From Alzner to Varlamov, we're taking a look at and grading the 2008-09 season for every player who laced 'em up for the Caps for a significant number of games during the campaign, with an eye towards 2009-10. Next up, El Capitan, Chris Clark.
#17 / Right Wing / Washington Capitals
Mar 08, 1976
$2,633,333 cap hit in 2009-10; UFA after 2010-11 season
Key Stat: Chris Clark has played in just 58 NHL games since April of 2007, but committed 34 minor penalties in those contests (an average of approximately 0.6 minor penalties per game).
Interesting Stat: Clark's regular season Corsi rating was 2nd worst on the team (-5.0), ahead of only Boyd Gordon, but his rating improved in the playoffs to a modest 2.3.
The Good: If there be a definitive attribute to be discussed here, it is one shrouded in mystery. One quite literally behind closed doors.
For all that Clark hasn't brought in statistical value during the last two seasons, hampered by a lengthy list of injuries both acutely gruesome and inordinately frustrating and chronic (most recently playing with a broken forearm), Captain Cadaver has provided his young charges with an inspirational example of the rugged determination required to succeed in the NHL.
We've heard much about his leadership in the room and his ability to command attention. (Mike Vogel once referred to him as a John Wayne type of character, choosing words of signicifant import at the appropriate time.)
Unfortunately, he's not often been able to lead on the ice. And, despite his fortitude or timely dressing room remarks, two of three Game 7 failures under his captain's watch can be dispiriting. Ultimately, results matter.
At least Clark was able to return to regular action in the playoffs, and provide some decent fourth line minutes at ES during the Penguins series. He was a -1 in those playoff efforts (1 GF and 2 GA).
The Bad: Well, Clarkie wasn't signed to multi-year deal for over $2.5 million per just to help the team grow bigger cojones -- he was expected to produce in the goal scoring department as well. Especially a forward that once potted 30 goals on the top line two seasons ago. One goal during the regular season, and one in the playoffs, for that salary cap hit is dreadful. And we know that Clark himself would make no excuse for it.
And, particularly, he was counted on to score goals of a quality that the team sorely lacks: net crashing, junk collecting, whilst suffering the abuse that is part and parcel of parking oneself in the paint. Sadly, Clark was so often injured and thus incapable of leading by that critical example.
And further to the "key stat" above, Clark committed four minor penalties in the Penguins series, at least one of them retaliatory in nature. Not terribly captain-like.
Finally, given the aforementioned forearm injury, it would be a bit misleading to critique the frequency and quaity of Clark's shots at the net. But that said, beginning in training camp, he was "a shade off on the radar" and was never really able to make the necessary correction. An average of 2.2 shots per game in a full 2006-07 season earned him those 30 goals (and, it should be noted, his current lucrative deal as well). But this season and in the playoffs, injured and rusty at different times, that average fell to about one shot per game. (And in those eight playoff GP, only 14 total attempts at the net.)
The Vote: Rate Clark below on a scale of 1-10 (10 being the best) based on his performance relative to his potential and your expectations for the season - if he had the best year you could have imagined him having, give him a 10; if he more or less played as you expected he would, give him a 5 or a 6; if he had the worst year you could have imagined him having, give him a 1.
The Discussion: Can Clark return to any semblence of his 2006-07 form, or are those days long behind him? In either event, is Clark an effective leader for this Capitals team? Can he get this bunch into the third round and beyond during the remaining two years of his tenure, or should a change in captaincy be seriously considered prior to next season?