Enjoy this Retro May blast (and I do mean blast) from the past.
Skinny says my posts are too long, so lemme sum this one up with a kick to the nads.
"David Clarkson is not a big goal-scorer. It also turns out that he cannot pass. In fact, he is one of the most inept play-makers and goal-creators of the modern NHL era. And his contract is why Dave Nonis should be beaten with a tire iron. Vigorously. "
I think that sums it up.
Now, to the post. Here's how it goes:
1st. We're gonna look at the stats on Clarkson, especially his ability to set up goals.
2nd. We’re gonna watch videos of all of his assists as a Leaf. Don’t worry, there've only been ten. 
3rd. We’re gonna try to find a Leaf forward line that Clarkson will fit on.
And finally, well... you’ll be in such pain by then you’ll think you were in Species’ basement.
Now, there will inevitably be a few idiots out there who think it doesn’t matter that David Clarkson is useless at helping his team-mates score goals. And when I say "a few idiots," I mean "the entire Toronto sports media." But, to be fair, I only call them idiots because they ignore such Clarkson-relevant facts as that:
- " Tight-Checking" David Clarkson... has a worse plus/minus (- 23) than Phil Kessel.
- "Defensive-Specialist" David Clarkson... has been given less than 1 minute of total ice-time on the PK.
- "Clean-Hitting" David Clarkson... has 21 minor penalties this year, 6th worst of all NHL forwards.
- "Value-For-Money" David Clarkson.... gets paid twice what Leo Komarov does. Except that Leo has more points, kills penalties, hits more, is a plus player and draws more penalties than he takes.
Anyway. My therapist says not to argue with idiots anymore. So instead, let's look at something the media never talks about. Namely, the fact that David Clarkson is one of the worst play-making and goal-creating Leaf forwards. Ever.
CANADIAN HOCKEY = HARD-WORKING HELPERS.
David Clarkson was not sold to us as a $5+ million dollar a year defensive specialist. He was sold as a guy who would generate some goals, dirty goals, hard-working goals, sacrifice the body to set up the snipers goals. Results?
- He has just 25 points in 108 games. That means Clarkson scores points at the 441st best rate in the NHL. This is a screaming nightmare of a scoring rate, for a guy getting loads of PowerPlay time, and some reasonable line-mates - Nazem Kadri, Joffrey Lupul, Peter Holland, Mike Santorelli.
- We were also told that Clarkson, who once scored 30 goals, would snipe a fair number. In reality, he has just 15 goals, in 108 games. That's the 269th best goal-scoring rate in the NHL. It's 5 goals behind Nikolai Kulemin (who we ran out of town for lack of offence), 2 behind even frigging Matt Stajan, and a whopping 56 goals behind how many the real Wendel Clark scored in just his first two years.
When we look at Clarkson with clear eyes, the facts are simple. He's scored just 112 goals in 8 seasons. This is an average of 17 a year. And maybe most important - he's only ever broken 20 goals the once. Run him past the eye-test and it's easy to see why. He's not a great skater. He's got an ok shot, nothing tremendous. He'll go to the net, but he's not a power forward, nor does he have great hands in close. And he doesn't have fabulous scoring instincts.
So Clarkson's gonna score a few. Bet on 15, pray for 20. But that's not enough on its own to in any way justify the hype.
No, the hype was that Clarkson would boost the offence, both through his goal-scoring (which we've now seen will be limited) but also by creating goals. The hard way. By his willingness to hit, to cycle and grind, to work hard, to dig pucks out of the corner. That was how Clarkson was really gonna generate the goals. He'd do the dirty work, and feed all those "soft" Toronto snipers - Kessel and JVR and Lupul and Kadri and so on.
And that media story-line - the hard-working helper - actually happens to be something a lot of us Canadians are pre-disposed to. We all kind of buy that if you work hard, and hit and bang and dig in the corners and mess up the front of their net, good things will happen. I know I always bought it. Why did I? Well, probably because I was a player like that. In fact, I’d bet a lot of us were. Most of us weren’t great skaters, or shooters or puck-handlers. So most of us were coached into playing "gritty," working and digging hard, hitting and scrapping for every inch, fighting for room in front of the net.
In other words, most of us learned to play Lunch-Bucket, Hard-Working, True Blue Canadian Hockey.
