While David Clarkson was in the middle of his 10-game suspension, I wrote about how it could actually be a blessing in disguise. The Leafs were near the top of the conference and the league, and had won almost every game to that point. The headlines were all about Reimer vs. Bernier, Bolland’s hot start, and MayRay-mania. The crazy hype surrounding Clarkson had subsided.
Now a few injuries later and with a 5-5-0 record in the last 10 games, things have changed.
David Clarkson has yet to score a goal. He’s got just one point (an assist) in seven regular season games as a Leaf.
Now, there are a number of reasons for why Clarkson hasn’t had the best start to his Leaf career so far. A 10-game suspension with a new team makes it hard to build any on-ice chemistry with anybody. Then there’s that little chestnut of Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland being out with long-term injuries. As soon as Clarkson was signed, I wanted to see him playing with Kadri and Lupul, but Toronto’s new top line of Lupul, JVR, and Kessel has put that dream on hiatus.
Before I go any further, this post isn’t meant to make excuses for David Clarkson. It also isn’t meant to trash the guy. Here’s the long and short of it…
David Clarkson is in the first year of a seven-year deal that pays him $5.25 million per season. A couple of his cap hit comparables are Joffrey Lupul and David Krejci. Is David Clarkson the same style of player as those two guys? No, of course not, but when you start making that kind of cash, you’re expected to overcome the odds a bit.
Clarkson is now in an echelon of players that are counted on, not coddled. While the odds are currently stacked against him, he now makes the kind of money where the expectation is that he finds a way to overcome them. Nobody pats Marian Hossa on the back when he’s on a slump ($5.275 million cap hit). Nobody says "give him a break" when Jeff Carter stops producing ($5.272 million cap hit). Nobody sheds a tear for Bobby Ryan if he goes seven games without a goal, especially in a Canadian market ($5.1 million cap hit). David Clarkson is now making difference-maker money. He needs to be just that: A difference-maker.
This isn’t meant to slam Clarkson. I’m certainly not saying his struggles have been for lack of effort. Clarkson looks like he’s trying. The play leading to his one assist on the Mason Raymond goal in Calgary was brilliant. His willingness to go with Jarome Iginla to try to spark his team against Boston was admirable. I’m not accusing Clarkson of dogging it by any means. The effort is there, but the results are not.
Perhaps the Leafs need to put Clarkson in a better position to succeed. Maybe Mason Raymond should be bumped up with JVR and Kessel while Lupul drops down with Kadri and Clarkson. Maybe this, maybe that. All I’m saying is that with the kind of money Clarkson is making, there come expectations.
At the moment, most fans are still giving Clarkson the benefit of the doubt. He’s only played seven games so far, and the Leafs currently have a winning record. All is well in paradise for now.
But if the Leafs go south and Clarkson isn’t there to save them, the paper bag-wearing, waffle-throwing villagers around here tend to get a little restless.