When the Toronto Maple Leafs were dealing with a depleted defensive unit due to injuries, general manager Kyle Dubas was in dire need of making a trade to shore up the team’s depth on the blueline.
While many were hoping for a major blockbuster deal, Dubas acquired Conor Timmins in exchange for Curtis Douglas. It wasn’t a big deal, but it’s already starting to pay off. Since that trade, Timmins has been everything and more that this defense needed, especially during a time when most of the top defenders were sidelined with injuries.
Although his sample size with the Maple Leafs is still small, Timmins has shown to be a reliable defender and provide the offense when needed in a depth role. With the way that he’s played, he has shown that he deserves to stay in the NHL.
Finally Getting His Shot
Since being drafted 32nd overall by the Colorado Avalanche in the 2017 NHL Draft, it has been a long road for Timmins to crack the NHL and find some consistent playing time. He’s dealt with a number of injuries throughout his career, including a season ending knee injury last season.
Timmins’ health was always going to be the main question mark for this deal. Though, when he’s healthy, you can see the impact that he brings. Even with the Soo Greyhounds, he was extremely productive and was a go-to defenseman with 102 points in his final two seasons. He’s a very talented two-way player and that potential was starting to show it at the pro level playing in 31 games with the Avalanche in 2020-21 and finished with seven assists.
Injuries had put him on the sidelines with the Arizona Coyotes (moved in the deal for Darcy Kuemper), but he is now flourishing as a result of getting the minutes and ice time to prove his worth. He brings great size on the back-end and a steady two-way game that’ll benefit the Maple Leafs blue line. When Dubas made the trade, you can tell that he had the utmost faith in him as the potential with Timmins has always been evident.
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“The way he thinks the way he’s able to make plays and reliable both offensively and defensively.And he’s just 24. There’s a lot there to work with,” Dubas said according to David Alter of Inside the Maple Leafs.
Dubas then added, “For us with him, it’s a guy we think can help now but it’s also a future play.”
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Clearly Dubas, thinks highly of him to be more than just a short-term fix as he could be a highly effective third-pairing defender. The Maple Leafs were very thin on the right side with Justin Holl and Timothy Liljegren. Even though they’ve played well with all the injuries and thriving with their opportunities, it wouldn’t hurt to have some reassurance. Timmins brings a great balance to a blue line that has adopted a new defensive mentality and he’s fitting right in. With his mix of offense and defense and the way that he’s played to this point, there’s evidence to suggest that.
Two-Way Production Showing
With every game that he has played, Timmins has gotten progressively better and more comfortable on the ice. He has six assists in nine games with the Maple Leafs and continues to be a major driver in possession and generating chances.
At five-on-five with 100 minutes played, Timmins currently leads the Maple Leafs in Corsi for percentage (57.08), scoring chances for percentage (61.79) and high danger chances for (61.54). He’s also second in expected goals for with 59.25.
While he’s leading in most of those categories when he’s on the ice, it’s definitely difficult to sustain that kind of output and production considering the small sample that he has. Though from what we’ve seen with the eye test, Timmins has definitely been a factor offensively since joining the Maple Leafs.
It all stems from Timmins’ high-end playmaking abilities to jump start the offense. He’s extremely quick and accurate with his passing, finding the open lanes and seams to make a play. He’s even more effective on his breakout passes as he’s always scanning the ice to spot a teammate and make a swift outlet pass to a forward quickly. Just like this Auston Matthews goal against the Washington Capitals.
Timmins displays great patience to spot Matthews. As Matthews curls to the boards, he instantly goes to the open ice where Timmins makes a crisp tape to tape pass to send him in for the goal. That awareness and vision with Timmins’ passing is what makes him a valuable asset to the team.
While he’s great at distributing the puck, Timmins’ defensive game is just as strong and effective. Even with the injuries, the Maple Leafs have done a great job to improve their play to limit chances within their own zone. He doesn’t panic when in high pressure situations, makes timely pinches and reads to keep plays alive when in the offensive zone, has good gap control and defends well on the rush. Cam Charron, former Maple Leafs analyst, had a good thread about Timmins’ play.
Having another calm presence on the backend is just what the Maple Leafs need. And Timmins has been consistent in doing just that.
Playing To Stay In Lineup
The Maple Leafs do have a log jam on defense, especially when Morgan Rielly returns from his injury. Naturally, decisions need to be made of who stays and who comes out.
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T. J. Brodie will stay as Rielly’s defensive partner as they’ve formed that pairing for some time. Ramsus Sandin and Liljegren have proven that as young defenders, they can elevate their play, control the puck, rush effectively and play well against tougher competition. You aren’t taking Mark Giordano out of the lineup as he’s been the Maple Leafs best defenseman to this point.
This now all comes down to Holl. While playing well lately, he still continues to have his lapses making simple mistakes. With Timmins’ blend of offense and defense, he can definitely be an excellent replacement for Holl as he has a more consistent balance of offense and defense. There’s also the possibility that Sandin could be the odd man out with the abundance of left shot defenders as their recent line combinations shows.
With his recent play, it’s hard to not take Timmins out of the lineup. Seeing as Dubas brought him in, it wouldn’t make sense for him to sit in the press box after seeing the success that he has had. If he’s a long- term player, you play him as much as possible. To this point, he has shown what he can do and has played his way to stay on the roster.
Despite dealing with injuries in the past, Timmins is doing everything he can to remain a valuable asset for the Maple Leafs. He has strong offensive instincts with his passing and has great size on the back end to break up plays and block players out in his own end. This blend of a right-shot defender is what the Maple Leafs need and they’re getting that from Timmins.
Statistics from Natural Stat Trick.
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