David Clarkson doesn’t fear the THN cover curse – and he’s fighting back

Matt Larkin
David Clarkson has started 2014-15 strongly after a nightmarish 2013-14.  (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Do hockey players believe in curses? The easy answer is “Of course not.” An athlete who lets superstitions dictate his game isn’t made for The Show. But if there were ever a player to start believing, could you blame David Clarkson?

In the summer of 2013, fresh off landing a seven-year, $36.8-million contract, Clarkson appeared on THN’s cover, postured as Toronto’s next great fan favorite. He grew up a diehard Leafs fan, so he happily posed for the shoot, after which we photoshopped blue blood trickling down his cheek.

He was positioned for a season he’d never forget. And while that did come to pass, it wasn’t what he imagined. There was the 10-game suspension to start the year after he left the bench to join a fight during a pre-season game. There was the gruesome elbow gash that cost him eight contests. And there were the slumps. A man expected to chip in 20 to 30 goals gave Toronto five in 60 games.

This September, excited to have a blank slate, Clarkson broke his cheekbone in a fight with Buffalo’s Cody McCormick just days before the season started. Ugh. Even the most scientific person would start to wonder about a hex at that point.

“It definitely went through my head,” Clarkson said. “It was tough. After hitting that reset button and feeling good this year and doing everything I did over the summer, to break the bone, that wasn’t fun.”

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NHL postpones Maple Leafs/Senators game after Parliament Hill shootings

Matt Larkin
Ottawa's home arena, the Canadian Tire Centre. (Photo by Jana Chytilova/Freestyle Photography/Getty Images)

It’s a horrific day for Canada, as a shooting tragedy has shaken the nation’s capital.

At least one gunman opened fire at Ottawa’s National War Memorial Wednesday morning, wounding a soldier, who was later pronounced dead. The assailant then moved to Parliament Hill, firing upon and wounding a security guard before the assailant was killed, reportedly by the Parliament’s sergeant-at-arms.

Police continued a hectic chase after the incident and more shots were fired, suggesting multiple attackers may still be on the loose. Parliament itself and an increasingly large portion of the downtown core is on lockdown as police continue their pursuit. Prime Minister Stephen Harper was safely moved away from Parliament Hill and out of harm’s way.

The Hockey News’ thoughts are with the citizens of Ottawa and anyone affected by these atrocities. It feels trivial to bring hockey into the discussion, but it’s our job to tell you everything you need to know about the sport.

UPDATE: The NHL has officially postponed tonight’s game. It posted the following on its website:

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Why Mark Hunter is a smart hire as the Maple Leafs’ director of player personnel

Matt Larkin
Mark Hunter is the second Ontario League GM hired away by the Leafs since the summer. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)

The Toronto Maple Leafs went so nuts with their hiring spree – from Brendan Shanahan to Kyle Dubas to Darryl Metcalf of Extra Skater – that they couldn’t stop shopping for executives by the time the season started.

Tuesday, they unveiled Mark Hunter as their new director of player personnel, taking over Dave Poulin’s old role. Hunter should be a familiar name to you. He was a 628-game NHL veteran and he’s Dale’s brother. More importantly, he’s masterminded the London Knights juggernaut in the Ontario League as the team’s owner, vice-president and GM for 12 years. Under his watch, the Knights won three OHL crowns and, of course, the 2005 Memorial Cup with an absolutely stacked squad that went 79-9-2 over the entire year.

Hunter will oversee the Leafs’ pro and amateur scouting, plus player evaluation. It should inspire confidence knowing Corey Perry, Dave Bolland, Brandon Prust, Steve Mason, Sam Gagner, Patrick Kane, Nazem Kadri, John Tavares and Olli Maatta, just to cherrypick a few names, filtered through London and the Hunter brothers, some for a lot longer than others, before reaching the NHL.

The hire also gives the Leafs’ new brain trust three former OHL GMs: Hunter, Dubas and assistant coach Steve Spott. Does adding Hunter mean Shananan is simply fulfilling his promise to improve the Leafs’ scouting and development? Or does it also mean current GM Dave Nonis should start sweating just a little bit more? In the last year, he’s been surrounded by a Hall of Famer czar and two former junior GMs. Is Nonis being nudged toward milk-carton status a la Greg Sherman in Colorado?

