Pete Deboer on TSN Drive:

View on Clarkson and the trade:
Clarkson is a great kid. Actually, at the time, I really thought he as going to help the Leafs. It was case of Murphy’s Law; everything that could go wrong did go wrong… big contract, huge expectations, people throwing out Clarkson like Wendel Clark in that vein. He tried to do everything right; look at that 10-game suspension, that’s exactly what every coach wants his team to do, stick up for their best players, and he ends up with 10-game suspension to start the season. Trying to do the right thing, do what the coaches want him to do. Everything he tried to do went the wrong way on him. Unfortunately, Toronto is an unforgiving city, there’s nowhere to hide. It’s a shame because I think he is a real serviceable NHL player and I’m sure he’s going to help Columbus.

In New Jersey, was it the NJ system that was responsible for his success there or was it Clarkson?
I think Clarkson is responsible for Clarkson. During his time in New Jersey, he was coached by Brent Sutter, Jacques Lemaire, by John McLean, by Pete Deboer. He scored 30 goals for Pete Deboer, but he also had 20 goals and 100 PIMs for Brent Sutter. All four of those coaches ran different versions of systems. I don’t think it’s that simple. I think this is something where he got behind early in an unforgiving city and could not get on the right side of it even though he tried to do the right things. There are a lot of cities where, if you hop of the bench to defend your best player, you are anointed a hero. They called him an idiot. It didn’t make sense to me. Unfortunately, he couldn’t dig himself out of the holes he put himself in.

On the pressure and attention of playing in Toronto:
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not blaming the media. I think what happens is the same that happens with coaches and the same that happens with fans. You love certain players at 2 million; at 5 million you hate them. I know for a fact there was more than one or two other teams willing to give him that money or more. You’re carrying that around with you. If you’re not putting up 30 immediately and you’re not doing what everyone expects you do at five million-plus, it goes the wrong way on you. Not his fault he got that money, there was multiple offers for that or more. It’s the burden that came with it that really hurt him there.

If the first year was a write off, how do you explain what happened in the second year?
That’s a fair point. I think he probably dragged the first year into the second year. I thought he was better this year, he had 10 goals this year I believe. When I think of David Clarkson I think of 20 goals and 100 penalty minutes. He was always a big game player, when I had him in junior; he would score OT goals, I had him in the Mem Cup final, had him in the playoffs, had him score some big goals for us in the Stanley Cup playoffs. He rises to the occasion if he can get into those situations. I don’t have an excuse this year for why he wasn’t as good as he should’ve been. I thought he would be better, but there’s no doubt he was dragging things that happened last year into this year.

On Clarkson as a cautionary tale about FA:
Sure. I think we all know the red flags of free agency. I think every organization, every GM, every coach, if they had their choice, wouldn’t jump both feet into the deep end knowing the stories out there. At the same time, you don’t have much choice, either. Unless you’re taking the kids in the top five in the draft, you’re waiting 2-3-4-5-6 years on the kids. It’s the only way to make yourself immediately better. I think it’s a cautionary tale, but maybe it’s a cautionary tale that Clarkson was only there 15 months. I think he would’ve been a better player… That’s really early in a seven-year deal to be moving on from a guy. But I also understand that sometimes you have to make those tough decisions.