Monday Morning Armchair GM: Clarkson vs. MacArthur

Monday Morning Armchair GM: Clarkson vs. MacArthur

We reviewed Clarke MacArthur the other day here at MLHS. The feedback seemed rather divided on the question of whether to keep or not to keep the pending UFA. Meanwhile, there’s no doubting that David Clarkson’s name will only continue to remain attached to the Leafs in rumour circles as we approach free agency and the Toronto native remains without a contract past July 5.

With a glut of wing talent already, and Phil Kessel in need a contract extension, there’s no way Dave Nonis should re-sign MacArthur and then also go and sign David Clarkson. It’s not a smart allocation of dollars when depth wingers are the easiest assets to come by in the NHL.

Of course, things could play out in such a way where the Leafs lose out on the Clarkson “sweepstakes” (he re-signs or they are outbid or whatever) and then turn and try to bring back MacArthur. But as of today, with both options on the table, there is certainly merit in the question of MacArthur vs. Clarkson. And it’s a tough one.

Inconsistency

There’s very few players whose job is to produce points in the NHL who don’t fit the definition of a “streaky point producer.” After his breakout 2010-11 season, MacArthur’s production patterns over a 73 game season in 2011-12 weren’t anything out of the ordinary for a decent second line winger.

Last season MacArthur may have deserved the label, but so too did Clarkson.

MacArthur’s slumps included one 5 game pointless streak, one six game pointless streak, one nine game pointless streak in his past 40-game season. 14 of MacArthur’s 20 points came in a 17 game span (mostly spent with Kadri). That means he produced just 6 points in 23 games outside of that hot five-week stretch.

Clarkson was no less “streaky;” in fact, he was arguably more inconsistent. Clarkson opened the season with 15 points in 12 games, meaning he just put up 9 in his other 36. One key difference is that the Devils as a team struggled mightily in the goals department down the stretch, and Clarkson never did stop pounding out shots throughout the season en route to the 4th highest shot total in the National Hockey League.

Both produced at a .50 pont-per-game rate last season. MacArthur played eight less games. Clarkson scored 15 goals to MacArthur’s 8, MacArthur posted 12 assists to Clarkson’s 9. Clarkson took a resounding 118 more shots on goal.

Possession Players, and the Leafs’ Possession Problems

Starting with his first (abbreviated) training camp as head coach, Randy Carlyle set about infusing defensive structure into the Leafs as his first order of business. Over the season we saw evidence of a system that covered up the Leafs positional weakness at D fairly effectively, and relied on a quick-strike offense going the other way. It was far from ideal from a possession standpoint, but the results indicate it worked. Carlyle implemented a collapsing defensive scheme designed to take away the key ice in the defensive zone, the team withstood a lot of shots from the perimeter that Reimer gobbled up with a high level of efficiency, and Carlyle relied on his team’s ability to produce higher quality scoring chances in less zone time than the other team thanks to their speed and skill up front.

Anybody who thinks this means Randy Carlyle doesn’t care about possession play is selling him short (and wasn’t listening to his interviews this season). Turning the Leafs into a better defensive team and a better possession team is the goal over his tenure here. While he made inroads in getting the Leafs more organized as a five man unit defensively, obviously him and Dave Nonis have a lot of work to do when it comes to the team’s possession play. Carlyle has always made it clear that he wants a team that can produce more offensive zone time. The shot differentials will start to look better for this team when they can successfully do so.

A big part of the solution will come by strengthening the team down the middle. But could replacing a player like MacArthur with a David Clarkson help diversify the Leaf attack for the better?

If the Leafs are to ever become a good possession team, they’ll need a few more forwards that can cycle the puck effectively, help them maintain offensive zone time and produce shots. I don’t want the Leafs to lose that speedy identity that turned some heads this season and almost/should’ve knocked out the Eastern Conference champs, but this could require adding the right size/skill package up front at the expense of a smaller, fleeter-of-foot finesse forward.

There is the statistical argument out there that MacArthur has always shown to be a good possession player. He has always had strong CORSI rates to go along with his basic stat line that indicates an underappreciated level of production over his past 3 seasons – 125 points in 195 games.

