Leafs David Clarkson

Clarkson putting last year behind him

David Clarkson has been an easy target of the ire of Leafs fans in his short tenure wearing blue and white. But just six games into this season, the hometown Mimico, Ontario native is drawing less boos from the restless Air Canada Centre patrons.

The exorbitant $36.75-million, seven-year contract to which he was signed in 2013 works out to just over one million bucks per goal that he scored last season, a disastrous campaign that was shortened due to injuries plus a ten-game suspension levied even before opening night.

Last month when Clarkson fractured his orbital bone in an ill-advised fight against Buffalo’s Cody McCormick in a pre-season game, Toronto fans were uneasy that the setback was a continuation of last year’s misfortunes, given that the ten-game ban also came as a result of an altercation versus the Sabres.

Instead, Clarkson – grouped on the Leafs’ third line with Mike Santorelli and Leo Komarov – has played with more vigour and tenacity, with all three linemates demonstrating their physical edge. The trio was responsible for Toronto’s only goal in their home-and-home series versus Detroit this past weekend.

Coach Randy Carlyle has inserted Clarkson as one of the top-six forwards on the power-play, and the right-winger has responded by establishing himself as a strong presence in front of the opposition net on the man advantage.

“It was a matter of getting healthy and getting back to myself,” Clarkson said. “I feel like myself right now. Just winning those battles and getting down low and creating offence, that’s part of the way I play.”

Clarkson already has a goal and an assist this year, collected through five games, after taking nine games in 2013-14 to register his second point, and not scoring until his eleventh outing.

For as long he is associated with a $5.25-million annual price tag, Clarkson will be hard-pressed to provide the return on the investment that was made on him.

But for the first two weeks of this season, he is slowly shaking off the ‘free agent bust’ label.

Rob Del Mundo is the author of Off The Post, and is a regular columnist at TMLfans.ca

Follow TMLfans.ca on Twitter: @Rob_DelMundo