David Clarkson had finally served the entirety of his 10-game suspension to start the season for jumping off Toronto's bench to engage in a preseason melee with the Buffalo Sabres. He was in the lineup Friday for the Maple Leafs on the road against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Clarkson, who signed a seven-year, $36.75 million deal in the offseason, played more than 15 minutes, generating four shots on goal on 21 shifts. He finished the game a minus-1 and was sitting in the penalty box as Columbus scored the game's first goal. Not a great start, but perhaps not terribly surprising for a guy who had missed the first 10 games of a season and hadn't seen live game action in more than a month.
So how did head coach Randy Carlyle rate Toronto's big off-season acquisition's play?
“I think he looked rusty,” Carlyle told reporters after the game. “He will try, keep working at it. The stickhandling and other things were rusty, but a guy who's been out that long, you cut him some slack.”
Clarkson saw things differently, however.
“No, I don't think that,” he said (via the Toronto Star). “Maybe that's what Randy feels, but . . . playing lots of minutes, maybe we can talk about that. Basically it's a first game and getting your feet wet. Any time you lose you don't feel good but, like, the forecheck with our (line) was there. I know the coach may see it differently, but we have to find ways to be better.”
Hmm, that seems a bit awkward. Maybe a little, but the ol' head coach's blood pressure may have been a bit high after his team gave up four goals in the third period to fall 5-2.
The Maple Leafs have been keeping pace in the Atlantic Division with a 7-4-0 record despite being routinely out-shot. So if Clarkson is a bit rusty, he'll need to shake it off soon to prevent the Leafs from backsliding this season.
Before that, he and his coach may want to get on the same page about where Clarkson is at.