At 28 years old, Clune has really been around the block in the pro hockey world. He’s made stops in the ECHL, AHL, and NHL since 2007, playing for Iowa, Idaho, Manchester, Los Angeles, Nashville, and Milwaukee.
Most recently, Clune had a career renaissance of sorts in the Nashville Predators organization, playing the entire 2012-2013 and 2013-2014 seasons up with the big club for a combined 105 NHL games (out of the 120 that he’s played total). What was really great about this, though, was that he overcame a long string of off-the-field problems – namely alcohol abuse – to do so.
He played just 1 NHL game last season though, and spent the rest of his year with Nashville’s AHL affiliate in Milwaukee where he had 17 points in 62 regular season games.
Clune is a great story because he’s dealt with a lot of problems in his life but has worked hard to overcome them and is now opening up about his past in an attempt to inspire others who might be dealing with similar struggles. He’s known as a real grinder on the ice, going to the dirty areas to help out defensively and, every once and awhile, chip in offensively. He can also fight, is considered a leader, and has a Sean Avery-styled peskiness geared towards his opponents.
On a larger level, Clune figures to be a regular in the Marlies bottom-six this season and serves to enhance the depth of what is already a very deep minor league team.
The list of potential Marlies forwards now includes: William Nylander, Byron Froese, Connor Brown, Matt Frattin, Josh Leivo, Brendan Leipsic, Sam Carrick, Kasperi Kapanen, Zach Hyman, Ryan Rupert, Nikita Soshnikov, Casey Bailey, Frederik Gauthier, Carter Verhaeghe, Matt Rupert, Brett Findlay, Christopher Clapperton, Denver Manderson, Jack Rodewald, and now Clune. This just furthers the likelihood that some of the players considered to be relatively big prospects within the Leafs organization (e.g. Gauthier and Verhaeghe) will be getting significant playing time in the ECHL (rather than the AHL) and that the Orlando Solar Bears will factor much more into the equation this season.
The Leafs might surprise some people and compete for a playoff spot this season. Or they might be really bad. But based on Toronto’s AHL depth, as further bolstered by the signing of Clune, the Marlies figure to be a very good team this year – and a fun one to watch at that.