak amassing 8 goals, 17 assists for 25 points. Tim Connolly was one of the Sabres best offensive players during his time in Buffalo. But he never really endeared himself with the fan base. When Darcy Reigier stated the Sabres had 2 of the Best Centers in the league referring to Connolly and Roy; the fans, media, and hockey community scoffed. No matter the production, or the many things Connolly brought to the Sabres, the only things that come to mind when Connolly’s name is brought up are the injuries and how much the fans of Buffalo grew tired and even hated Tim Connolly during his time here.

The hate directed at Connolly was pretty illogical at times, the team was better with him in the lineup than without him and he provided a lot of value in terms of offensive production and defensive prowess. This is why, after discussion of players that were receiving hate they didn’t really deserve, we proposed the idea of the Tim Connolly Award to be given to a player at the end of the season "who has garnered the most hate from Sabres fans despite anything positive they may have done."

Previous Winners of this award are

  • 2010-11 was obviously Tim Connolly
  • 2011-12 was awarded to Derek Roy who had 44 points in 80 games coming back from a really bad leg injury the previous season.
  • 2012-13 was awarded to Drew Stafford. It was Stafford's worst season and looked snake bitten for the entire year. He finished with 18 points in 46 games

During the 2 tank years there wasn’t much positives to talk about with anybody on the Sabres and the team was historically terrible. The award was pretty much given to the player everyone hated the most with less discussion on the positives those players brought to the team or game of hockey.

  • 2013-14 : Ville Leino who produced 0 goals and only 15 points in 57 games. He was injured, looked disinterested, and was universally hated by most fans of the team.
  • 2014-15: Cody Hodgson won the award after falling off a cliff producing career lows of 6 goals, 7 assists, 13 points in 78 games; after being the Sabres leading scorer in 2013-14.

Every year we discuss the true meaning of the Tim Connolly Award, one of my comments during the conversation last year is how I feel about the spirit of this award:

"The Tim Connolly Award came into being because unwarranted, unfounded, irrational, or misguided hatred/criticism of certain players within the organization. This award was never about which player we hate the most. It’s about a player who actually adds value to the team that receives hate due to uncontrollable flaws, perceptions, or irrationality that ignores the player’s positives. Heck the hate could be justified if significant positives are ignored while the hatred flows"

lgbfromoregon summed up my feelings as well

"The Tim Connolly Award, on the other hand, forces us to hash out our preconceived opinions that turn out to be inaccurate but in our stubbornness we still fight to justify them. The Tim Connolly Award forces us to go to a pretty dark place as a community every year and I love it."

With the upswing of the rebuild in full force, there were many more good things to talk about in 2015-16 and the winner of the Connolly was much more in line with the Spirit of the original Idea of the award.

  • 2015-16 Brian Gionta won the award while totaling 33 points and being the Captain of an up and coming developing team.

With all that being said, it’s time to vote for the Buffalo Sabre who has garnered the most hate from Sabres fans despite anything positive they may have done.

And the Nominees for the 2016-17 Tim Connolly Award are:

Brian Gionta - 15 goals, 20 assists; 35 points
Reasons for Hate: The Reigning TCA award winner. Gionta has never really lived up to the $4m+ salary and his best years are certainly behind him. Gionta has been critized for being a couple steps slower and often not capitalizing on scoring chances. With a lot of the conversation late in the season around certain players being passengers and a lack of leadership or maturity in the room, the captain should shoulder the load. Gionta isn't the 48 goal scorer or the player he once was.

A Quote from the Community:

"I hope to God Gionta is gone now. Before I wanted him around but now I think it’s just time to go another way."

The Positives: Gionta played in his 1000th game this season, the Beyond Blue & Gold episode was really good and showed what kind of person Gionta is on and off the ice. Gionta improved slightly on his point total from last year and was a very serviceable bottom 6 player for a rebuilding team.

