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Connolly a No. 1 for Maple Leafs?

Tim Connolly had 42 points in 68 games for the Sabres last season and signed a two-year deal with Toronto at a cap hit of $4.75 million. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

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Tim Connolly had 42 points in 68 games for the Sabres last season and signed a two-year deal with Toronto at a cap hit of $4.75 million. (Photo by Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

After a couple weeks off, THN’s mailbag returns! I was going to say, “returns triumphantly,” but the only thing I would’ve been triumphing over is a vacation from the mailbag. I enjoy your questions, but that seems a bit much.

Anyhow, here are your inquiries and my replies. Thanks to all who submitted one for my consideration. Please continue to do so on the Ask Adam page.

Adam, do you think the Leafs have found a No. 1 center in Tim Connolly?
Colby Gallant, Charlottetown P.E.I.


Colby,

I think Maple Leafs management is hoping Connolly can excel in the No. 1 role, just as they hoped Clarke MacArthur, Colby Armstrong and Kris Versteeg would perform well given increased opportunities and ice time.

Out of that group of three, you could say MacArthur did the best job of seizing the opportunity and running with it, although his running slowed toward the end of the season when the Leafs could’ve used the scoring touch he exhibited earlier in the year. Armstrong missed 32 games because of injuries, but he essentially was the same player he’s always been. And Versteeg simply didn’t fit into their plans and was traded as soon as GM Brian Burke could find a fit and the right price in return.

Which brings us back to Connolly. At age 30 it’s unlikely he’ll grow his game beyond what it is already and he hasn’t done enough to be slotted in with the NHL’s true No. 1 centers. But if he can put up nearly 50 assists as he did for Buffalo two years ago and chip in 15 to 20 goals, Toronto will consider that a short-term win as the franchise continues to transition into a long-term contender.

Adam, is a Cup repeat possible for the Bruins? Yes, Mark Recchi retired and they lost Ryder, but assuming Brad Marchand re-signs, much of the roster returns. What do you think?
Jerry Plante, Pembroke, Ont.


Jerry,

With all due respect to the Bruins’ plucky championship team, I think the NHL is now designed to make the odds of a repeat Stanley Cup winner extremely remote.

To even have a hope next season of repeating, Boston will need Tim Thomas to reproduce his career season, Zdeno Chara to continue as an elite blueline force and Nathan Horton to fully recover from his concussion. But all those things could come to pass and the Bruins still may not have the right balance and/or good fortune to win four playoff series. In any case, Bruins fans should be enjoying their Cup, not filling themselves with angst over 2011-12.

Dear Adam, What is the purpose of the salary cap floor? It seems as if it would be a good plan to protect players from cheap GMs, but really it just forces GMs to pay average players high salaries. Any comments?
Matt Lyons, Smithtown, N.Y.


Dear Matt,

The cap floor wasn’t intended to protect players from miserly GMs – rather it was intended to ensure miserly owners couldn’t take their revenues (as well as any money they receive in revenue sharing) and simply pocket it rather than investing it into the team/players.

Certainly, the floor has forced small-market teams into paying more in player salaries than they did prior to the 2004-05 lockout year. As such, the floor will be a target of NHL negotiators when the next collective bargaining agreement is hashed out. But the same question will arise when that time comes – how do you pay NHLers fairly while also forcing team owners to be honest businessmen who want their franchise to compete for a Cup? I haven’t seen a solution that will make both sides happy. We’ll have to wait and see how creative the parties get.

Adam, as a Sharks fan, I was extremely disappointed with how the Devin Setoguchi/Brent Burns package deal went down. I feel that Doug Wilson pulled the rug from under Setoguchi after signing him 24 hours before.

I was wondering if you thought this could start a disturbing trend or if I am overreacting? I like the deal in general (although would have liked it if Coyle was left out), just not the way it went down.
Murray Walters, Ross Haven, Alta.


Murray,

The optics of a player signing a contract extension only to be traded a day later are not good. It brings to mind the end of Marian Hossa’s stay in Ottawa – a sign-and-subsequent-trade that left a bitter aftertaste in the mouths of player agents dealing with Senators management – and that’s why you rarely see such a series of transactions.

Sharks GM Doug Wilson is one of the more respected men in the game, so I don’t believe players will now be wary of joining his franchise. As well, after another disappointing post-season, there was every chance Wilson’s patience with his players would run low and/or out. Setoguchi and Dany Heatley both understand how the league works, so I’m guessing any angry feelings they have toward San Jose will dissipate as soon as the hockey-mad people of Minnesota embrace them.

Hey Adam, after Tim Thomas's legendary playoff performance do you think he deserves to be mentioned alongside some of the greatest goalies of all-time despite his relatively short career?
Derek McDonald, Calgary


Hey Derek,

In a word, no. Thomas’ season – both regular and post – was one that will live in the hearts and minds of Boston fans forever. But one of the reasons netminders such as Patrick Roy and Martin Brodeur are all-time greats is their consistency and longevity.

For as fantastic as he was, Thomas simply doesn’t have that on his resume. He’d need to continue his world-class play for at least a couple more years before he could be mentioned in the same breath as surefire Hall of Famers.

Follow Adam's hockey tweets at twitter.com/TheHockeyNews, and his non-hockey observations at twitter.com/ProteauType.

Adam Proteau, co-author of the book The Top 60 Since 1967, is writer and columnist for The Hockey News and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog appears Thursdays and his Ask Adam feature appears Fridays.

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