Toronto Maple Leafs: Who Is Mr. Clutch for the Leafs?
Good teams always have one or more players on the team who can be depended upon in tough situations to get the job done.
If your team finds itself heading into overtime in Game 7, these are the players you want to get the puck to.
These players are clutch players and they are often the difference between a loss and a win for their respective teams.
Long ago, when the Montreal Canadiens were good enough to make the playoffs, Mike Cammalleri was a clutch playoff performer for them.
Danny Briere has played in 108 career playoff games, which were split between three different clubs: the Phoenix Coyotes, the Buffalo Sabres and the Philadelphia Flyers. With 109 points in those 108 games, Briere is the definition of clutch.
This year with the New Jersey Devils, David Clarkson (seven game-winning goals in the regular season, three in the postseason) and Adam Henrique (three playoff GWGs including two series-clinching goals) have developed reputations as clutch players.
Do the Toronto Maple Leafs have a clutch player?
Do the Leafs have anyone who can step up during the 2012-13 regular season (and hopefully, the playoffs) as a clutch player?
With six game-winning goals, it should not come as a surprise to anyone that Phil Kessel led the Leafs in 2011-12 in that department.
However, Kessel is a streaky scorer who doesn't have the ability to turn the tide or carry his team in big games like Evgeni Malkin of the Pittsburgh Penguins or Jason Spezza of the Ottawa Senators can.
Kessel can and has scored big goals for the Leafs, but he has not proved himself to be reliable in crucial game situations. If he was a true clutch performer, the Leafs wouldn't have collapsed late last season and would have made the playoffs.
Is Joffrey Lupul, the other half of the Leafs' dynamic duo, a clutch player? Hardly. He's a dependable point-getter, not a guy who dictates the rhythm of a game.
With four GWGs for the Leafs, it might surprise you that Joey Crabb was tied with Clarke MacArthur for second place in that department last year.
The latter isn't a clutch player, but could Crabb be a clutch player in development?
Last year, Crabb was an effective grinder who ingratiated himself with management and fans alike with his work ethic. The fact that four of his 11 goals were game winners was icing on the cake.
If the Leafs make the playoffs in 2012-13, the Anchorage, Alaska native could turn out to be next year's Bryce Salvador.
Salvador, a defenseman with the New Jersey Devils, is about to conclude his 10th season in the NHL. His career high in points is 16, achieved in 2008-09.
In 23 playoff games and counting, Salvador has 14 points and still has time to add to that total.
Crabb probably won't suddenly turn into a 30-goal scorer like the Devils' Clarkson did this past season, but he has the ability and willingness to fight for pucks in dirty areas. The same cannot be said for many of the Leafs' top point-getters.
Mikhail Grabovski might be an exception to that. He only had a couple GWGs last season, but as every Leaf fan knows, he's one persistent SOB.
No matter how hard you knock him down, he'll bounce right back up to score a pretty goal minutes later.
That said, a clutch player he is not. He's usually dependable and a very likeable character, but he is not a big-time player.
The Leafs don't appear to have any clutch players right now, but are there any potential ones in the system?
Matt Frattin was the AHL's leading goal scorer in the Calder Cup playoffs. Could he develop into a clutch player?
And what about Jerry "Fear Da Beard" D'Amigo (via NHL.com) or Nazem Kadri?
Until the Leafs groom one of their own to learn the ways of the clutch player or acquire a clutch player (a clutch goalie, perhaps?) via free agency or trade, they should not be considered and will not be serious playoff contenders, much less Stanley Cup contenders.
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