Toronto Maple Leafs interim head coach Peter Horachek made waves on Saturday, making David Clarkson a healthy scratch for his team’s 5-1 win over Edmonton.
On Monday, Horachek hinted that Clarkson would be out again for tomorrow’s game against the Rangers, adding that Clarkson’s hefty salary wasn’t taken into consideration.
“I don’t really look at the contract,” Horachek said, per the National Post. “I know the political ramifications, but make the decision as a coach.”
The ‘political ramifications’ are, of course, Clarkson’s gargantuan contract — a seven-year, $36.75 million deal that carries a $5.25M annual cap hit. Clarkson’s in the second year of the deal and up to this point, has been a massive disappointment; he’s scored just 15 goals in 113 games, the same number he scored in 48 games for New Jersey during the lockout-shortened ’13 campaign.
Horachek’s in a unique position. The team has been awful under his leadership (the win over Edmonton snapped an 11-game losing skid), and some subscribe to the theory the Leafs are in substitute teacher mode — just doing whatever they please until management hires a new coach this offseason. Because of that, Horachek is, in a weird way, freer to do what he pleases. If the players are going to play like he’s done at the end of the year, why not coach the same way?
Under different circumstances, scratching Clarkson would’ve been viewed as showing up GM Dave Nonis, who gave the now-30-year-old winger a massive deal because he felt Clarkson “had a lot of good years left in him.” In many ways, Horachek could’ve self preserved and retained some sense of job security by not putting the spotlight on Nonis’ biggest albatross; instead, he’s doing what he feels gives him the best chance to win — regardless of the politics.