Analysis: Hard work really pays for Cleary

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The Hockey News

The Hockey News

Dan Cleary is a success story, an inspiration and a testament to hard work and determination. Are you listening Angelo Esposito?

An exceptional junior star, Cleary never quite realized his potential until, on a pro tryout with the Detroit Red Wings two years ago, he finally stepped up to the plate.

Informed by Red Wings coach Mike Babcock he had virtually no chance of making the team unless he dug deeper and got serious about his career, Cleary did just that, ultimately making the team as a fourth-line checker.

In the two and a half seasons since, he has emerged as one of the NHL’s best two-way players and was rewarded by Detroit Tuesday with a five-year, $14 million contract. The deal includes a no-trade clause that expires after three and a half seasons.

Chicago’s first round pick (13th overall) in 1997, Cleary bounced around the NHL with stops in Chicago, Edmonton and Phoenix, as well as Portland and Hamilton of the American League, before finding his game in Detroit.

He started as a checker with the Red Wings, but is now dependable at both ends of the ice and was putting up career numbers – 20 goals and 40 points in 57 games (matching last year’s totals, which he managed in 71 games) – before he went down with a broken jaw Feb. 9.