David Clarkson is struggling to find an identity with the Toronto Maple Leafs in his first season with the club.
Signed to a seven-year, $36.75 million contract in the offseason, Clarkson couldn’t have begun his Maple Leaf career any worse. The 10-game suspension Clarkson received after jumping off the bench to fight in the preseason has appeared to leave him with an undefined role in his first year in Toronto. Clarkson has struggled being a minus-two, recording no goals and picking up only one assist in his first eight games of the year.
He’s played hard and battled aggressively along the boards. He’s made it difficult on the opposition to contain him, as he’s routinely dug pucks out from the corners and kept the play alive in the offensive zone. Unfortunately, Clarkson’s hard work and hustle have yet to provide him with his first goal as a Maple Leaf.
Clarkson was depended on to be a goal-scorer when he was with the New Jersey Devils, but the Maple Leafs haven’t exactly put him in a position to be that in Toronto. Up until recently, Clarkson was playing on the third line with limited power play time. Clarkson was a force in front of the net for the Devils, and coach Randy Carlyle needs to stick him there permanently if he wants to improve the team’s power play. The Maple Leafs aren’t paying him $5.25 million over the next seven seasons for his hustle and ability to win battles along the boards. They need to start taking advantage of Clarkson’s offensive skills, considering he once scored 29 goals in a season.
Clarkson will now have the opportunity to step up offensively for the Maple Leafs after Nazem Kadri was suspended for three games. With Tyler Bozak and Dave Bolland out of the lineup already, the Maple Leafs will need all of their forwards to step up, and the time is now for Clarkson to start putting points on the board.
With Toronto desperately needing offensive production, look for Clarkson to prove he can provide the secondary scoring behind Phil Kessel that the Maple Leafs are paying him for.