On Friday night, Toronto forward David Clarkson will face off against the Devils — the team he broke into the National Hockey League with.
And to hear him explain it, he wouldn’t be where he is today without them.
“Mr. Lamoriello and Pete DeBoer are probably two of the biggest reasons I’m in the National Hockey League,” Clarkson said, as per the Canadian Press. “Pete DeBoer is someone that I believe has made me successful in my career by giving me opportunity and believing in me and understanding me as a person.”
Clarkson, 29, signed a massive seven-year, $36.75 deal with Toronto this summer, a financial windfall based largely on his body of work with the Devils, a club that deserves credit for aiding in his development. The Devils signed Clarks as an undrafted free agent in 2005 and allowed him to grow as a player — when Clarkson broke in, he was primarily viewed as a checking/enforcer-type (he fought 41 times in his first two full years with New Jersey) but matured into a good power forward, scoring a career-high 30 goals in 2011-12 (and 12 points in 24 playoff games en route to the Stanley Cup Final.)
“I think I’ll always be grateful to them,” Clarkson explained. “I’ll always be thankful.”
What’s interesting now, though, is that Clarkson finds himself almost back at square one in Toronto. The role he established for himself in New Jersey has escaped him in Toronto — his 10-game suspension to start the year and a rash of injuries to Maple Leaf forwards have forced him to move all over the place, without establishing a true identity.
“I’m trying to get to know my surroundings,” Clarkson said. “I got suspended early in exhibition so I really don’t know much yet. I’m just trying to fit in (as a) piece of the puzzle, wherever that is.
“It has been different, but I’m trying to figure out what part it is that I do fit in.”
Video: Reimer, Allen shut down dangerous one-timers
In an ideal world, goalie equipment wouldn’t be such an issue. Teams would be able to “get goalies moving” with great passing and chances just about no one could stop.
Then again, there are also those saves that a select handful of humans can pull off. A big reason why there’s only been one goal between the Panthers and Blues tonight is the lateral movement shown by both James Reimer and Jake Allen.
First, watch as Reimer robs Jori Lehtera on what’s likely the save of the night:
Allen really hasn’t been that far behind Reimer, right down to making a similar stop:
Considering the two nearly identical one-timer goals scored by Arizona against Anaheim in finding seams for big passes through opposing defenses, tonight’s goalies might want to do some extra stretching during intermissions.
Dvorak, Coyotes put Ducks in early hole with slick goals (Video)
The Arizona Coyotes’ happy thoughts are mostly centered on the future. Christian Dvorak possibly being more than a guy who put up nice junior numbers with Matthew Tkachuk and Mitch Marner could fuel some really nice thoughts.
He’s been red-hot in February, in particular, including a goal already tonight as the Coyotes raced off to an early 2-0 lead against the Anaheim Ducks.
Check out that smooth play for his 10th goal of 2016-17:
Again, he’s been on quite the roll lately.
February: nine points (and counting?) in nine games
Rest of the season: 13 points in 45 games
He only had one assist in 12 January contests, so this outburst is even more unexpected than the Coyotes racing off to this lead.
Interestingly, the Coyotes two goals looked awfully similar, at least in the finish:
Hmm, that … seems a little crazy. Few players see their best days at age 33 and beyond.
But what about his work with the AHL’s Toronto Marlies? Maybe he’s killing it there.
Well, if he is, his contributions aren’t showing in the simple counting stats. In 22 games this season, Laich has one goal and six points. He isn’t even firing a shot on goal per game (just 17 in those 22 contests).
Now, Laich wouldn’t sell you on his scoring skills. Face-offs might not be much of a calling card, either.
The problem for Laich is he has never been a regular 50+% FO guy in the NHL. Playing a 4th line role for Babcock essentially requires that.
So … it’s easier to understand why he’s struggling to get a foothold in his career. Laich isn’t much of a scorer, isn’t dominant on the draw and isn’t someone who’s shown a history of dramatically tilting the ice in his team’s favor.
Does that mean he can’t be a fourth-line center, or failing that, at least a depth forward? Laich could conceivably be helpful to some team, even if it’s difficult to imagine anyone giving up anything but a minor asset for him.
And, yes, it’s crazy to imagine him exceeding anything he did with the Washington Capitals.
Avalanche say ankle injury ends Nikita Zadorov’s season
Zadorov, 21, is a big defenseman with the pedigree that would inspire teams to imagine better things in the future (16th pick in 2013 by Buffalo). So far, that potential hasn’t really manifested itself in production, whether you judge a player by points, plus/minus or possession numbers.
He may be able to put it together at some point – again, he’s young – so perhaps he’ll remember this as a low point before he turns things around.
At the moment, it’s just another grim part of a bleak time for the Avs.