The Ottawa Senators’ Clarke MacArthur is arguably one of the most underrated wingers in the league, but a pair of early season concussions didn’t give him a chance to showcase why during the 2015-16 season.
MacArthur’s first concussion this past year came during the pre-season. The 31-year-old attempted to play through the injury, but staying in the lineup didn’t come without a cost. He opened the season with three mediocre outings and in the fourth game of the season against the Blue Jackets, MacArthur took a bump from Columbus’ Brandon Saad and fell to the ice. The result was another concussion, and one so severe that it cost MacArthur the rest of his season. He even felt it may have cost him his career.
“At one point in late November, early December, I was thinking I was done, maybe this is it,” MacArthur told the Ottawa Citizen’s Ken Warren in March. “I had to get out of there. Every day you’re coming to the rink and you want to go on the ice. It’s like going to Disneyland. Everyone else goes on the rides and you’re outside the doors, watching.”
But MacArthur won’t have to watch any longer come the new campaign, as GM Pierre Dorion said the 31-year-old left winger is healthy and ready to go.
“He’s the piece we missed the most last year,” Dorion told the Ottawa Sun's Bruce Garrioch. “We missed his on-ice presence, we missed his off-ice presence. Having a healthy Clarke MacArthur from Day 1 — who could have played last year, he had clearance from the doctors —will be a big thing for us.
“It solidifies our top six and it solidifies our top nine, where Guy decides to play Zack (Smith) (Jean-Gabriel) Pageau and (Curtis) Lazar, however (Boucher) decides to do it, I really feel comfortable with our group of forwards. We were ninth in scoring and with an improved power play we’ll be even better than that."
That MacArthur is healthy and ready to go for the coming season is proof that the Senators handled his recovery well when deciding to shut him down for the remainder of the season despite him passing concussion testing in March. The idea was to give MacArthur additional time to recover and the hope was that he would be able to return in perfect shape.
In April, MacArthur told Garrioch that he was going to use the early off-season to do skills work and heal up any small injuries he had accumulated over the course of the past few seasons, while also hitting the ice a few times a week to stay in game shape. MacArthur acknowledged that his time away from the rink may not have him up to NHL speed by the time he returns, but the hope is he can still produce the way he had over his first two seasons in Ottawa.
Since joining the Senators in 2013, MacArthur has posted 40 goals and 91 points in 141 games while playing slightly more than 17 minutes per game. However, it’s more than just his offensive contributions that Ottawa missed this past season. MacArthur’s two-way play makes him an important piece of the Senators, and he’s one of the more effective defensive wingers the club has.
Over MacArthur’s two full seasons in Ottawa — 2013-14 and 2014-15 — he has the third-best Corsi For percentage, 52.5, of the 15 Senators players to see at least 750 minutes of ice-time at 5-on-5. That’s more impressive yet when considering he’s in the middle of the pack when it comes to offensive zone starts and only five of the 15 players have taken a higher percentage of defensive zone starts. That’s not to mention his exceptional goals for percentage, which sees the Ottawa score nearly 55 percent of the 5-on-5 goals when MacArthur is on the ice. Only Kyle Turris, Mark Stone and Mike Hoffman fared better over those two campaigns. The hope is that he won’t miss a step when he returns for 2016-17.
“Hopefully, the rest does what it needs to do and I can come back and take that hit and not have to worry about it next year,” MacArthur told Garrioch in April. “I’m going to play like I’m not going to worry about it so I hope my brain follows along.”
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