by Kate Shefte
Dear Carolina Hurricanes,
Please, do not send Tim Conboy back down to the minors, even if you start getting injured players back. This is for your own good.
The Hurricanes summoned Conboy from the Albany River Rats on Thursday before the team’s game against the New York Islanders. All three of the games since then have been wins. Of course, all three games were against teams outside of the playoff picture, but here are some more facts for your consideration.
A statistician for the team’s website compiled this stat and put it on Conboy’s player page: in eight games with Conboy on the roster this season, the Hurricanes are 5-0-3. Since Conboy has been with the ‘Canes organization, the team has gone 18-4-5 with him on the roster. And this is a call-up, someone who isn’t considered good enough to be a full-time NHL-er. Someone who is around only because those who should be playing in his place are injured, suspended, what have you. Those stats are starting to look less and less like a coincidence and more like correlation.
Conboy has played in only 27 games in his NHL career, all with the Hurricanes. He has racked up 6 assists during that time and is still waiting on his first NHL goal. And he likes to fight – boy, does he like to fight. The Hurricanes coaches trusted him enough to give him almost 17 minutes on the ice on Dec. 7 against Washington, but through all three games in his most recent call-up, he has recorded more penalty minutes than total ice time.
Though Conboy doesn’t have impressive stats, there seems to be something about him that allows the team to play better when he’s around. The Hurricanes haven’t had a tough guy in the line-up since Wade Brookbank was actually playing back in November, and Conboy has arguably been playing better than he ever did. Part of it is that he fights at the right times. Instead of acting like a young AHL hotshot who wants to impress the coaches before he is sent down again, Conboy does as the old adage suggests and chooses his battles. Instead of dropping the gloves with whomever ticks him off, Conboy has recognized when his team has needed a boost – just after the ‘Canes gave up an early lead and Tim Gleason was clipped today, when the bench was starting to look a little sluggish against the Lightning and Islanders – and has changed the tide with his flying fists.
“He brings a lot of energy to our team, we all love having him here,” Matt Cullen said of Conboy after the Avalanche game. “He’s been good every time he’s been up here and he sparked us tonight.”
Cullen reiterated how much the team enjoyed having Conboy around during his summonings to the NHL. And as the white-hot Cullen is almost single-handedly keeping the ‘Canes’ playoff dreams alive at the moment by scoring in buckets, it might be advisable to give him exactly what he wants right now. Just a thought.
So here’s to hoping that Conboy doesn’t wear out his welcome and sticks around for the rest of the season, because the ‘Canes could certainly use his physicality. He doesn’t play much, but he is by no means a waste of a roster spot. He is a good fighter and a smart player, and he has held his own on defense. Plus, it must be quite a comfort for the 'Canes' top liners to know that a legitimate tough guy has their backs instead of a veteran who should not be fighting, like Scott Walker, or a so-so fighter who should certainly be doing other things, like Tim Gleason. He might not be able to stand up to the likes of Donald Brashear in a fight, but let’s face it, that would have been like going up against Heath Ledger in this year’s Best Supporting Actor Oscar race (it’s not a perfect reference, but forgive me, I had to throw it in there!) The record with him in the line-up (two years in a row, mind you) could just be a coincidence; perhaps he has only been around when the ‘Canes played slumping teams. However, it is certainly worthy of noting.
As for Conboy’s River Rat teammates, they are all recovering and returning to the ice after a horrific bus crash earlier this week that left four players and the team’s broadcaster in the hospital. Casey Borer, a 23-year old-defenseman who has been called upon by the Hurricanes on several occasions, sustained by far the most serious injury – he will miss the rest of the season after fracturing his neck in the crash. Here is an article that features quotes from Borer on the crash and his recovery: