While scorers such as Anze Kopitar and Marian Gaborik were putting points on the board during the Los Angeles Kings’ run to the 2014 Stanley Cup, grinders such as Kyle Clifford were keeping opponents honest with hard-nosed, physical play. Players such as Clifford don’t see their contributions on the stat-sheet, but their importance to the team is definitely noticeable. With Clifford coming off wrist surgery, it is best for the Kings to be cautious before it becomes a lingering, yearlong issue.
Clifford is estimated to be out 6-8 weeks which means he should be fine by the time the Kings open up training camp in September. Having said that, few body parts are as important to hockey as the wrist since it dictates everything from gripping the stick, shooting the puck and in Clifford’s case throwing punches. Being overly conservative in letting Clifford take his time coming back is definitely in the Kings’ best interest.
Allowing Clifford to gradually work his way back during training camp would allow any lingering issues with his wrist to subside by the time the real games and the title defense starts in September. Missing practices and preseason games in September is a small price to pay to ensure Clifford is fully healed and the wrist will not cause him problems later.
King’s superstar goalie Jonathan Quick underwent a similar operation a few weeks ago, and he has essentially the same timetable. In both cases the Kings would be best served by letting them heal and ensuring that they 100 percent when it matters the most. It’s a long season, and taking care of lingering issues early ensures thing go smoothly later. The Kings surely hope “later” is in June with the team’s third Stanley Cup in four seasons being lifted by Clifford and Quick’s surgically repaired wrists.