There’s no doubt that Brett Connolly has been a key to the team this year. He has been inconsistent, however, he is one of the hardest workers on the team. He was brought up quickly from the AHL to the NHL, with not much of an adjustment period. With all of the injuries and crazy things that have happened this season, he has been expected to be as mature as the veterans on the team. He’s been expected to play on top lines, both with and against some of the most skilled players in the league, and he’s been expected to be consistent. That’s a lot of pressure on anyone. He appeared to be doing great, then he went off to the World Juniors to be a warrior for Team Canada. When he returned, it seemed that he was not playing as well, but that’s not because he wasn’t giving it his all. Coach Boucher had some insight as to what is going on with our young future superstar:
When asked about what he thought what has made the difference in Connolly’s play, Boucher said that it was both maturity and time.
“If you talk to Stamkos, he’ll tell ya the same thing… his first half of the year was a tough one. It’s just such a shock for these youngsters to come in the NHL and having to be reliable and perform on a consistent basis, and if you play with the top guys there’s a lot of pressure, you don’t want to make a mistake. It’s very difficult so it takes a while before you get the right mix of action, assertiveness, and all that, and sometimes holding back so they juggle between going out there and not think, and going out there and think too much. So there’s a real time period adjustment that’s necessary and he’s gone through it and he gets some ice time. Obviously the injuries and our circumstances have helped the fact that he gets more ice time. The reality is that he’s played good so he’s played good so he’s getting more ice time. If the other guys would be playing better than him he’d get less. He’s been picking it up but he’s payed attention so much to what he was supposed to do, and eventually it was a matter of time. A matter of time could be two years, and just, it took a few months. He still has to learn a lot, still has to improve, but I think the difference now is before he didn’t know, where as now he knows… so knowing is at least the first part of the battle and it shows.”
On next year:
“I think the fact that he realized that if you want to play in this league you’ve got to be good defensively. He already starts with the right attitude and the right frame of mind. Now that he’s beating guys with his speed and he’s spent time already with the Stamkoses and the St. Louis’ and all that he’ll be less impressed next year. He’ll be a lot … and the players, too, will accept him more. You know, there’s the whole part, also of his environment. The older guys, they’ll groom some young guys, but they want to win and it’s tough to try to win at the same time as you want to groom some guys beside you, and I think over the span of this year they saw his willingness, they saw his work ethic, and they saw his improvement. And so next year when he comes in, the players don’t treat him the same way and don’t see him the same way. So all that put together is going to give him a better chance to start the year the way he’s finishing it now.”
To the Connolly skeptics, I say, just give him a chance. Considering the circumstances I think that he’s done a great job. The way he has held himself together, and the way that he presents himself both on and off of the ice, says a lot about his character and what an asset he will be to the future of The Tampa Bay Lightning.
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