And in fact, there is a pretty great and successful tradition here in Canada that highlights the value of playing this style of game. For decades, in fact, it was the Leaf style - and they won a lot of Cups with it. But also on the international stage, it was a central part of how CANADA played. We have a big history of important goals coming from just that sort of hard work. Like, for instance, only our two most important goals ever.
Take 2010. We’re playing the United States of Evil. And we’re in OT when Sidney Crosby comes in, shoots, skates through four guys to pick up his own rebound, then cycles the puck back to Jarome Iginla. Iggy draws in his man, takes the hit, hears Sid calling, and - as he falls - passes out to Crosby, who scores the Golden Goal. Evil loses. Goodness triumphs. Rebounds, corner work, taking a hit, getting the puck to the man out front = Canadian hockey.
S. Crosby (J. Iginla) 7:40 OT
And in 1972. All you kids listen up, ‘cause this was the even MORE important goal. Against the United Union of Super-Socialist-Evil-Doers. When Paul Henderson (a Toronto Maple Leaf) took a chance, but fell and crashed into the end-boards, cause he was still still bloody concussed from dirty Commie hits. Anyway, Big Esposito won the rebound (a man’s man, Espo, who told both the Commies and Canadians off), and he passed to Henderson (still a Toronto Maple Leaf), who then scored the Goal of the Century, The Wall fell, Communism was toast, and it was Henderson (always and forever a Toronto Maple Leaf) with the clutchiest goal ever. Rebounds, puck retrieval, crashing the boards, getting the puck to the man out front = Canadian hockey.
P. Henderson (P. Esposito) 59:26
So. Canada’s two most famous goals both involved taking shots, winning rebounds, getting hit and crashing, digging for the puck, and then putting the pass out front, where the goals are scored, and we win.
And those were the kind of goals the media said Clarkson was gonna get for us.
But for me, even though I liked this hopeful storyline, and even though I was pre-disposed to like a player who played this game, I was left with one nagging problem. You can see them up there in those little score-sheet brackets, around Iggy and Espo’s names. Because, see, they show that those guys earned an actual assist on the big goals.
And this is where I get irritated at our Toronto sports media. Who apparently can’t dig their pencils far enough out of their arses to do the work necessary to see that the "Clarkson's-hard-work-sets-up-Leaf-goals" narrative is not only weak, it’s so far wrong it might as well be a Republican leadership candidate.
Now, why would I say something so harsh?
Well... because Clarkson doesn’t set up goals like that.
And I know that, see, because it turns out that nobody actually ever scores when David Clarkson is on the ice with them.
Apparently, there's a problem in his game. A "hitch," you might say. Because even after David Clarkson does all this incredibly difficult corner work.... HE CANNOT ACTUALLY PASS THE DAMN PUCK.
Now, we’re probably gonna need some stats on this. You Old Timers are gonna insist on it, I can tell.
But happily for you, me being an Old Timey guy, I'm familiar with the fundamentals. Traditional, OLD-TIMEY stats, like "Assists." A stat we all know and trust. I mean, BOBBY ORR GOT 102 ASSISTS ONE YEAR. So, if Bobby trusts them, so do I. There'll be no messin' around with Corsi's in this post.
And yeah yeah, I know I know. Assists don’t capture absolutely everything. But you know what they DO capture? An awful lot of hard-working goals, that’s what they capture.
LIKE JAROME IGINLA’S HARD-WORKING ASSIST.
AND PHIL ESPOSITO’S HARD-WORKING ASSIST.
And those assists were good enough for me. And they were good enough for Bobby Orr. So let’s see if this Davey Clarkson fellow has generated any.
OLD-TIMEY ASSIST STATS FOR DAVEY CLARKSON.
So far this season, Clarkson has played 48 games.
And has 4 assists.
To compare, the NHL assist leader has 39 so far. Compare please, Clarkson's 4 assists vs this 39. Compare also Clarkson’s 4 assists to the Leafs leader, Phil Kessel, with 25. Notice also the fact that Clarkson is tied for 15th on the team in assists, with Korbinian Holzer.
You might want to re-read that last fact. The part ending "tied with Korbinian Holzer." Cause that’s about as good as the news gets.