Clarkson’s advanced stats also look good, as good as any forward in the 2013 free agent class. If the Leafs want to tip the shot scale more in their favour, which should be a goal, the fourth-leading shot taker in the NHL is a pretty good place to start.

Now let’s run the two players through the eye test.

Perusing the debate that developed out of the Clarke MacArthur review, there appears to be a divergence in opinion when it comes to Mac’s possessional abilities and it seems to depend on whether or not advanced stats are being used as the barometer for what constitutes a good possession player.

Strictly relying on game-watching observation, I see a player in MacArthur who can go pretty quiet for spells while impacting the game very little in terms of the forecheck, defensive play and shot generation. Being first in on the forecheck or committing himself defensively are not fortes of Clarke MacArthur and his wavering intensity level can leave one asking at times, “what is it you do around here, Clarke?” When MacArthur is digging deep and keeping his legs moving shift to shift, he usually makes an impact.

I’ve seen much less of Clarkson, but from what I have seen he is a player who can forecheck and cycle the puck well, set up shop in front of the net, shoot the puck a ton and in general contribute to the game in a number of different ways even when he’s not scoring. He also has a pest quality to him, something the Leafs just lost in Leo Komarov. Maybe with Clarkson in the lineup – he fought 6 times last season – Carlyle will feel there’s less of a need for two enforcers as well.

The Leafs would be giving up some speed and playmaking skill in MacArthur for the net front presence, forechecking, cycling and physically aggressive attributes of David Clarkson. They would be gaining a top-5 shot generator from last season. I don’t think MacArthur is in Carlyle’s good graces and I’d bet he’s dying for a Clarkson type among his forward ranks. But what would the Leafs have to pay to get it done?

The risk

The team that signs Clarkson is very likely going to be overpaying him from a production standpoint. There’s no getting around that. If we’re being safe, he projects as a 20-25 goal guy who scores 40-45 points.

David Clarkson and Ryan Malone are good pair of comparables. In many seasons, both wingers produced more goals than assists. They’re not the most skilled players in the world, but both can finish in tight and play a power forward’s game of driving to the dirty areas to get their goals. They don’t help their linemates by distributing, but by opening up space and providing a net presence on a scoring line. If I were to guess, Clarkson will be getting a long term, $4.5 million AAV deal, just like what Ryan Malone received from Tampa Bay in the summer of 2008.

Malone is five years Clarkson’s elder and has managed to put six 20-goal seasons together (was on pace for 8 if not for injuries in 06-07 and 10-11) over his career. He was less of a late bloomer than Clarkson; Malone put up a 22-21-43 season in his rookie season as a 24 year old, meanwhile Clarkson didn’t break 20 goals until his 30 goal breakout season at age 27. Despite more or less producing according to what his earlier career indicated during the first three years of his current deal, it has been tough for Malone to shake the overpaid label. Recent injuries haven’t helped. I don’t get the sense Clarkson is going to lose his game any time soon like Malone may have at 33 (too soon to write him off after coming off injury and just playing 25 games), but I would certainly avoid committing to the type of term Malone received from Tampa (7 years). 4 years would be ideal (taking to him to age 33), five is pushing it but probably more realistic, and anything above starts getting pretty damn risky.

Clarke MacArthur, meanwhile, could be in line to receive as much as a million less per annum. That’s just speculation, but I don’t see MacArthur getting $4M without losing years on the term, and I think he might re-sign at around $3.5M with a medium-length deal.

What say you, MLHS? How much more are you willing to pay, and for how long, for a similar (or perhaps slightly worse) point producer who brings much-needed added dimensions and high-shot generation in David Clarkson?

SIMILAR ARTICLES

935 comments
Dudgee
Dudgee

Clarkson is a lot like Tucker was.  I think this team needs a Darcy Tucker... that little bit of crazy but with the skill to ride in the top lines when needed. 


Won't be cheap but will be worth it. 

Boblav
Boblav

I would give him 4,5 over 5. He,s a toronto boy who we could really cheer for. We need what brings to the table especially against teams like Boston. He would look great on a line with weise and kadri. Resign bozak, sign clarkson and regier, and amnesty komisaric and liles. Trade Grabovski or try and use him to move up in the draft. Bring in these toronto boys. Please. Give us something to really root for. Let get on with this.

jerrygagne66
jerrygagne66

Yes, JVR being elbowed by Kelly was incompetent officiating, so disgusting. Should have been a game and 5 minute. 4 Blind Officials who could not see it. I think we need 2 more officials or more officials than players. That was disgusting!!!!!!!