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Rumor Roundup: Could a Yakupov-for-Gardiner swap happen?

gardiner-187909785

The appearance of Toronto Maple Leafs GM Dave Nonis at Rexall Place for Friday’s game between the Vancouver Canucks and Edmonton Oilers raised eyebrows among NHL followers. Sportsnet’s Mark Spector wondered if Ben Scrivens performance in that game could affect the whereabouts of Leafs goalie James Reimer.

Evidently, the game’s outcome (a 2-0 win for the Canucks) had no effect on Reimer, who remains the Maple Leafs backup. Still, with the Oilers off to a franchise-worst start (0-4-1 in their opening five games) and the Leafs lurching from the gate with a 2-3-1 record, it’s only natural that Nonis’ appearance at that game would generate trade speculation.

Nonis could be doing some advanced scouting, but as The Score’s Thomas Drance observes, the Leafs don’t play the Oilers or Canucks until December, so an early-October scouting trip seems unusual. If Nonis’ Western swing is to pursue a trade, the Toronto Sun’s Steve Simmons believes it’ll be a small deal, not a significant one. Read more

Five fresh faces making an impact with their new teams

Boychuk, Okposo and Tavares

It’s still early in the season, but fans are starting to get a feel for which free agent pick-ups and off-season trades have worked in their favor. For some, it was a blockbuster deal that could change the future of the franchise. For others, it was a smart, below-the-radar deal that has given them the piece they need to build one block at a time.

Below you can find the top five off-season moves that are making waves in the early season. What is your top five?

5. Daniel Winnik (Toronto Maple Leafs)

While he certainly wasn’t the sexiest of signings in the off-season, Daniel Winnik has been just what the Toronto Maple Leafs needed. There has been no shortage of talk about the Leafs defensive woes. After a summer dedicated to shifting the focus of the front office, headlined by bringing in assistant GM Kyle Dubas, the Leafs went out and got the 29-year-old Winnik.

Though he’s unlikely to make any highlight reels, Winnik is the kind of player that helps teams win. Already this season he has shown just how defensively sound he is. Coming off a career-high 30 points in 2013-14 as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. Plus, he’s from Toronto. That’s sure to make one notable Leafs’ fan happy. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Myers, Staal could be moved for the right price

Tyler Myers

The respective trade statuses of Carolina Hurricanes captain Eric Staal and Buffalo Sabres defenseman Tyler Myers remain hot topics in the NHL rumor mill. In today’s salary cap era, it’s unusual to see two such notable players mentioned this early in the season as possible trade candidates.

On Wednesday, TSN analyst Bob McKenzie appeared on NBC to report on the Toronto Maple Leafs’ off-season interest in Staal, as well as the Detroit Red Wings apparent pursuit of Myers. His colleague Darren Dreger turned up the same night on NHL Network and commented on the Staal rumors, noting there’s a lot of “ifs” to this situation, the most notable being if Staal could agree to waive his no-trade clause. Read more

Henrik Zetterberg’s four-assist night highlighted by dazzling no look pass

Jared Clinton
Henrik Zetterberg

Johan Franzen is going to owe Henrik Zetterberg a couple gifts.

The two Swedes connected for a pair of goals before the Red Wings game against the Toronto Maple Leafs was even half through. The first of what would be four assists for Zetterberg on the night was an absolute laser of a pass that found Franzen sneaking in backdoor for a tap in. The second, somehow, put that one to shame.

With just over five minutes gone in the second period, Zetterberg corralled an arcing puck that landed right in front of his feet. The Wings’ captain broke around Leafs’ Jake Gardiner, drove to the net, and, with no angle to shoot, fed a behind the back, no look pass to Franzen for his second of the night.

Zetterberg followed it up with the primary assist on the Gustav Nyquist’s goal and a secondary helper on Justin Abdelkader’s marker early in the third. The Wings held on for a 4-1 victory. Read more

Rumor Roundup: Eric Staal in Toronto’s sights?

Jordan & Eric Staal (Photo by Jamie Sabau/NHLI via Getty Images)

In their quest to land a true first-line center, the Toronto Maple Leafs have reportedly cast their eyes south to Carolina and Hurricanes captain Eric Staal. TSN’s Bob McKenzie reports the Maple Leafs held discussions with the Hurricanes during the summer, but the asking price could be “enormous.”

McKenzie speculates such a move could cost the Leafs either Nazem Kadri or Tyler Bozak (as the Hurricanes would need a center to replace Staal), a first-round pick and perhaps defenseman Jake Gardiner, but he believes it’s a price the Leafs are willing to pay. Read more