Turning back the clock to last year, Clarkson played 60 games. But only had 6 assists. That's not good either. The NHL leader had 68. 68 is quite a bit bigger than 6. And again, the Leaf leader - Phil Kessel - had 43 assists. Clarkson ranked 15th on the Leafs, just behind Troy Bodie. Who played 1/2 the minutes Clarkson did.
Now, let's compare Clarkson to the rest of the NHL's forwards.
In this, 2014-15, his so-called "rebound" year, Clarkson is averaging 0.08 assists per game [this is 5v5 time plus PP minutes.] That’s 533rd amongst all NHLers.
You might need to hit pause right there and think about how not good that is.
Ok, now, to be fair.... some would say Clarkson hasn’t been all that lucky in his time in Toronto. And they'll point out that he hasn't been playing with the big snipers for much of this year. So, let's give them that, step back, and look at Clarkson instead over the longer haul. We'll throw out this year, and look at his previous 4 seasons - his last 3 with New Jersey plus his 1st with the Leafs. Which show Clarkson averaging 0.14 Assists per game. A bit better.
And, in other words, Clarkson's assist ranking in the NHL is basically in the 494th to 533rd range.
Now, what kind of words do you think the media would use, if that was Phil Kessel? If Phil Kessel didn’t even make the Top 400 NHL'ers for assists. Just how many ways could you spell "selfish?"
Anyway, it’s likely around here that Clarkson’s media defenders will start to get desperate and babble on about how Clarkson may not be getting credited with assists that show up on the scoresheet, but all his crashing around in front of the net and setting screens is surely paying off in goals for his line-mates.
Which is music to my ears.
Because, frankly, the facts stomp that argument like a rat in a closet.
Like so. We'll do Clarkson's fans his favour, and skip this year and look back at the previous 4 seasons, ok? And then, we'll look not at Clarkson's credited assists, but at how well his LINES have done when he's on the ice. Because all his goals from blocking and screening the net and all that should still show up in his line-mates stats, right? And lastly, let's note that in those 4 years, his main linemates have been guys like Kadri, Lupul, Elias, Zajac, Henrique & co., so not crappy offensive players.
Now. With Clarkson on the ice, digging the puck out and setting screens and doing all that he does.... how have his lines done? Well, facts say they've scored at a rate of 1.60 goals per 60 minutes [of 5v5 time.]
And how does that 1.60 goals/60 rank? Well, it means David Clarkson’s actual on-ice play is so helpful to them, in terms of setting them up to, you know, score goals, that he ranked 449th in the NHL.
Go on. Say something, media. Let's see your headline. How about this?
"DAVID CLARKSON - THE 449TH BEST GUY TO HAVE ON YOUR LINE."
How about it Healy? Simmons? Cox? DiManno? Anybody?
I doubt we'll hear a peep. They don't wanna come within 100 miles of this stuff.
Anyway. Let's move on.
There's also been a lot of talk about Clarkson on to the PowerPlay.
Here's the thing. At his present rate of production, if you let David Clarkson play every single one of his shifts on on the PP, for an entire season - that’s 574 consecutive PowerPlays - he’d end the season with... 12 points.
And I’m sorry, but an NHL player shouldn’t get numbers that bad unless they’re being held down and Tasered by the officials during the actual run of play.
Anyway, to backtrack, Clarkson’s played 99 minutes on the PP this year, more than 2 minutes per game, which is a lot, frankly. And yet, he only has a total of one goal and zero assists on the PP.
Which ranks him 301st out of 301 players on the PowerPlay.
And last year? In 64 minutes on the PP, he had 1 assist. One. Which made him 316th in the league.
Want to look at how well his lines have done, so we count in the contributions he makes by screening the goalie and such? Well, Leaf PP units with Clarkson on them have scored at the 267th best rate this year and 343rd best rate last year.
Imagine. You get to play on an NHL powerplay for 160 minutes. 2 games plus 2 periods. And in that time, you ONLY ONCE made a pass that set someone up, or took a shot that someone potted off the rebound, or had the puck bounce in off your ass.
One powerplay assist in two years.
HEY HORACHEK! GET CLARKSON THE HELL OFF THE POWERPLAY.
