One of the forgotten Toronto Maple Leafs’ players (or at least a former Maple Leafs’ player) is Kyle Clifford. As the new season approaches, he’s still in the organization. In this post, I’ll take a look at what his potential role might be in the Maple Leafs lineup.
Kyle Clifford Is a Bit of a Forgotten Player
As the new NHL season approaches, there’s been a lot of chatter about the Maple Leafs. However, one player not generating any discussion is Clifford. Does he have any role in the team’s lineup any longer?
Clifford’s connection to the Maple Leafs organization traces its history to former General Manager Kyle Dubas. Clifford was Dubas’ first client during his brief career as a player agent. When goalie Jack Campbell came to the Maple Leafs from the Los Angeles Kings, Clifford was brought along in the trade.
In today’s NHL, there’s an emphasis on versatility and multi-dimensional play. We’ll see where that leaves new signee Ryan Reaves; however, it’s seemed to leave little room for a player like Clifford. While he’s had a shift or two when he’s played, he hasn’t been able to contribute significantly offensively or defensively. The one thing Clifford has going for him is his cap-friendly contract which is at the NHL’s minimum.
At One Time Clifford Was a Strong Physical Player
At one time, Clifford’s strength was his strong physical play and leadership. His time in the AHL has demonstrated his effectiveness in a third-line capacity. There he’s combined his enforcing abilities with leadership on and off the ice. Last season, he played in 46 games with the Marlies with eight goals and 12 assists (for 20 points).
One thing we’re pretty sure of is that Clifford’s game is not going to improve. He always was what he was – a physical player who worked hard every shift. If he’s needed this season (he played two games with the Maple Leafs last season), he could still bring that aspect.
The fact is that he’s only 32 years of age.
Clifford’s Contract Is Finished After This Season
This is likely Clifford’s last NHL contract, and it expires after this season. Given his status as a warrior, perhaps there’s a chance to reward him with a few more NHL games this year. During any 82-game season, there will be injuries. Could he see a call-up to the big club? If not, he’ll likely stay with the Marlies.
Clifford’s affordability positions him as a possible depth option, slotting him in as a 12th or 13th forward.
NHL Lineups Are Fluid During Any Season
It isn’t impossible that fans will see Clifford in a Maple Leafs uniform this season. NHL rosters are fluid and respond to injuries, player performance, and strategic adjustments. Clifford’s role with the Marlies will be consistent; but, his role isn’t set in stone.
I, for one, would love to see him get in a couple of games with the big club. He could still contribute as a physical player. And, his salary cap-friendly contract makes him a player to watch as the upcoming season unfolds.