Is Conner too small for the NHL?
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Q: Do you think Chris Conner is too small to play in the NHL? I mean, the kid has great upside with his speed, but my goodness, he looks small out there.
Tyler, Kelowna, British Columbia
MOLINARI: There's a pretty good reason that Conner looks small on the ice (and everywhere else) -- he is small. He's listed as being 5 feet 8, 180 pounds and, as is usually the case with such vital statistics in the NHL, no one is shortchanging him on those numbers.
Being short definitely is not an asset most of the time, and if Conner were three or four inches taller, perhaps he would have spent less time in the minors than he has to this point in his career. Still, it's worth noting that he doesn't play small, isn't afraid to venture into high-traffic areas or work along the boards or in the corners.
Conner's willingness to play a blue-collar game was underscored during the Penguins' 4-3 overtime victory in Game 6 of their opening-round playoff series against Ottawa, when he replaced Ruslan Fedotenko in the lineup and worked alongside Mike Rupp and Craig Adams on the fourth line. That niche is decidedly different than the offensive one Conner filled for the Penguins' farm team in Wilkes-Barre this season, but he filled it effectively and was credited with three hits, third-most among Penguins forwards.
Whether Conner could withstand the grind of the NHL for an extended period remains to be seen, but he's performed capably every time he's been promoted this season and unless there was a medical reason that prevented Fedotenko from dressing for Game 6, there's no reason to think Conner played his way out of the lineup that night.
Q: Wayne Gretzky holds almost every record a forward can possibly have, and most of them are safe until the NHL decides to cut the size of goalie pads in half. Anyway, there is one Gretzky record that Sidney Crosby can reach, and I think this is the year he does it: 47 points in one playoff season. Do you think it's possible?
Joe DeMuro, Wilkes-Barre
MOLINARI: Crosby had 14 points, a personal best, during Round 1 against Ottawa. If one wants to make several enormous assumptions -- that the Penguins would reach the Stanley Cup final, that each series would last six games and that Crosby will continue to put up goals and assists at the pace he hit against the Senators -- he would finish with 56, easily breaking Gretzly's mark.
Trouble is, the Penguins are far from a lock to last for four rounds, and it's an awful lot to expect any player to continue to produce at a level he never had reached previously. Not out of the question, certainly, but hardly something that should be taken for granted. What's more, as a rule, the farther a team advances in the playoffs, the better the competition it faces, and that generally means that points get harder to come by.
Bottom line: When it comes to Crosby, it's always risky to say that he can't do something, because he's made a career of exceeding even the most overblown expectations, but expecting him to make a serious run at Gretzky's record this spring might be a bit much.
First Published April 27, 2010 12:00 am