Anyway. Remember in Lord of the Rings, when the Fellowship is being led under the Mountain by Gandalf, and the orcs are after them, and then... the frigging Balrog shows up? And they knew they were going down? Well, you wanna see that same look, watch Clarkson’s line-mates faces whenever he steps on the ice to join them. Doom.
Alright, to recap. We've twisted and turned this thing, stats-wise, a few different ways now. We've looked at Clarkson's individual assists. And then at how well his line-mates did with him on the ice. We looked at this year. And then at the last four years. We looked at him 5v5, and then at his PowerPlay time, individually and as a unit.
And the bottom-line is that Clarkson is more or less the 500th best playmaker in the league - roughly the 16th or 17th best man on each team. And about the 300th best on the PowerPlay, making him the 10 or 11th best guy to put out on a unit.
And you know who else ranks that badly in passing and setting up plays? Who his actual peers are? I'll bet you do.
Travis Moen. Jay McClement. Shawn Thornton. Cody McLeod. Mike Brown. Eric Nystrom. Adam Burish. Jerred Smithson.
It’s like the line-up in a frigging "All-Star Stone-Hands" game.
VIDEO OF 2 YEARS OF CLARKSON’S ASSISTS. ALL 10 OF 'EM.
Last year I used video to look at how Toronto scored their goals, and we found some cool stuff - like how 90% of their goals came off the Rush. Then we looked in some detail at shooting Tyler Bozak, and found that 90% of his goals were "trashy," thus explaining his high Shooting %. We even looked at height-related issues.
This season, I thought I’d look at Clarkson. And his 10 assists. I figured it’d be a quick-and-easy reality test for the numbers the statistics were showing us. 10 videos, over and out.
And I wanted to look at the video of Clarkson AT HIS BEST, when SUCCEEDED, and GOT assists - just to see how he sets up plays, to see what he’s capable of. Now, it can be useful to try and classify what we see. Different ways players can get assists. I'm gonna sort 'em into 4 rough bins:
#1. An Iggy or an Espo. Assists that come from primary, direct passes. These are the ones most of us picture when we hear the word "assist." When one player passes directly to another, who then scores. Could be a two-on-one, or a pass from the corner to the slot, but whatever, it’s nice, clean, textbook, and you feel good Canadian pride. Like Iggy to Crosby, or Espo to Henderson (a Leaf.) As a subset, there are "second assist," where you pass to someone who passes to someone who... well. You know this.
#2. A Jason Blake. i.e. A Rebound or Tip-In. When you take a shot, and someone scores off the rebound, or they tip it in. Jason Blake used to get a lot of assists like this. These assists are not so much really "playmaking," but they still count.
#3. A Grinder. Assists that come from a Puck Battle or Puck Clearance. Sometimes you’re just battling for the puck, or cycling it along, or you bang it off the boards to clear it, and a team-mate races in and takes the puck and scores. And you only really had to just bang the puck free. Anyway, with these you always look heroic and hard-working and Canadian.
#4. An Act Of God. This is not just for being lucky, because luck is part of the game. This is for when you're SUPER lucky. Like when you try to do one thing, fail at it, but it somebody salvages it and scores. Or when the puck actually goes off one of their guys, but the official scorer gives you an assist anyway, so you owe him a beer.
I’m sure there are better classifications than this. Maybe ones with more technical names. But this’ll do for our purposes.
Ok, let’s go look. Hint: pay attention to how many of these assists come about as the result of a David Clarkson pass. The assists we’d classify as a #1.
1. Dec. 28th vs Florida. First, note how the Leafs are in their own end. Now. Clarkson knocks the puck off the boards. Panik picks it up, skates the length of the ice, and scores. Clarkson gets an assist. Technically, we gotta give him a Grinder assist. But.... whatever.
2. Dec. 9th vs Calgary. Leafs on a rush, Clarkson swings his stick at a centering pass, deflects it off the goalie, the rebound bounces to Holland, who buries it. Total accident, but we play fair. A Rebound assist.
3. Dec. 6th vs Vancouver. A clearing attempt hits Clarkson, bounces to Lupul, who centers it and the Leafs score. Seriously. Another assist without having to make a pass. Still. Grinder.
4. Oct. 17th vs Detroit. Below, Clarkson breaks out, tries to hit Santorelli with a pass - but misses. The pass goes through to Leo, who makes sure it all works out happily. Missed pass, total luck. So, Act of God.
