Minnesota Wild Person of Interest: Cal Clutterbuck
Cal Clutterbuck burst onto the scene and arrived in ill-humor, determined to singlehandedly bring back the raucous NHL of the 1970’s. In his rookie year of 2008-09, the mustachioed winger shattered the record for hits in a season with 356.
Just last season he slugged a linesman in the face, albeit accidently.
The NHL’s hit king, though, isn’t held in the same esteem as say baseball’s version might be. Clutterbuck to opponents is a pest, an agitator, a head hunter; a young, reckless punk who will likely injure himself if not an opponent before too long.
Minnesota Wild fans love him.
His relentless play is obvious to even the most rudimentary of observers. It helps that his whimsical name is eponymous with his profession: Cal Clutterbuck bucks clutters.
The 24-year old winger, however, continues to prove that he can do more than hit bodies. He has reached double digit goals each of his first four NHL seasons, including chipping in 15 in 2011-12.
His four shorthanded markers tied for the league lead as well.
Clutterbuck’s value as a player is only growing.
As the number of NHL enforcers continues to dwindle towards extinction, teams have been relying more and more on hybrids; players who can contribute both physically and offensively.
Coaches have taken to pairing these hybrids with skilled players to form some of the league’s most effective lines. The physical presence of a Scott Hartnell in Philadelphia or an Alex Burrows in Vancouver opens up more space for their skilled linemates to work.
More importantly, the hybrids muck it up in the corners and in front of the net, absorbing physical abuse so their more high profile teammates don’t have to.
The Wild would do well to play Clutterbuck in a similar role.
In recent years the health of Mikko Koivu, or lack thereof, has derailed promising starts to the season. A player in the ilk of Clutterbuck would help ensure that the team’s best center plays the full 82 games, something he hasn’t accomplished since 2006-07.
Although Dany Heatley is tentatively listed as the Right Wing with Zach Parise and Koivu on the Wild’s top line, a Parise-Koivu-Clutterbuck combination would benefit all parties involved.
The four-time 40-goal scorer struggled in his first season in Minnesota. Excluding an injury shortened 2003-04 season, Heatley’s totals of 24 goals and 53 points were career lows. Should Clutterbuck take his spot on the first line he would ease the pressure off of the aging former Shark.
Heatley would continue to see time on the first powerplay unit while facing more favorable matchups even strength. While 40 goals would be a reach, there's no reason he couldn't crack the thirty goal mark for the first time since 2009-10.
Clutterbuck on the other hand, could blossom into a 25-goal, 100-penalty minute performer while playing with the more talented Parise and Koivu.
One thing is for certain- as long he as he keeps rocking the ‘stache as well as opponents, Cal Clutterbuck will remain a fan favorite for years to come.