JustYouW8
JustYouW8

I think Carolina could be a trading partner for Liles if the Leafs are looking to deal him. Not sure what would come back though..

Savo43
Savo43

Anybody else want Hossa if he's bought out in the offseason? 

-

JVR-Grabovski-Kessel

Lupul-Kadri-Hossa

Kulemin-Colborne-Frattin

McClement-Gordon-Orr


mcloki
mcloki

Really. That's what you call tonight refs. Really.

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

Man the MSM is still going hard at Dean Blundell for his Pelss comment.

leafmealone
leafmealone

Well, say what you will Carlyle haters, but the Leafs gameplanned the best strategy to counter Boston's style of play of any team in the playoffs. And this should be even more glaring in that many of the other Bruin opponents would clearly be considered to be more talented than Toronto. In fact, considering where these two teams stood between each other last year, the fact that Toronto made such a massive leap forward in competing against the Bruins (and especially on their home ice) is nothing short of incredible. 

Also, for all those who bitch about the Leafs getting outshot. They led the league in opponents shooting distance. So perhaps getting outshot is less important than everyone is bitching about when those shots are the least likely to actually go in.

Zep2
Zep2

Good nite folks. 

DeclanK
DeclanK moderator

New host, guys. You won't notice much of a difference,  but the site should load more quickly now (about 2secs avg/per page)

Great Dane
Great Dane

@canuckintheuk Good morning CinUK - we are fwer pieces away than we think. Two buyouts for a good return and we will get the assets we need or assets to purchase them.

DJBrianBurke
DJBrianBurke

@jerrygagne66 Now the Hawks are seeing what it's like being on the wrong side of the NH.... I mean the refs. Going into the finals I couldn't help but think that the Hawks should worry about the reffing. Bruins are allowed to do what they want.

For the same reason I don't assume that the Leafs would have easily beat the NYR and then the Pens. If it was all equal sure, but you have to factor in the reffing, who can easily decide a series (see game 7). It would have got worse as the Leafs went on. No way the Leafs would get the benefit of the doubt against the Pens. 0% chance. It would be Hawks and Pens right now.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

Won't hossa be 35 next year?

DWCMLHS
DWCMLHS

@Savo43 Now THAT's an upgrade. So much money to spend on what is already a position of strength for the Leafs, though. We need to use our cap space on Dmen. 

Savo43
Savo43

@wiski lmaooo, he's pretty sick. Would've been nice, but eh, Reimer is a stud in his own right. 

leafmealone
leafmealone

@wiski The only people I hate more than the Bruins players, are their fans. And the only people I hate worse than their fans, are the homer MSM that cover the team.

Savo43
Savo43

@leafmealone Absolutely. Carlyle is an awesome coach. I was skeptical in the summer leading up to this past season, but boy did he do a great job this year. So impressed. 

B_Leaf
B_Leaf

@leafmealone 

Yup, and Carlyle played Bozak more minutes this year in the regular season than any other forward...in the playoffs his ice time went up even more, he played two minutes a game more than any other forward in the playoffs... we missed him late in game seven.

rustynail
rustynail

@DeclanK are we sticking with livefyre going forward or is there still some though of a new system?

Savo43
Savo43

@Xxxxxnew So good with the puck, and so dominant in the corners, him and Lupul would have a hay-day, he is 35 yeah, but damn, the guy can still play. 

Savo43
Savo43

@DWCMLHS @Savo43 Im actually not as worried about our D as you. A full training camp, and the Jake Gardiner we saw in playoffs, and a healthy Gunnarsson, perhaps even some additional speed and solid play from a guy like Blacker and i actually think the dynamic is pretty solid. Thats just me though. 

Dangle_My_Berries
Dangle_My_Berries

@-Keon- we have some beauty young pieces here, between Naz and JVR.....we quickly forget the solid talent that we have growing right in front of us, these guys are in their early 20's and showing us this level of skill and compete.....we have an awesome future ahead...

