Connolly will have to earn his spot. His experiences last year will certainly give him an advantage over any of the kids that haven't played in the NHL yet. If he's just a little bit bigger and a little more self-confident I think he'll quickly distinguish himself as one of the better forwards in camp. If he puts forth honest professional effort toward improving and demonstrates even a hint of chemistry with any of the other talents on the team, I would be surprised to see him not make the team out of camp.
That said, I also think Brown stands a good chance making the team out of camp as well.
I think when you make the decision to play a 19 year old player in the NHL instead of sending him back to the CHL, you've made the decision to keep him elevated for the next season too. To do anything else would be sending the message to your top prospect that he failed when in reality, the only thing that failed him was the coaching in regards to their failure to recognize that the best thing for him was to go back to the Dub and have another injury free season and dominate the junior ranks. I have a feeling that had he done that and gone the more traditional route, he would be a shoe in regarding how fans view him this season coming into camp.
The worst thing that Connolly did for his stock among fans last season was make the NHL club and make it hard for him to be sent back down by showing steady improvements. Take a look at Tyler Seguin for another example of a player that looked overwhelmed. By virtue of time missed, I put Connolly of last season and Seguin of the year before in the same category even if the ages don't match up exactly. Seguin scored 22 points in 80 games in his rookie season and Connolly scored 15 in 68 games. Flashes of brilliance from both players towards the end of the year really opened some eyes regarding future potential. I think the right way to go about this is to allow Connolly the right to start the year in Tampa unless he looks entirely lost and allow him to work his way up the lines with the improvements he has undoubtedly made in the offseason.
When you have phenom prospects, the development happens quick. There is a chance that he has lapped guys like JT Brown over the summer without doing anything except his normal training regimen. When the body matures on these phenom prospects, the talent really comes through.
What kind of message does it send to the players that they'll have job security if they just sort of fart along for a season?
The message that should be sent is that the team will do what's right for every player's development. As he appeared last season, he's not good enough for the top-six, and he's not destined for a bottom-six role. So why should he be on the team and not in Syracuse where they can bring him along in the role to take advantage of the potential the scouts saw when he was drafted?
(I'm not saying that they should make him into a one dimensional offensive player, but if he proves his worth in SYR, he'll get put on the ice in all situations, where he wouldn't in Tampa Bay)
They might have been afraid of another Pool Noodle situation, but a hockey player's career is filled with obstacles, and Wright's situation was made worse methinks because the regime change reset his standing within the organization. (even when some of us online were trying to tell them otherwise)
Last edited by Felonious Python: 07-25-2012 at 08:56 AM.
I really believe that if connolly had stayed in the top 6 after his first 9-15 games then he would have been so much more successful in his last year. He looked solid with the big guys and was really helping the line go. When a player is a star his whole life and then goes from playing 15 minutes a night to 6 minutes a night, it wears on a player and it is much harder to play. Look at stamkos's first year, he didn't look too good playing 8 minutes a night either, then all of a sudden, he gets 18-20 minutes and he starts showing what he can really do. Connolly is not a fourth line player, he needs to be on one of the top 2 lines, and based on last year's development and an off-season of training i think he is the front-runner for a top 6 spot. If he gets beaten out by someone then that is fine, because I just want to have the best players up but I really don't see a player with connolly's skill and expected improvement not making the team. This training camp should be very interesting but in my opinion i think that connolly and brown make the team and conacher and killorn both stay in the minors at least to start. There is definitely more competition this year though, should be fun to watch.