David Clarkson is The Worst Powerplay Weapon In Hockey

There’s a lot of things that you can rip on David Clarkson for. He doesn’t score a lot, he loses most of his fights, and his contract with the Leafs should be framed in the Hockey Hall of Fame to show future hockey managers what not to do. I feel bad about it too; by all accounts he’s a very nice gentleman and he clearly wants to succeed.

But I need to add one more thing to the list – he might be the single least effective powerplay option in the entire league. The Leafs coaching staff has to, at some point between “three months ago” and “immediately”, consider another option in his spot.


David Clarkson has produced 0.65 points per sixty minutes at 5 on 4. This accounts for a single goal in just over 93 minutes with a man advantage. The only player who has put up a point on the powerplay yet produced at a weaker clip? Matt Duchene, who also has a just one goal in an extra eleven minutes.

In the past seven seasons, only Ian White (2007/08, 0.57, 106 min), Luca Caputi (2009/10, 0.00, 50 min), and Luke Schenn (2010/11, 0.00, 81 min) have been less productive on the powerplay than David Clarkson in a single season for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Caputi probably shouldn’t have ever received regular NHL minutes and is in the Swedish minors at 26 years old. Luke Schenn has 22 goals in 472 games. Ian White used to have a moustache. More specifically, we’re talking about a “we’re so bad that we should try out this iffy prospect” forward and two defensive defencemen. Even Brett Lebda was more effective on the powerplay than David Clarkson.

Is It Poor Linemates?

Not in terms of talent, at least. Clarkson has spent 78.2% of his powerplay time this year with Nazem Kadri and 53.8% of it with Joffrey Lupul. Lupul, who has played 92% of his powerplay minutes with Clarkson on his opposite wing, has still managed three points in 53 minutes, while Kadri has two assists in 96 minutes. Both are down from last year (possibly due to Clarkson, in fact, dragging them down), but at 3.34 (Lupul) and 1.24 (Kadri, which is an admittedly worrisome number in its own right) points per sixty, they’re both still significantly ahead of him.

Is It How They Use Each Other?

Probably! Looking at the powerplay goals these three have contributed to, they are completely disjointed. Lupul’s powerplay points are mostly coming off of playing with the defence; his goals were both assisted by Jake Gardiner and Morgan Rielly, and his assist was on a Cody Franson goal with Mike Santorelli feeding him the puck.

Kadri has his points from getting bumped up to the top unit. He has an secondary assist on a Phil Kessel goal and a primary assist on a James van Riemsdyk tally. Clarkson’s goal came from banging in a Dion Phaneuf point shot.

Here’s what I’ve noticed from watching these goals:

Kadri does have a bit of an effect on the first Lupul goal. Gardiner uses an open Kadri as a potential option. The Penguins do a good job of closing him off, so he goes back to the point. As Lupul sees Gardiner look to Rielly, he finds himself open space to pull in the one timer. Clarkson works as a screen, though I don’t know if that was a major factor.

On Lupul’s second goal, which comes about a month later (!!), Clarkson has the initial zone entry. He… loses the puck in spectacular fashion. 

Thankfully, Rielly feeds it over to Gardiner, and Lupul, who takes Clarkson’s usual spot in front of the net while Kadri creeps into the slot, is able to tip in Jake’s point shot with ease.

On the Franson goal, Santorelli breaks out of the zone and feeds Lupul. Clarkson, true to the patented Randy Carlyle system, is standing complete still at the blue line. 

clarkson stands still

Lupul ignores this, naturally, and blazes through, spins back, and passes to Franson. Before Clarkson can get in front of the net, Cody has already scored.

As we can see, Clarkson hasn’t had much contribution to the plays where his powerplay unit has actually done something; I’m not going to show off footage of the ones where they aren’t successful, but it’s more of the same – he’s often not fast enough to get to his spot in front of the net, usually doesn’t make contact with his attempted deflections, and generally doesn’t do enough as a screen. 

His play leaves Nazem Kadri without a solid option other than the point men, and with Joffrey Lupul, who is much more talented in front of the net, out of his usual occasion and having to focus more on creating open space, something that’s extremely hard at faux-even strength. He basically turns the game into a four-on-four affair. 

But hey, that one point! Watching that goal again is funny. Clarkson starts the play cheating, being well off side. By the time he gets out and back in, he’s the last Leaf into the offensive zone, but it takes enough time for Peter Holland to accept Nazem Kadri’s pass that number 71 makes it to the front of the net before Dion Phaneuf can take his shot. The puck bounces off his stick and past Sergei Bobrovsky, giving Leafs fans hope that David Clarkson could be an effective player on the powerplay after all.

That was on Halloween.

Halloween was nearly three months ago.

Take David Clarkson off of the powerplay unit. Who takes his place? I’m not sure, but really, it could be anyone. Mike Santorelli has two assists in sixteen minutes, maybe give him more than sixteen minutes? Sam Carrick plays on the Marlies powerplay sometimes, maybe try him? I don’t know, it doesn’t matter. If they don’t work, at least you tried something else instead of sticking with something that you already knew didn’t work.

  • Kanuunankuula

    Who should be on PP2 when Lupes and Holland are healthy?

    I would suggest:
    Lupul-Holland-Kadri (prefer Naz on the side than center on PP)

    Maybe even try Leo. Something else than DC.

