The Curious Case of David Clarkson

Looking to the heavens won't help - Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sport

So far this season David Clarkson has made a lot of money, forfeited a decent chunk of said money, talked a lot and shoved some opponents. What he has failed to do is produce offence. The following is an investigation of the man who wears #71 for the Toronto Maple Leafs, and how he has produced at the NHL level over the past few seasons.


Utilizing a modified Not Norm Ullman Goal Scoring Assessment System I have categorized every David Clarkson goal I could find since the commencement of the 2011-12 NHL season.

During this time frame, Clarkson participated in a total of 176 NHL games (152 regular season and 24 playoff games), and totalled 88 points, 50 of which were goals.

Of the 50 goals, I was able to watch 48 of them. Here are the results:

  • 15 Power Play Goals
  • 3 Empty Net Goals
  • 30 Even Strength Goals

Even Strength Goals

  • Goals on the Rush – 10 (33%)
  • Goals off Point Shots – 6 (20%)
  • Dirty Goals – 6 (20%)
  • Dump-in Goals – 4 (13%)
  • Cycle Game Goals – 2 (7%)
  • D-man Pinch Goals – 1 (3%)
  • Neutral Zone Turnover Goals – 1 (3%)

Over 30 of the 50 goals can be seen right here, so feel free to judge for yourself.

Purely Subjective Notes:

  1. Exactly half of David Clarkson’s goals have come on the rush or via the man advantage. Almost all of Toronto’s goals thus far this season have come the same way, so why does Clarkson look so out of place?
  2. Before watching the videos I had assumed a much higher percentage of his goals had come by way of the cycle game, and that this was a key reason he has looked so out of sorts as a Leaf.
  3. He's effective in front of the net at even strength and on the PP. The majority of his goals off of point shots were tip ins from the slot.
  4. Does he pass? Ever?
  5. Even though he doesn't score an incredible amount considering the number of shots he takes, he still appears to have his fair share of puck luck.
  6. Note the number of goals where the puck is already behind the goalie before he touches it. I know there is more than one.
  7. He seems to be unable to create his own offense, and is usually not the primary puck carrier on the rush. I wonder what role he plays in the goals he assists on?
  8. The few goals he scored from distance were wrist shots, a couple of which the opposing goalies wished they could have back.
  9. It would be interesting to see the percentages of a number of other NHL players. The percentage of goals Phil Kessel scores on the PP/Rush must be extremely high.
  10. More shots from the point would be beneficial for Clarkson, as well as the Leafs defenceman.

For reference, provided below is the criteria for goal categorization.

Modified NNU Goal Scoring Assessment System:

#1. "Powerplay Goals."

#2. "Dump-In Goals." i.e. When we throw the puck into the corner, give up possession, but then forecheck like hell and ultimately retrieve it, and score.

#3. "Cycle Game Goals." i.e. A strongly physical system, where our forwards move the puck back and forth along the boards, using their body to hold off defenders, before getting it out for a shot resulting in a goal. We'll set this bar low, and say a cycle goal only needs to go for 10 seconds to count.

#4. "Goals Off Point Shots." i.e. Goals scored directly [or from tips/rebounds] off shots taken from the standard d-man's point position. Not including when D-men jump into the rush, or move down into the slot from the point.

#5. "Dirty Goals." i.e. Scored by banging and battling in close over pucks in the paint, often involving banging the goalies a bit, getting roughed up,. etc.

#6. "Goals Created By A Defenceman's Pinch." i.e. When we're forechecking and the puck is in the other end and our d-men pinch down along the boards, hitting an opponent, and our forwards pounce, and score. [The kind of play JP pointed out that the Leafs have such a hard time with, when done to them.]

#7. "Goals Off Neutral Zone Turnovers." i.e. When we take the puck from them between the two bluelines and then score with less than 10 seconds in-zone.

#8. "Goals Of The Rush." i.e. Rushes which began back in the Leafs own defensive end, but which moved rapidly up-ice, and scored within 5 to 10 seconds of entering the opposing end. [As always, we're including rebounds here.]

#9. "Empty Net Goals." i.e. When the puck is placed in the net after the opposing goaltender has vacated the ice surface.

Thanks NNU.


I searched for comparables that fit the following criteria (2011-Present):

  • 150 Regular Season Games
  • Age: 25-30
  • Wingers (according to Hockey Reference)
  • Goals/Game = 0.25 - 0.35
  • David Backes

  • P/G = 0.69
  • Salary = $4.5M x 5

Blake Wheeler

  • P/G = 0.79
  • Salary = $5.6M x 6

P.A. Parenteau

  • P/G = 0.81
  • Salary: $4M x 4

Dustin Brown

  • P/G = 0.58
  • Salary: $5.88M x 8

Other Notables: Loui Eriksson, Matt Read, Teddy Purcell, Andrew Ladd

Not a bad looking list.

Dustin Brown is the closest comparable in terms of the criteria chosen, as the other three players produce points at much higher rates. Clarkson and Brown are both 29 years old, of similar stature, and have manufactured almost identical goal scoring rates over the past few years.

When one looks at the totality of their NHL resumes a theme begins to emerge: Dustin Brown is a more efficient offensive player, as are the other skaters listed. Not only are they superior offensive players, a few, like David Backes, are noted for their two-way play.

While David Clarkson has a career high of 46 points in a season (a number he has reached once), Brown has equaled or topped that mark in six separate campaigns. The two skaters have surpassed the 30 goal plateau exactly one time in their careers and to do so they both shot approximately 1.5x their career shooting percentages. Adding to his 30 goal campaign, Dustin has produced multiple 20+ goal seasons as well as six seasons with 27+ assists. Meanwhile, Phil Kessel’s protector has never sniffed the 27 assist mark.

In fact, every single player in the NHL who puts the puck in the net as often as Clarkson has over the last few seasons generates assists, and therefore points, at a much higher rate. Of the 12 players who fit the search criteria Clarkson ranks second to last in TOI yet second in shots on net. It is amazing that someone who has the puck so often in the offensive zone registers so few assists. Putting the puck on the net almost 300 times last season, the former Devil only managed to register 9 assists. If Clarkson is ever going to approach the 46 point mark again his offensive mindset needs to be drastically altered.

#71 on the Leafs is an interesting case. So interesting, in fact, that I began by watching a highlight video of his 2011-12 season, and ended up writing a lengthy Fanpost on a site I have lurked for years. To conclude, I'll add some tasty tidbits I uncovered along the way.

Fun Fact:

In their 30 goal seasons Nikolai Kulemin and David Clarkson shot 1.45x their career shooting percentages.

Pessimistic Point/Arbitrary Cutoff Stat:

The last person to score 30 goals in a season and finish with a point per game rate lower than 0.58 (Clarkson’s mark in 2011-12) was Eric Daze in 1997-98. As a 22 year old, Daze scored 31 goals and added 11 assists in 80 games. Daze’s season represents the only time in the history of the NHL a player has accomplished such a feat.

Somewhat Inspiring Information:

So far this year, David Clarkson possesses a 4% shooting percentage on shot attempts that have hit the net. He is a career 9% shooter.

So far this year, David Clarkson has failed to hit the net on 50% of his shot attempts. Last year, he failed to hit the net on only 33% of his shot attempts. In the near future one of these numbers should rise, and the other should fall, both of which mean good things for Mr. David Clarkson and the Toronto Maple Leafs. is a fan community that allows members to post their own thoughts and opinions on the Toronto Maple Leafs and hockey in general. These views and thoughts may not be shared by the editor of