David Clarkson: Comeback King

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Photo: Canadian Press Files - Postmedia News

Tonight, David Clarkson will make his debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs. Many in Leafs Nation are excited about the prospect of a power forward like Clarkson entering the lineup. Rightly so: he hits, he fights, he cycles and he can put the puck in the net.

Despite the aforementioned accolades, the most valuable contribution Clarkson will make to this team is simple: his unrelenting desire to win as a Maple Leaf. A longtime fan of his native Ontario team, Clarkson turned down a better offer from the Edmonton Oilers to make Toronto his (likely) final destination in the NHL. Yet even with the New Jersey Devils, the most reliable aspect of his game was the fire and determination he brought to the ice on a nightly basis.

Make no mistake, Clarkson is no offensive dynamo. Those expecting a surge in his career point-pace will be disappointed (although a slight increase is possible given the potential for better linemates, ice time, and a more offensive system than he ever experienced in New Jersey). There will be times where he will look awkward on the ice or a step behind the ethereal skills of linemates such as Joffrey Lupul and Nazem Kadri. But David Clarkson will never be faulted for his effort. He will add a needed dimension of grittiness and puck possession to this team’s top nine.

Most importantly, he elevates his game when his team needs him the most. He brings a style of leadership-by-example that will hopefully serve to rally his talented teammates with a surprisingly multifaceted approach. Most fans are aware that he will throw his body with abandon and drop the gloves to protect his teammates. Yet an underrated aspect of Clarkson’s game is his ability to elevate his offensive output in dire situations to an unparalleled level:

 AVG Shots/60 when trailing by one goal
(2010-2013)
2010-2011 Rank2011-2012 Rank2012-2013 Rank
David Clarkson15.48541
Justin Williams13.2761182
Alexander Ovechkin11.6828528
Jeff Carter11.4435847
Evander Kane11.3123641
Henrik Zetterberg11.13391024
Logan Couture10.8066724

Yes, you’re reading that right. Over the last three seasons, no player has directed as much rubber at the net as Clarkson has when their team is down by a goal. The only player even close to him in this regards is Justin Williams (he of the clutch game seven performances for the vaunted L.A. Kings). Clarkson places well ahead of noted offensive motors such as Alexander Ovechkin, Evander Kane and Henrik Zetterberg. Moreover, Clarkson’s consistency in this respect has also been second-to-none. He has been in the top five league-wide in this simple measurement of situational shot output for each of the last three seasons.

What does that mean for the Leafs? It means that Clarkson may not hit the scoresheet on those nights that the Phil Kessels or Joffrey Lupuls blow open the barn doors early in the game with high-percentage shooting off the rush. On those nights where Toronto has taken the early lead you will probably see Clarkson focusing on keeping the puck in the offensive zone, finishing his checks, and irritating the crap out of the opposition.

But, in those games where the Leafs fall behind and the many skilled forwards this team possesses are looking for that spark to get them going – Clarkson will be leading the way. You can be virtually guaranteed that he will be throwing everything and the kitchen sink in the direction of the other team’s net alongside his usual antics. The goals that he will get may not always be pretty, but hopefully they will come when the team needs them most.

Welcome to the Maple Leafs, David Clarkson.

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Nikhil has been writing for MLHS since the site launched in 2008. He misses talking about Mats Sundin and is currently entrenched in enemy territory (Boston) pursuing a doctoral degree. Contact Nikhil here: [email protected]
  • wendelsway1

    Good Game Day Morning Gents……..So excited to see Clarkson in the line up….even moreso, after reading this write up…..Thanks Nikhil!……..It’s a great day to be a Leafer!!!…….GO CLARKSON GO!!!!  :)

  • vacant3

    Mornig all. Wow – that’s a crazy stat. I have to admit – I’ve never been a huge Clarkson fan, but that stat has opened my eyes. He’s exactly the type of player this young team needs.

  • wendelsway1

    -Keon- A little chilly out this morning, while out jogging with the dog……could be worse, not jogging is snow and slush…..yet.  lol

  • Mind Bomb

    Good morning Folks, and Nice Article Nikhil, lets edjumacate the fan base, Clarkson is not the second coming of Gretzky. I love the fact you mentioned with a lead, Clarkson will be doing the little things to keep it. 
     PS, Did lupuls Body armour get Ordered Nik ?

  • Mind Bomb

    -Keon- Nope thats Bozak !

  • wendelsway1

    Mind Bomb Morning MB…..unleash the Clarkson!

  • Mind Bomb

    wendelsway1 Mind Bomb Morning WW, I just hope RC plays him at center with Kes and JVR :)))) P

  • Burtonboy

    Single handedly change our Corsi lol . Just kidding . Actually it will be sweet having a guy who plays this type of game in the line up. If he plays well and lives up to expectation hopefully its rubs off on the team as a whole. Even an average cycle game would make an already dangerous team even that much better

  • Burtonboy

    Mind Bomb Bonjers MB and the rest of you fine folks this morning

  • wendelsway1

    Mind Bomb wendelsway1 Lol……You leave Bozie alone…..big meanie :)