When Jordin Tootoo left the Nashville Predators in the offseason, it left the role of agitator/enforcer vacant. Sure, captain Shea Weber will fight, and some of the other Predators veterans will mix it up when called upon, but was there another option? The team signed former Los Angeles Kings prospect Rich Clune after picking him up off of waivers, and he has made the most of his time in Nashville so far.
Through the Predators’ first five games, he has fought times and impressed the team with his physical play. Clune has taken on Kyle Chipchura of the Phoenix Coyotes, Ryan Reaves of the St. Louis Blues and Zenon Konopka of the Minnesota Wild. His willingness to take on some of the heavy hitters in the NHL should endear him to Predators fans pretty quick.
Clune was originally a Dallas Stars draft choice in 2005. He was a well-rounded junior player for the OHL’s Sarnia Sting and Barrie Colts, scoring 20 or more goals while piling up at least 100 penalty minutes in three different seasons. He was traded to the Kings in 2008, and other than 14 regular season games and four playoff games during the 2009-10 season, has been buried in the AHL with the Manchester Monarchs. He hasn’t come close to his scoring numbers from juniors in the AHL – his best season, 2010-11, saw him score eight goals and 22 points, but he led the Monarchs in penalty minutes each of the past two seasons.
If he continues to be the go-to tough guy for the Predators and can occasionally contribute a goal, fans may soon forget about Tootoo.