David Clarkson is proving the 100th goal of his career is exactly what he needed to help turn around his first season with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
There’s no question Clarkson has been a disappointment through the first three months of his Maple Leaf career after joining his hometown team as a free agent in the summer. Missing 12 games due to suspension has seen the hard-working winger struggle to record only eight points along with a minus-two rating in 29 games, despite owning a $5.25 million cap hit. However, after reaching the 100th goal of his career milestone, Clarkson appears to be turning around his season.
Since scoring his 100th career goal against the Detroit Red Wings on Dec. 21, Clarkson has been a plus-four with two points in three games. Although he hasn’t exactly lit up the scoreboard, Clarkson has developed a trend of helping to produce a big goal in a key time during games. His 100th career goal helped Toronto take a 4-3 lead against the Red Wings before falling 5-4 in a shootout. He recorded an assist on the Maple Leafs’ only goal in a 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Rangers. Clarkson was also the biggest reason Paul Ranger managed to score Toronto’s fourth goal of the game in a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes when his battling in front of the net allowed a shot from the point to beat Cam Ward.
Although the fan base had started to grow concerned with Clarkson’s lack of offensive production given his significant cap hit, many believe that Maple Leafs management aren’t concerned about the forward until the playoffs arrive. The thought process is that Clarkson won’t be fully judged by the management team until they see what he can do in a playoff series, as he’s expected to be a nuance to compete against with his endless hustle, physical play and ability to win battles along the boards.
Reaching career milestones has had a history of tormenting pro-athletes as they approach the significant achievement. Perhaps what was plaguing Clarkson early in the year was that he just needed to get the 100th goal plateau out of the way or maybe playing in his hometown with a big contract was also a factor in his performance. Regardless of what bothered Clarkson, it’s obvious he’s now growing more and more comfortable with his role on the Maple Leafs.