And you know what? That concludes David Clarkson’s entire assist generation for the 2014-15 season thus far. You just saw them all. 47 games worth.
To recap, David Clarkson's 2014-15 Assists to date consist of:
One (1) missed pass.
One (1) puck bouncing off him.
One (1) missed deflection.
One (1) time he knocked a puck off the boards in his own end.
Seriously. I want to find the media guys who bleat on about Clarkson's game, and I want them to explain THAT performance.
Anyway. Whatever, right? Let’s go look at last year’s film. Maybe it’ll be happier.
5. Feb. 16 vs Tampa Bay. Clarkson tries to break through two Dmen. Fails. The Tampa D-man actually knocks the puck to McClement, who pots it. Ruling? Act of God.
6. Dec. 12, 2013 vs Rangers. Below, Clarkson tries, multiple times, to stuff the puck in from the crease. Fails. Eventually, Kadri comes in and succeeds. We’ll call this a Rebound, but these are really just bad stuff-in attempts.
7. Dec. 8th vs Boston. Somebody’s shot goes off Clarkson’s leg, bounces to Holland, who scores. Again, we gotta call it a Rebound assist.
8. Nov. 16th vs Buffalo. In the one below, it’s visibly the Buffalo D-man who tries to clear the puck, fails, and it lands over in front of MayRay, who slams it home. Somehow, Clarkson gets an Assist. Act of God.
9. Nov. 15th, 2013 vs Buffalo. Here it is, kids. The pic below. The Pot O Gold. A play you remember where you were when you saw it. Cause it’s that rare. Clarkson takes the puck in the corner, and passes it out to Trevor Smith. Who totally snipes a goal. Which makes this David Clarkson’s one and only clear and proper, primary passing assist as a Leaf. His one Espo. His only Iggy. But it’s a thing of beauty and well worth paying $30 million for. Hell, OVER $30 million.
10. Oct. 30th, 2013 vs Calgary. And here, Clarkson takes an actual shot, which is stopped, but the rebound comes out, and someone scores. So. A Rebound assist.
Summation. David Clarkson - in his 108 games as a Toronto Maple Leaf - has had:
1 Iggy/ Espo. A single clean pass that resulted in a goal.
4 Jason Blakes. With only one being a clean rebound.
2 Grinders. Where he actually knocked the puck to another Leaf.
3 Egregious Acts Of God.
To me, the fact that there’s really only one successful pass in there is the killer.
One. Passing. Assist.
Just the one time he made like Iginla or Esposito.
Just the one time where David Clarkson actually had the puck and aimed a pass at a team-mate and hit him and that guy scored.
David Clarkson really cannot pass. This is no joke.
Which means the media story-lines, about how his grinding, digging play helps set up numerous goals for the Leafs? It’s not only not true...
IT’S A COMPLETE CONFABULATION.
IT'S A MADE UP, MEDIA THING.
Which actually, as a Leafs fan, and a fan of hard-working hockey, makes me frigging sad.
OK. SHIFT GEARS. IT'S TIME TO PLAY.... WHAT’S MY LINE.... WITH DAVID CLARKSON!!!
We Leaf fans love our history. Even the history of our complete clods is treasured. I mean, who amongst us can’t name the true heroes of our past? Brett "-3" Lebda. Ryan "Flipped His" Hollweg. Korbinian "The Battlin' Slagheap" Holzer. That guy who blocked all those shots that time on the PK. You know, whassisname.
I thought it might be fun to compare Clarkson against various other Leafs, especially Wingers, so we could sortof see which group, historically, he belonged with.
Now, Clarkson’s average during his 108 games as a Leaf so far is 0.38 assists per 60 minutes. So let’s start by comparing him to some of the top Wingers on the Leafs. Here he is against some of the recent high-scoring, soft-handed, playmaking 1st-line Wingers the Leafs have had.
Ok, that’s roughly to be expected I guess. Mogilny and Kessel are light years ahead, Lupul and JVR too. Although it has to be admitted, seeing Clarkson not even setting up 30% as many goals as Jason Blake is a bit worrying.
Next line down, let’s compare Clarkson to some of the classic 2nd line type Wingers the Leafs have had. After all, this was the sort of role suggested for him when he was signed to the Leafs. So what do we see?
