Why are the Detroit Red Wings still trying to sign Dan Cleary? A profound question, isn’t it?
Most fans have been calling for Dan Cleary to take a back seat for a very long time. He is a small forward who is by now, at least in hockey years, getting closer to the ancient side of things. He is a player who has not scored more than 46 points in his career and has had trouble staying healthy, as he has never been able to play all of 82 games. On paper this individual is a fairly “okay” player who you would assume can be replaced by a rookie here and there or by a number of free agents on the market.
Speaking of rookies…
The main reason fans have been calling to have Mr.Clearys number retired (not in the “hang the jersey to rafters sense) is because of the backlog that is currently happening in the Detroit Red Wings farm system. They have a plethora of young talent that have nothing else to “accomplish” at the AHL level. Guys like Tomas Tatar, Joakim Andersson, Cory Emmerton, and Gustav Nyquist are NHL ready and chomping at the bit. Nyquist and Andersson especially proved it last year that they can play at the NHL level.
Without Nyquist, Tatar, Emmerton, and Andersson Detroit is already rocking with a twelve man roster at forward. While some may argue that Samuelsson and Tootoo do not count as they might not play much this year, they do count against the CAP. Thus, there is not much room to sign a 34-year old scrappy winger who will most likely not play all of 82 games anyway, but will take up a roster spot from one of the four aforementioned.
Why Kenny Holland and Mike Babcock are so interested in this aging scrappy winger?
All things point to “intangibles”. Babcock trusts Cleary to play a lot of ice as he averages about sixteen and a half minutes a game since 07-08 season. There is the trust because Cleary is clearly (sorry about this one) a very responsible player in his own end and that scores big brownie points in Mike Babcock’s eyes. There are also other interesting tid-bits that may be overlooked by the fans who watch each game and wish a faster younger winger was in his place.
Cleary has scored 20 goals three times in his career, all coming with the Detroit Red Wings and he has done so in the last six years (not counting the lockout year). In comparison, Stephen Weiss has scored 20 goals four times in his career doing so also in the last six years (not counting the lockout year). There has got to be something said about that because one player will probably make $2 million this year and the other will make $4.7 million – I’ll let you guess which is which. Now, to you this is a wash due to age difference and obviously the talent level both players had around them, but to a GM that is counting pennies mixed in with results suddenly Dan Cleary is turning out to look not so bad.
Last year only Datsyuk and Franzen had more powerplay goals than Cleary. He also had 10 points in 14 playoff games this year. That may not sound like a good number, but it was good for second on the team and one more than Datsyuk’s nine points. But really Dan Cleary was not paid to lead the team in points, he was paid to play sound, responsible hockey. He has also has been fairly successful at taking over for Homer as the “stand in front of net” guy; a skill that not every young kid has in his bag and is willing to take the abuse that it comes with.
So, what is our final verdict on Dan Cleary? I think that he is not as bad for the Wings as the fans want to believe. He has proven to be a very valuable player over the last seven years and especially in the playoffs. The issue now though is where does he fit in the depth chart that is getting extremely cramped with younger, faster talent? I think you find space for Dan Cleary on the 4th and 3rd lines because you want to have players in your lineup that you can count on and know exactly what you are going to get from them. Dan Cleary can still play hockey and he deserves a roster spot on the Detroit Red Wings.
Also, here is a Highlight video of Dan Cleary…it is spectacular!
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