The suspension or fine likely awaiting David Clarkson is just the latest hiccup in his brief but much ballyhooed tenure with the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Clarkson will have a hearing with the NHL’s department of player safety Saturday morning for his hit on Vladimir Sobotka Thursday in a game against the St. Louis Blues, which the Maple Leafs lost 6-3. He received a minor penalty for an illegal check to the head.
Clarkson has already been suspended once this season. He received a 10-game suspension for leaving the bench to join a line brawl in a pre-season game against the Buffalo Sabres.
So it wasn’t until Game 11 of 2013-14 that Leafs fans finally got to see their team’s prized free agent signing from the summer.
The results thus far, however, have been wildly underwhelming.
It hasn’t been a banner season to this point for Clarkson, who has been a banner bust for Toronto since being inked to a seven-year, $36.8-million contract.
Clarkson, 29, took 11 games to score his first goal as a Leaf, which finally came Nov. 19 against the New York Islanders. And he has just two goals and six points in 23 games since making his regular season debut Oct. 25 against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Yet what makes the optics worse for Clarkson, and even more so for Toronto brass, is that the player he essentially replaced and was expected to be a significant upgrade over is having a career season.
During the off-season, Clarke MacArthur was deemed unsuitable for coach Randy Carlyle’s style of coaching and his team’s style of play. So management allowed him to walk and used the extra salary cap space to outbid the Ottawa Senators for Clarkson’s services. When Clarkson signed with Toronto, Ottawa turned to MacArthur and signed him to a much more cap-friendly two-year, $6.5-million deal.
Now MacArthur, 28, has 11 goals and 25 points in 32 games with the Senators. And he’s on pace to best his career highs in goals (21), assists (41) and points (62) set while with Toronto in 2010-11. He’s also a team-leading plus-12.
Clarkson, meanwhile, continues to struggle in Toronto. He looked to have finally found his game after scoring against the Islanders, posting two goals and four points in a five-game stretch. Since then, however, it has been back to blanks, with no goals and but one assist in his past 10 games.
It shouldn’t be too surprising that MacArthur has been the better player. It’s not like there was much offensive disparity between the two. Prior to signing with their current teams, in their previous three seasons, MacArthur had 49 goals and 105 points in 195 games with the Leafs, while David Clarkson had 57 goals and 88 points in 201 games with the New Jersey Devils.
Toronto is still ahead of Ottawa in the Atlantic Division standings. But at least the Senators can claim a victory, so far, in the off-season Battle of Ontario.
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