Savo43
Savo43

@leafmealone @wiski No need to hate my friend, rivalries are healthy and make the competition all the more enjoyable and exciting to watch. Without teams like the Habs, Bruins, Sens, and Sabres, watching hockey wouldn't be the same, its all good at the end of the day, we're all watching an amazing sport and sporting our colours, but our separation is no reason to hate. Believe it or not, that loss to the Bruins is gonna make our team sooooo much better, and as much as they can laugh now, the future holds different cards =). Thats the beauty of development, and time in sports. Our time is coming!! 

Jay_Berg
Jay_Berg

He apologized for it and admitted it was insensitive. I'm not justifying it but I really don't think it's as big a deal as they are making it out to be.

Burtonboy
Burtonboy

@B_Leaf @leafmealone Well tell me why if Bozak is so important to this team why haven't the Leafs got him inked to a long term contract at 5 mil per ?

leafmealone
leafmealone

@B_Leaf @leafmealone Just cause the guy was miscast on the PP he played those minutes. And what I was pointing out wasn't the same as saying that everything Carlyle did was of the genius level variety. He also stuck to Kostka/Holzer for far too long. And his choices of who to play and who to bench at various times left a lot to be desired.

What it was intended to point out, is that shot differential isn't in and of itself a clear way to assess a coaches systems. If those systems, for instance, allowed for a negative shot differential based on worrying more about quantity than quality of shots against, than that should be the more important factor in assessing that stat.

wendelsfist
wendelsfist

@canuckintheuk @Great Dane Makes sense.  The leafs are not in cap trouble so either trade him for a worse contract to buyout or at the worst use a standard buyout if they expect they will run over cap.  

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

Part of the whole equation is JFJ thought Pogge was going to be a keeper.

Savo43
Savo43

@wiski @Savo43 hahaha, we always got that eh. I think he played all but 10 games that year. 

Optimustic
Optimustic

@Xxxxxnew I believe there was a rumour that said they would have taken Tlusty in the deal.  That would have been much better than Rask.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

I've always wondered if Boston would have done the deal for Pogge.

Xxxxxnew
Xxxxxnew

I don't think Rask was ever at a Leafs camp.

leafmealone
leafmealone

@B_Leaf @leafmealone I like Kadri at 1C and Gordon at 3C a whole hell of a lot better than anything that involves Bozak continuing to drag down our top offensive talents.

B_Leaf
B_Leaf

@leafmealone @B_Leaf 

I don't care who plays "1C" between Kadri, Grabs, and Bozie...but I like them more than Colborne, and I like them more than Gordon or Weiss. I don't see the value in giving up a lot to bring an equal like Stastny. 

leafmealone
leafmealone

@B_Leaf @leafmealone If he was "good" he would have finished a few more of the easy tap ins that Kessel set him up for. And he might have even managed to provide at least one primary assist for JVR. And he wouldn't be universally mocked as being out of his depth as a 1C. Surely, you wouldn't have had the then current GM acknowledging in an official press conference that he wasn't a 1C and it was the teams fault at playing him in that role.

So, forget totally what you like about him. He isn't a 1C. Isn't suddenly going to become one. And we would be stupid to pay him as such.

B_Leaf
B_Leaf

@leafmealone @B_Leaf 

Bozak plays in all situations because he is good...that is why he led in minutes. I think we should just leave it for now...we'll see what happens.

leafmealone
leafmealone

@B_Leaf @leafmealone So you'd agree that the only reason he played all those minutes was because he was being misused on the top PP unit? Because he isn't actually suited to be a 1C by any stretch of the imagination. And that we have a player, who while he may undergo a difficult transition year into the role, is at the end of the day far more suited to fill it?

That pretty much entirely confirms what I'm saying that he's not worth resigning to a big money deal as we could find a guy to play 3C who can win faceoffs and play those PK minutes for way less. Meanwhile, we get a more talented player more ice time and pair him with our more talented players to get the most out of their collective skill. And then we take the savings from what we would have paid Bozak and use it where we really need the help finding a top level D man.

B_Leaf
B_Leaf

@leafmealone @B_Leaf 

I was just pointing to Carlyle's good decision making with regard to seeing the value Bozak brings. Bozak is not a real good PP guy other than F/O. But we have Kadri for that anyway.