If all goes according to plan, right winger David Clarkson will be in the lineup Saturday night when the Columbus Blue Jackets take on one of his former teams, the New Jersey Devils. But it's not his time in Newark that folks like to pontificate on, it's his brief tenure in Toronto after Clarkson signed a big free agent deal with his hometown team.
Now that the dust has settled on the shocking trade that sent him to Columbus in exchange for injured winger Nathan Horton, Clarkson has revealed his thoughts on the turbulent times he had as a Maple Leaf, and they're not as bad as you might think.
"I don't regret playing for the Maple Leafs or signing there," he said. "It was a childhood dream to wear that jersey."
Clarkson, fielding questions on a media conference call, actually listed the day he signed his seven year, $36.75 million contract with the franchise as the most positive memory he had in Toronto and he didn't mean it in a cynical way; it was the look on his dad's face that made the inking special.
Sure, things went wrong pretty quickly for the right winger in Toronto, starting with the 10-game suspension he netted for leaving the bench during a pre-season game against Buffalo when enforcer John Scott went after star right winger Phil Kessel. And there were injuries and goal droughts that also limited Clarkson's effectiveness. He admitted to wishing things had gone better overall.
But you could never say Clarkson was a bad guy or a poisonous influence in Toronto. Far from it. That first summer, when there was nothing but dreaming to do by both the player and the fans, Clarkson was everywhere in the city, representing the franchise and making himself accessible to Leafs Nation constantly.
No doubt Clarkson will encounter rabid supporters in Columbus too, but he did give love to Blue and White supporters one more time for good measure.
"The fans are very passionate," he said. "They're some of the best fans in the league because they want to win so much."
That didn't happen with Clarkson in the lineup, but he was far from the only reason. The tough winger now heads off to a new chapter in Ohio, where he can concentrate on the future and put the past behind him. And for what it's worth, he feels the Blue Jackets will be a good squad for his game.
"It's a fast, hard-working team," he said. "It fits me well and I'm excited."