I love covering sports for a living. Even on a bad day, I can peel off all the layers of a problem and go "Yes, but, I’m covering sports for a living. But wow am I not an athlete.
After participating in a dragonboat regatta this weekend, and after two nights of sleeping on a cottage bed, I tried to go wakeboarding. I didn’t get up on the board properly, crick, and now my back’s out.
So while laying here on the floor, I asked the Twitter-folk if they had any questions I could write a blog about. I thought this one deserved its own blog.
@Steve_Dangle is it worth it signing David Clarkson?
— Hunter Crowther (@HunterCrowther) June 17, 2013
Without even getting into numbers, no. Maybe that’s unfair, but here’s why I think that way: What is the success rate of these big UFA signings? Seriously – what is the success rate of guys who have a big contract year, or they produce well despite some wonky posession numbers, or they were just on the right team at the right time, and then they sign somewhere else for $5 million a season or more? It can’t be high. In a salary cap league, the risk vs. the reward of these UFA signings is just irresponsible. There are a few players in the NHL, probably 20 or less, that you should look at and go "You know what? I know the price tag is high because he’s a free agent, but screw it. We gotta have him." David Clarkson is not one of those players.
The player doesn’t even need to be bad for a big contract to fail. Roberto Luongo is still arguably one of the top goaltenders in the NHL, or at very least an above-average one, and even he has admitted his contract is a gong show. Even a guy like Vincent Lecavalier. He still puts up decent numbers, but the 11-year, $85 million contract he’s currently locked into has him at a cap hit of over $7.7 million untill the end of the 2019-20 season. And really, what hasn’t been said about the Brad Richards deal?
Money issues aside, I think David Clarkson would be a disappointment in Toronto almost no matter what. Even if he plays well, the expectations are too high because of his seemingly "perfect hockey player" reputation. He can score, he’s big, he’s mean, he’s tough, he fights. He’s everything every Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em tape told us to love as kids. He has an almost William Wallace-like lore among many Leafs fans. "Aye, and if David Clarkson were here, he’s consume the Bruins with fireballs from his eyes, and bolts of lightning from his arse."
The fact that he’s also a hometown Toronto boy only makes it worse. If Phil Kessel still gets dumped on despite leading the team in goal-scoring in both the regular season and playoffs, I can only imagine what will be said about Clarkson in the first year of a Leafs deal. Even if he scored 50 goals and came out for warmups wearing Zdeno Chara like King Leonidas wore that wolf in 300, there would still be snarky articles and tweets about his backchecking.
The Leafs have a few suspect contracts on their payroll, but despite that, they still have decent cap space, and are not in the same handcuffed position that many teams are in right now. The price tag for Clarkson sounds like it will be $5 million a season or more, and if that’s the case – no thank you.