That’s not so great either. Clarkson is only getting about 30% as many assists as guys like Clarke MacArthur, Poni or Kulie. Or even grittier players like Darcy Tucker and Gary Roberts [or Wendel Clark, who came just before the era when they kept tabs on minutes of ice-time.]
Let’s drop down another line, and compare Clarkson to the guys picked up to play the 3rd line, Energy guys, checkers, that sort of thing.
At this point, we’re in trouble. Clarkson’s not just coming in at just a fraction of the output of a Santo or Winnik or Leo, he’s miles behind even famous NON-scorers like Colby Armstrong and Mike Brown.
Seriously. He’s not even 1/2 of Colby’s output. And he’s well behind Mike Brown.
It was at this point, when I realized that David Clarkson’s comparable Leaf wingers weren’t the 1st, 2nd or 3rd line, that I really began to lose heart. And so, as a lark, I thought I’d compare his assist rate to those of the Crazoids, the Brawlers and the Goons of the 4th line.
[OK. You maybe need to put a helmet on before you can look at this next chart.]
WTF David? You’ve got 108 NHL games under your belt, truckloads of PowerPlay time, you’ve had guys like Kadri and Lupul and Santo and Holland as your line-mates - not whacked out 4th liners - and you’re SETTING UP FEWER GOALS THAN GUYS LIKE TIE DOMI, RYAN HOLLWEG, AND LAZER FRAZER MCLAREN?
In fact, the only guy you beat is COLTON ORR?
And I just did this last chart, below, for spite, because I was pissed off with what I was finding, and because Horachek needs to end this nonsense, ASAP.
It compares David Clarkson’s playmaking ability to those of the biggest, slowest, least offensively-capable Leafs defencemen of the last 15 years. Brute Squad members.
Go on. Take a look. I dare you.
I would have to say that, in terms of analysing David Clarkson’s playmaking abilities, his ability to set up team-mates for goals, we’re pretty much done here.
Because that last chart?
I can’t beat that chart.
Even THE TORONTO SPORTS MEDIA couldn't defend that chart.
Cox, DiManno, Simmons, Cathal, Healy and the rest of those dirt-bags have blamed Reimer and Jake and Kessel and Dion pretty much endlessly.
NOW I WANNA SEE 'EM EXPLAIN THIS AWAY.
Bah. No point in even asking, eh?
Face it. We've got a $35 million dollar man, who sets up fewer goals than Luke Schenn. Frazer McLaren. Mike Komisarek. Jay Freaking Rosehill. Ryan Bag-O-Nuts Hollweg. Fewer than Korbinian.
This kind of stuff makes me crazy.
And though Clarkson's fans will think I'm being harsh, I never even bothered to compare Clarkson to any of Toronto’s REALLY GOOD historic assist-generators, like Sundin or Gilmour or Keon or Ullman, guys who got 300, or 400 or 500 assists. Even Lanny had 240 assists.
Facts are facts, people.
#1. The stats show David Clarkson to be about the 500th best play-maker in the NHL. And he drags his line-mates down into the abyss.
#2. We looked at every single one of his assists from these past two seasons. And we only found ONE in which he actually attempted a damn pass and completed it, and it resulted in a goal.
#3. He’s had a 108 game trial. With more than 160 minutes of PowerPlay time. He’s played game after game with guys like Kadri and Lupul and Santorelli and Holland. These guys aren’t rejects.
BUT HE’S STILL BEING OUT-FRIGGING-PLAYMAKERED BY JAY ROSEHILL. AND HOLZER. AND LAZER FRAZER.
Now, in terms of the media, I don’t care if they want to start up a debate about whether Clarkson’s problem is that he physically CANNOT pass the puck, or whether he’s just mentally UNWILLING to pass it.
But you cannot look at these facts and continue on with media stories about how his hard work and team-play is helping his team-mates score. Because... there’s nothing behind it.
And nothing even if you're just watching the game.
IT’S ALL MADE UP.
David Clarkson cannot pass.
Ok. I’m stopping now. I just noticed the cat vomited, and somehow the thought of cleaning it up seems more attractive than trying to do any further analysis of Clarkson’s game.
Cheers. Oh yeah. Here's a chart.