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.
ZERO POINT SIX FIVE
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.
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.