BY:Jeff Schneberk @Game7overtime
Somebody forgot to tell Jay McClement that when you sign your name on the dotted line with one of the most famous franchises in all of pro sports, your every move makes the headlines like your name is Tim Tebow.
When the Toronto Maple Leafs signed Jay McClement to a two-year contract worth US$3-million last summer, it was done with little fanfare. The 30-year-old was simply billed as a depth forward, someone who was going to help kill penalties and play sound defensive hockey.
He is the kind of guy that you aren’t supposed to notice.
In a shortened season where the Leafs made the playoffs (for the first time in 10 years), he had eight goals and added 17 assists in 48 games, and at times, even wore the ‘A’ on his jersey, for alternate captain.
He helped improve Toronto’s penalty killing from third-worst in the league to second-best. And his blue-collar work ethic personified Randy Carlyle’s coaching style.
On the outside, expectations have been raised. Not just for McClement, who was on pace for a career-best 13 goals last season, but the entire Leafs.
Toronto is coming off a year where it finished fifth in the Eastern Conference and was 7:26 away from advancing past Boston in the first round in the travesty in Boston.
After a busy summer, where the team added forwards David Clarkson and David Bolland as well as goaltender Jonathan Bernier, Toronto is expected to build on last season’s success. What will happen with Nazem Kadri and Cody Franson is anyone’s guess. Both are restricted free agents.
And while Clarkson, who had 30 goals two seasons ago, should add to the offence, McClement is more excited about the work ethic of the new additions.
“That’s Randy’s style of team,” he said. “We are expected to play hard. Last year we started to build that identity. And I think to have that identity, you have to do it every night and year in and year out, so we’re going to have to live up to that as well. But it’s definitely something we started to build last year. I think when teams come into town they know it’s going to be a hard night.”
A versatile forward, McClement played everywhere from wing on the second line to centering the fourth line. He could help form a shutdown unit with Bolland and Nikolai Kulemin this season, allowing Carlyle to use his top two lines primarily to provide offence.
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