The sexiest sniper in the NHL? Former Leaf Connor Brown is full of surprises in Ottawa
Connor Brown’s hockey career has come to an end. Or got stoned. Whatever image you prefer. The point is, he’s back to where he started.
The players around him, his teammates, are the same in many ways. Back then it was Auston Matthews and now it’s Tim Stutzle, both arriving for their first NHL games fresh out of European competition. Then it was Mitch Marner, now it’s Josh Norris. Then Zach Hyman, now Drake Batherson. Then Morgan Rielly, now Thomas Chabot.
This year’s Ottawa Senators are very similar in many ways to the Toronto Maple Leafs who reunited in the fall of 2016, after a season as the worst team in the NHL. Both were coltish, lacking in balance and strength, but excited to move forward, to achieve a future that everyone in the game promised would be exciting.
Brown was with the Leafs in 16; now he’s a senator. But he’s a very different person and player. Then he was a sixth round pick who, despite doing all kinds of really good things as a junior and minor, was still on the sidelines, still uncertain in the NHL.
Now he earns $ 3.6 million (US) per season. That puts him in the top 300 in a league of 750 players, not bad at all. He now has a fiancée and they share an apartment in Ottawa with a Bernese Mountain Dog.
In Toronto, he was full of energy and enthusiasm, salivating for a little power play. Now he’s an established veteran, a calming influence, one of the few experienced players left in an Ottawa team that started the season terribly, but over the past six weeks he’s caused all kinds of trouble for him. the other six clubs in total. Northern Canada Division.
“I’ve seen what really works in this league and I can share my knowledge, talk about the ups and downs,” he said in a phone interview from Vancouver. “I share as much as possible the lessons I have learned with my teammates. It’s a very young locker room. I mean, most guys are under 25. ”
As a team, the Senators have proven to be a poor choice for a number of veterans this season. Braydon Coburn and Cedric Paquette arrived in the nation’s capital under a wage cap deal with Tampa, and the two are gone now. Matt Murray signed a four-year, $ 25 million contract to play for the Sens, and much of his season has been miserable. He’s hurt now.
Alex Galchenyuk signed for Ottawa in the offseason, and the Sens couldn’t move him fast enough. Mike Reilly and Erik Gudbranson were strong elements of the Ottawa defense during the winter. Now Reilly is skating in Boston and Gudbranson is a predator. Derek Stepan was acquired to be the unofficial leader of the team. He was lost for the season due to a shoulder injury.
Brown, however, flourished. He is the only one of the top six scorers on the list to be over 24 years old. He’s also been the hottest sniper in the NHL lately – at least until Vancouver shut him up and beat the Sens on Saturday, having lost to them two nights earlier. .
Still, Brown has 11 goals in his last 14 games. Before that he had one in 13 which tells you something about how this game can be streak.
“It’s been awesome lately,” he said. “I reassessed the way I approached the game, telling myself to relax and trust my instincts. I think I can embarrass myself sometimes. I had done this in my career in Toronto. You know, over there thinking “What’s the right part?” All the time. Now I’m older and I’ve learned that if I can do a game, I can do it every game. “
He looks back fondly on his days playing for the Leafs in his hometown. They gave him a chance. Only 24 of the 155 drafted players ahead of him in 2012 have played more NHL games. He was that industrious worker bee type as Leaf, and surprised with 20 goals in his first season. After that the numbers started to go down, and he now seems to realize that he needed to move on in order to grow as a professional.
“I was playing like a shell of myself the last few years in Toronto,” he said. “Ottawa was a new start, a chance to play to my potential.
It was a complicated deal that made him a senator in 2019. The Leafs wanted Cody This and some ceiling space. Ottawa was ready to take on Nikita Zaitsev and Brown, with a bunch of small pieces involved. It was a better deal for Ottawa. Brown and Zaitsev are still there, This is playing Philly and the cap space has been swallowed up by other players.
These days the Sens can look back on the 2020-21 season and imagine that the lack of training camp hurt them, and if the season had started in March, they could be fighting for a playoff berth. .
The movements that Director General Pierre Dorion will then make will be interesting. In Toronto, the Leafs have brought in old hands like Patrick Marleau and Ron Hainsey for the 2017-18 season, and Dorion will likely do the same if he can. Attracting players to Ottawa is not easy. Right now, with youngsters Shane Pinto and Jacob Bernard-Docker arriving after their college seasons in search of ice time, there’s barely enough room for all the kids.
“It’s exciting. We are now in meaningful games,” said Brown. “They are a talented young group.”
He could have said it in 2016. But he said it last week. Hockey is a fun game.
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