The Resurrection of Tim Kennedy

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It’s a saga of redemption.

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Tim Kennedy's been searching for a break since August of 2010. That break has finally arrived.

The sorry tale of Tim Kennedy began on September 30, 2009, when the Sabres announced that Kennedy would start the 2009–10 season in Buffalo.  Kennedy scored 10 goals and 16 assists, for a total of 26 points in 78 games in the regular season.  He scored 1 goal and 2 assists in 6 playoff games.  Things were looking up for the kid from South Buffalo.

A RFA, Tim was unable to come to terms on a new contract through his agent and Darcy Regier. On August 3, 2010,  he was awarded a $1million contract through arbitration.  The Sabres felt the price tag was too high for their hometown darling, and immediately placed him on waivers.

Not a single team claimed him.  It wasn’t a pleasant situation for Tim.

“It hurts. This is not what I envisioned for the last month of the summer before the season started. It’s tough. I hope this isn’t the end, but it doesn’t look too good right now. You grow up watching this team your whole life. I don’t even know what to say right now because I’m so shocked.”

He eventually found a home with the New York Rangers, but found himself shackled in the AHL – the Rangers didn’t want to risk losing him through re-entry waivers by calling him up, and by burying his contract with the farm team, the Blue Shirts’ were able to ease up on their dwindling cap space.  Tim never played a game in a Rangers uniform.

On October 5th of 2010, he was waived again.  And again, not a single team claimed him.

Kennedy remained a Ranger by default, but was clear that they really didn’t want him.  In February of 2011, he was dealt (along with a 3rd round pick) to the Florida Panthers for Bryan McCabe.  On March 8 of the 2010-11 season, he finally saw action in the NHL again, and would skate on to record 1 assist in 6 games with the Panthers.

Fast forward to the 2010-11 offseason.

Kennedy is on the ice for the Panthers’ last game of the season.  It’s a 1-0 victory over the Washington Capitals, wherein TK records an assist and a +1 marker, helping the team finish on a high note by breaking a 10 game losing skid.

That high note doesn’t last long for Kennedy, though.  On April 11, locker clean out day, he is a RFA all over again.  You know that his head has got to be swimming with how this whole dreadful story started when he was a RFA back in 2009.  It sure didn’t help that Florida just fired their coach, Peter DeBoer, who at least had the faith to keep Kennedy in the lineup for that final game.

With an unstable world spinning under his skates again, deliverance must have seemed like a long, long way away.

Then, on May 31st, the Panthers announced the hiring of Kevin Dineen to fill their head coaching vacancy – and for Kennedy, that news must have felt like a godsend.  Finally, it looks like he will get the break he’s been hoping for.

There is simply not a single person on the planet better equipped to save TK’s career than Dineen.  After all, Dineen was the coach in Portland during the 2008-09 season, when Kennedy blossomed with 18 goals and 67 points in 73 games before his promotion to Buffalo.  Kennedy was quick to praise the hiring:

“I can’t thank him (Dineen) enough. He was a great coach down there (in the AHL) and he’d be a great coach (in the NHL) too. He really helped me transform from playing in college [Michigan State] to the pro game. I owe him a lot of credit.”

Those are some smart words from TK – he must know that this is his make-it-or-break-it chance to stick to the NHL.  Dineen knows who Tim is, what kind of player he is, what to expect from him on the ice, and how to utilize him to get the best performance possible.

Suddenly, the future is looking bright again – but there is still that nagging RFA issue.  With Dineen on board, and part of the decision making process, the most damning twist to this saga yet would be if the Panthers decide not to keep Kennedy on the team.  Such a move, by perhaps the person who knows Kennedy’s talents the best, would pretty much sound a death knell over Kennedy’s NHL career.

But I don’t think that Dineen is gonna’ ring that bell.

It would be a shock if the Panthers didn’t bring Kennedy back – a player that they traded for, a player that they used on the ice to help bring a tumultuous season to an end on a high note, and now a player who is reunited with the coach that made him NHL material in the first place.

South Buffalo, rejoice: the resurrection of Tim Kennedy has begun.

Screw the whole saga, and forget all those dates.

Instead, focus on plays like this.

And this.

And this OT gem, (where he “beats his old team” at the 3:45 mark).

Under Dineen, there will be more highlights from Kennedy to come – and from here on in, they will all come at the NHL level.

Good luck, Tim.

Go Sabres.

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