Happy Sunday to all. 55 degrees, and not a cloud in the blue sky here in Denver. I have windows open here as I type, sipping Dunkin’ coffee. Let’s dive into the question: does Cal Clutterbuck make sense for the Avs as a deadline pickup?
Joe Sakic was at an Islanders-Canadiens game a week ago, and my colleague at NYI Hockey Now, Stefen Rosner, reported that Clutterbuck was one guy he was seriously checking out.
It’s funny, 11 years ago (wait, what?) I wrote a feature on Clutterbuck for the Sports Illustrated website that got me a lot of blowback from Minnesota Wild fans for the slight angle of “Are his hit numbers inflated?” That story is here (for some reason, the SI website now clips off the first sentence of archive stories, so my lead can’t be read).
Guess who is second in the NHL in hits right now? Yes, Cal Clutterbuck. He’s been credited with 194 hits in 48 games for the Islanders. Nobody on the Avalanche is in the top 25 in hits. Erik Johnson leads the team with 119.
Now, a couple things: Teams that play with the puck all the time like the Avalanche are always going to be lower in hits. If you don’t have the puck, you’re trying to hit others to get the puck, right? The Avs actually have been credited with 1,103 hits, ahead of some mediocre teams such as Buffalo (759) and New Jersey (975) and Detroit (902).
The Avs have been a more physical team than last year. Through the first 56 games last season, the Avs had 926 hits, so they’re already well ahead of that number in three fewer games right now. So, why get a 34-year-old who has 11 points (five goals) in 48 games, a minus-6, a 39.1 Corsi at even strength (that’s not good) and a $3.5 million cap hit?
Well, good question.
Clutterbuck, though, is still known as a very good penalty killer. The Avs currently are 21st in the league in PK percentage (77.6). That’s still a team weakness. The Avs had an 83.1 PK percentage last year, seventh-best in the league. The Islanders currently are ninth in the league in PK (82.1) and Clutterbuck is a top PK guy for them.
So, that’s probably a strong reason why Sakic may have been checking him out. (As you will see if you clicked on that SI story, Sakic is Clutterbuck’s idol).
Clutterbuck has some pretty good playoff experience, and brings that “veteran presence”, etc. etc. I asked a couple people whose opinions I value, who see Clutterbuck and the Islanders play a lot, and the scouting report I got is that Clutterbuck still tries to hit everything that moves and is a smart PK guy who still plays with a lot of, uh, cojones.
We have just a little over three weeks to go ’til the NHL trade deadline. There’s a lot of debate about the Avs’ bottom two lines, whether they’re good enough for a long playoff run. Nicolas Aube-Kubel was a healthy scratch Friday night. Tyson Jost was a healthy scratch last night. Darren Helm, Kurtis MacDermid, Logan O’Connor, Alex Newhook, J.T. Compher – these are the current bottom-six guys. Are they good enough? Or, does Sakic need to add another piece in there, make a change, with a guy like Clutterbuck?
Let’s hear what you think, Avs fans.