Yesterday I was talking with my boss about what the Leafs' next step in the rebuild would be, now that the unrestricted free agents had all been moved on for future assets. We talked about whether the Leafs could find a suitor for Phil Kessel or Dion Phaneuf, or whether they'd wait for the summer, or whether they'd even want to move those guys. We talked about whether anybody might take a chance on Tyler Bozak or Joffrey Lupul. We also talked about the likelihood of being able to move any of the Leafs truly abysmal contracts; would the team be able to move Stephane Robidas, or David Clarkson? On both cases, we agreed the answer was likely no, and again I thought maybe you're just better off buying Clarkson out, especially if you intended to rebuild as the Leafs appear set to do.
Not even four hours later, we were proven dead wrong, and David Clarkson not only no longer plays for the Maple Leafs but there was no incentive given to the Columbus Blue Jackets to take his contract, and no salary retained to make the deal work. David Clarkson is off the Maple Leafs salary cap forever. It still feels really good to say that.
Naturally, we've reached the revisionist history portion of the news cycle. Michael Traikos of the National Post either has Stockholm Syndrome or the memory of a goldfish to portray this as some sort of redemption of GM David Nonis, forgetting that in any other avenue of life, if you made a mess this big you would be expected to clean it up and then politely leave. Apparently the fact that Dave Nonis has spent two years setting MLSE's money on fire and sinking the team to 5th last in the league, this move that requires the Maple Leafs to pay more money for nothing has earned him a blank slate. (ignoring, of course, that Dave Nonis said himself in a press conference that Shanahan has final say on all decisions).
But let's focus on Clarkson. Today, in a press conference marking the end of his tenure in Toronto, and Clarkson proved that this trade has not really changed much; he still remains an entitled, unaccountable grifter that didn't deserve even one tenth of the plaudits he received.
"I think the role I played in Jersey was a lot different than what i played here in Toronto" Clarkson said during his press conference earlier this morning, which was also notable for comments that the highlight of his time here was the day he signed, and an inexplicable complaint about not receiving enough ice time on the powerplay.
And that's where for me, this became necessary.
David Clarkson was 5th among all Leaf forwards in ice time on the powerplay this season, behind Phil Kessel, James Van Riemsdyk, Tyler Bozak and Nazem Kadri. (6th in PPTOi/game, also behind Joffrey Lupul). Clarkson still managed to play about 2 minutes on the power play per game. Now, that seems like a fair amount, but it should be noted that in his final year in New Jersey he received nearly 3:30 per game in powerplay time, which probably goes to the explanation of why he feels he has received less ice time. Of course, maybe when you agree to sign on a team that has three offensively-minded wingers in Kessel, JVR and Lupul, you might think that that might impact your ability to earn premium ice time.
Anyways, the result of all of that ice time invested on the powerplay to feeding Clarkson's point totals? 1 goal. 1 stinking point in 112:14 of power play time this season. That's less than Mike Santorelli (2 points, 27:36 of PP ice time). That's less than Peter Holland (3 points, 53:34). That's less than rookie defenceman Stuart Percy (2 points, 13:09) and hell, Leo Komarov matched his total with one assist from 4:57 OF POWER PLAY TIME ALL FREAKING YEAR.
Accountability has been a joke around the Toronto Maple Leafs for a while now thanks to Randy Carlyle's "accountability for some" approach to team discipline, and nobody embodied this more than Clarkson and his warped sense of self-worth. David Clarkson began his career sticking his nose where it didn't belong, earning him a ten game suspension, and finally it got his ass exiled to Columbus.
Clarkson was never held accountable for poor offensive abilities contributing to anemic offensive numbers, not on the power play or at even strength. Clarkson took a tremendous amount of offensive zone penalties. Clarkson positioned himself (and was positioned by the sycophantic media) as a leader supreme, because . When interim coach Peter Horachek scratched Clarkson because of his indifferent play, first Clarkson took no responsibility for his own shortcomings, option to position his scratch as a "message to the team". Then, when the only player the message was intended for failed to get it, he was scratched a second time and argued with his coach about it.
At this point I have to ask, what must it have been like to be a teammate of David Clarkson? Your team has just finally got back into the playoffs, and suffered a heart-breaking defeat. And now here's a guy getting wildly overpaid, being praised for leadership and character play, delivering on none of it, and not taking an ounce of responsibility for his own shortcomings. Meanwhile, the people that cover him are having every excuse in the book made for him, all the while filletting your top 10 scorer and any decent young player that dares to try and learn through their mistakes.
A few years ago, Colby Armstrong was bought out of the final year remaining on his deal, and there was a significant outcry over the lack of respect shown to Armstrong as he left. What's interesting is that, even though Armstrong's initial contract was half the length and about a quarter of the total money, Armstrong understood that while his play had been acceptable while he was a Leaf, he simply couldn't stay healthy. There has been no similar self-awareness from Clarkson upon reflecting back on his brief stay with the Leafs, just excuses.
I won't cry for Clarkson because he's gone. I'm too busy laughing that he's somehow gone to begin with.