  • *Why* does David Clarkson continue to be used on the powerplay? He’s been there all season, under two different coaches. Are the coaches trying to get his offence going by giving him ample PP time? Was he successful there when he was in New Jersey so the coaches think eventually he’ll start replicating that success? There must be some reason (obviously not a good reason, but a reason all the same) that he’s still there.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Wow a lot of head scratching in here. What could the answer be DUHHHH. How about the bean counters and blue suits of the M.L.S.E. board who forced Nonis to sign Clarkson to that iron clad contract worth a gazillion dollars.

    I guaranteed that this sad spectacle of a so called N.H.L. player who can’t skate would have plenty of time on the power play. If he isn’t on the power play and put on the fourth line at best or even better started being scratched it would make the M.L.S.E. board look even stupider than they are.

    Now I notice that a lot of these pontifications by the leaf nation writers must take a lot of time doing all that really neat and cool statistical work.

    Here is a job for you, count the number of times Clarkson falls by himself in a game. See if you can find a worse skater in the league. Come on guys I know you are up to the challenge.

    • Jeremy Ian

      I know you think we’re all a bunch of bozos for doing more than rant and rave about a falling sky, but mocking the bloggers for giving something more than bad memories to chew on seems, um, a little hypocritical, esp since they curated the space where you get to rant.

      But it’s true, someone needs to get the bubble gum off Clarkson’s blades or something. Because he does spent a lot of time spilling.

      • Jeremy Ian

        Jeremy I quite enjoy your postings as you seem to know the game. The frustration for me is that M.L.S.E. knows how easy it is to spread the manure to the loyal faithful each year.

        This ownership makes political parties look like amateurs when it comes to delivering the b.s. p.r.

        I think you know and I know that there is no real answer as I’m sorry to do this but as a Canadian historian well it is part of me, going back to Uncle Harold, each owner has realized that the leafs are a cash cow in which you slab on a fresh can of paint, fix a window and then charge more the next year.

        For a vast number of the Toronto media you certainly having mom look over your shoulder. Mom happens to be Rogers or Bell your employer. Look Nonis is a good guy, a B.C. fellow that grew up close to me. Wilson, Carlyle, Shanahan all took the jobs knowing that the M.L.S.E. board would interfere and demand to make the calls on hockey decisions.

        It is no difference than Jerry Jones who finally got the Cowboys back into the playoffs.

        Again and I beg your pardon but once upon a time there was a worse owner than crazy Ballard, namely Bill Wirtz who ran the Black Hawks into the ground.

        Now usually the son doesn’t do much better but in this case Rocky Wirtz decided to revive the Hawks.

        No matter what major league sport you follow you are very lucky to have an owner who actually really wants to win on the field, ice, or parquet field.

        For most of them and this especially applies to M.L.S.E. the only important winning is indeed at the bank.

  • Jeremy Ian

    Hard to argue the premise of this article
    The problem is
    Nonis lives or dies on his Clarkson signing.

    The contract was so poorly written, There should
    of been an out for the Leafs ……..

    Makes me wonder if Nonis is getting a kickback
    from this calamity.

    Especially after the mishandling of the Tim Gleason

  • Jeremy Ian

    I’m sorry but you guys have no credibility. After getting Carlyle fired the team goes into a tailspin. And you may be correct about Clarkson but I’m not sure how you can claim to have any credibility with how this team went went inot and sustained its collapse under a new coach.

    Oh let’s just blame Clarkson and say we need more time. Really it looks like you are clueless as Carlyle as to how to fix the team.

    Also like you I hope Clarkson is run over by bus.

  • Jeremy Ian

    That we’re still seeing Clarkson on the power-play when there are better options suggests that maybe this decision is coming from higher up than the coaching staff. Putting Clarkson in a situation where he really can’t be effective doesn’t help him or the team. The Leafs are not going to get their moneys worth with his contract but at least they can use him in ways he can better contribute. It won’t be in goals.

  • Dan

    That we’re still seeing Clarkson on the power-play when there are better options suggests that maybe this decision is coming from higher up than the coaching staff. Putting Clarkson in a situation where he really can’t be effective doesn’t help him or the team. The Leafs are not going to get their moneys worth with his contract but at least they can use him in ways he can better contribute. It won’t be in goals.

  • Dan

    If you want this madness to stop the word is expansion.Bring in a new team to Toronto that will breakup the Monopoly that is TML.This money grabbing organization is one of the saddist organization in pro sports and the fan is more to blame than mngt or player’s,we are the one’s that put the money in their pockets and allow them to put this strinker on the ice.and we complain but the bottom line is our blind faith, we pay for this product still the same.I’m very lucky to be a leaf fan 50+ years when the Leafs were contender’s yearly,93 was the last good team. So as hard as it may be stop supporting this product so change may happen.and one more little matter Why Shanny Why not Gilmore,Stanley cup winner’Captain of the Leafs,would have gone to cup finnal’s if not for Kelly frazar #93 in 1993!,Still waiting for no show shanny to do something instead of evaluation of a team that was put together with a name that sounds good instead of a piece that fits the puzzle So right now nonis and shanny should be on that phone with board on speed dial trying to start building a team for next year that people can be entertained for the money they spend and if not stop supporting