What seemed somewhat unlikely not so long ago now seems to be on the verge of reality: Rich Clune, fourth-line winger. It would be a good move. Clune is basically Sean Avery without the Sean Avery attitude. He protects his teammates, he works hard every shift and he’s young and motivated to make an impact in the NHL. There’s probably not much offensive potential there, but as we’ve said before, if you’re looking for offense from your fourth line, you’re in trouble anyway. What we can’t predict, as Terry Murray mentions below, is how Clune will react against real NHL players in real NHL games. Here’s what Murray said about Clune’s camp to date…
MURRAY: “I think Clune is making a lot of noise for himself. He has really battled and competed hard. He’s been jumping in there. In the last game he played, he got involved a couple times, and that’s who he is. He’s a gritty guy. He’s in your face, he’s a middleweight guy that probably is a pretty prevelant player around the league today. The big guys, the heavyweight guys, they feel like, `I can’t do that to this guy on the other team, because it looks like I’m beating up on a smaller player.’
“So to have a middleweight, I think it’s a nice thing to have. A guy like Clune, in particular, if he is to be on the team he has to be able to contribute in other areas, in terms of playing the game. He has to play special teams, he has to become a penalty killer. There’s just an urgency that anyone in that job description has to do other things, and not just competing against other players that are similar on the other team.”
There’s another part, however, to being that fourth-line agitator. Avery, for all his faults, was a valuable player when he could stay out of the penalty box himself but also draw opponents into taking bad penalties through his feisty play. That’s a delicate balance, particularly for a young player such as Clune without any NHL experience. I asked Murray whether playing with that discipline had been a topic of discussion with Clune.
MURRAY: “You know, it hasn’t been, because I don’t want to take anything away from him. I want to keep the emotion and keep the energy, and maybe (have him be) a little bit reckless at times. I want to see what it is he does bring on his own, and then we can fine-tune it if necessary from there. The one thing with him, unfortunately from last year, he just hasn’t got a lot of pro games under his belt. So, staying in the game and playing a structured system, that’s important for us, as coaches, to be able to evaluate him from that side of it. But overall he has had a good camp.”