David Clarkson’s tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs hasn’t gotten off to the best of starts. After inking a seven-year, roughly $36.8 million deal over the summer, he missed the first 10 games of the regular season thanks to an automatic 10-game suspension for leaving the bench to fight Buffalo’s John Scott during a preseason game.
He was finally able to make his debut on Friday, but took a hooking penalty just 4:16 minutes into the contest against Columbus. The Blue Jackets capitalized on the opportunity en route to a 5-2 victory. Clarkson ended up with four shots on goal and a minus-one rating in 15:41 minutes of playing time.
He looked “rusty” to Maple Leafs coach Randy Carlyle, although that’s to be expected after missing nearly a month of play.
“He’s going to try, he’s going to work,” Carlyle said, according to the Canadian Press via the Maple Leafs’ site. “The other things as far as the stick-handling and the turnovers and stuff, I think you’ve got to give the guy some slack.”
Clarkson felt he was okay, although he obviously wasn’t satisfied with the result. How he performs over the coming weeks and months will likely be the subject of intense scrutiny in Toronto as his contract was a somewhat divisive one. The length of the deal in particular has been criticized, given that the physical forward will celebrate his 30th birthday in March. At the same time, his blend of grit and goal scoring prowess should prove to be an asset on a team that’s gotten off to a 7-4-0 start.
Clarkson will get a chance to immediately shake off this loss with a match against the Pittsburgh Penguins tonight.