Robin Lehner - 23W-26L-8OTL; 2.68 GAA, .920 SV%
Reasons for Hate: Going beyond last year's discussion around the trade... wait, we're still discussing the trade. Lehner was acquired using a 1st round pick which may have been an over payment. Lehner did not have a save in the shootout and looked completely lost in every attempt. Lehner was the king of the "Should have had that" type goals, usually these goals were at the absolute worst time. Lehner's High Danger Save Percentage is below average along with his expected Save %. Lehner has also not held back during interviews and even stared down his coach when pulled from a game against the Leafs.

A Quote from the Community:

All 4 goals were typical bush league Lehner-style goals. I have no confidence this team will ever make the playoffs, much less win a Cup, with that fat (guy) in goal

The Positives: Lehner finished 8th in the NHL in Save Percentage (>40 games played). He stayed healthy for most of the year, took on a large work load and looked at least like an NHL starter caliber goaltender. The fire and passion are there and you never know when Lehner will go into crazy-eyes mode and get into a fight. Lehner might have been slightly frustrating but he was never boring.

Sam Reinhart - 17 Goals, 30 Assists; 47 points
Reasons for the hate: Look at Leon Draisaitl's production this year and think what could have been with him on a line with Eichel. The Buffalo media even points to William Nylander's emergence on the Leafs as a player the Sabres could have had rather than Reinhart. Sam was benched/suspended for showing up late to a meeting during the last stretch of games. Reinhart's performance tailed off late in the season with some fans asking questions like "Where's Sam?" Sam was included in lots of trade proposals by fans, which kinda shows he's not as untouchable as he once was thought to be. Sam's goal scoring fell off this season and failed to match his 20 goal season he had last season.

A Quote from the Community:

Sam Reinhart is Mr. Softee.

The Positives: Sam is 21 years old and showed flashes of great play. Sam continues to make the smart play and compliments Eichel incredible well. Sam improved his assist and overall point totals over last season. Sam should continue to get better as he matures and develops. He's not flashy and often isn't noticed because he's in the right position and has few breakdowns.

Cody Franson - 3 goals, 16 assists; 19 points
Reasons for the hate: Cody Franson's speed is measured with an hour glass rather than a stop watch. If a player beat Franson there was absolutely no way he was going to catch him. Franson's defensive skill and offensive prowess is well below where he was with the Leafs a few years ago. Franson stating he would welcome a return to Toronto should give any Sabres fan a big reason to hate him.

A Quote from the Community:

The Sabres should take notes, Sharks showing them how a defender takes the puck out of his zone when your pressuring with 2 forwards; Unlike Franson the pylon.

The Positives: Cody was a positive possession player at EV and All situations. Franson would be a solid bottom pair defender on a team with some defensive depth. There's a reason other fan bases like the idea of acquiring Franson during the off season.

Evander Kane - 28 goals, 15 assists; 43 points
Reasons for the Hate: Kane needed to stay out of trouble this year and again he was at the center of an assault accusation. Kane was injured again and took lots of time to recover and get back in a rhythm. Kane will always be a polarizing player, to some he's confident, to others he's arrogant and cocky. Kane certainly needs to mature and stay out of trouble and let his play on the ice do the talking not criminal complaints.

A Quote from the Community:

Kane has succeeded because of his linemates, not in spite of. No primetime F on this team has been ‘sheltered’ or ‘carefully placed’ as much as Kane.

The Positives: The Buffalo News summed up the positives pretty well this year: "From Dec. 1 to Sunday’s finale, Kane scored 28 goals to rank ninth in the NHL. The only players to score more included a who’s who of the hockey world: Brad Marchand (32), Auston Matthews and Max Pacioretty (30), Vladimir Tarasenko, Nikita Kucherov, Filip Forsberg, Anders Lee and Crosby himself (29). Kane finished as the Sabres’ leading goal scorer with 28 goals in 70 games. He also paced the team in game-winning goals (five), shots (260) and penalty minutes (113). Kane tied for 12th in the league with 25 even-strength goals."

The nominees have been limited to 5 players as was the case last season. Players nominated have been chosen because of discussion of criticism and or hatred by Sabres fans, production during the season, and tangible or intangible positives the player brought to the team during the 2016-17 season. Players without positives or a very limited number of positives were left off of the ballot this year.

This is a FanPost written by a member of the community. It does not necessarily express the views or opinions of Die By The Blade.