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Chris Clark: 'It's been a different year'


(Getty Image)


Since being traded to the Blue Jackets on Dec. 28, Chris Clark has been looking forward to Saturday's game. Unfortunately for him, the only contact he'll make with Alex Ovechkin and Co. is when they shake hands outside the dressing rooms at Nationwide Arena.

That's because Clark suffered a sprained MCL in his left knee earlier this week and he'll be sidelined for the remainder of the season. The injury was the latest blow in a difficult year for the former Caps captain, who told me moments ago that he was stunned by the trade but has moved on.

"It was disappointing in the beginning, but once I got here, all my focus has been on the Columbus Blue Jackets and how can I fit in here and carve out a role for myself," he said. "Being in the West now, not playing Washington all the time, I don't keep up with them as much as if I were still in the East. So that made the transition easier for me.

"It's been a different year," he added with chuckle. "Nothing that I've seen before."

When Clark was dealt, the Blue Jackets were still fighting for a playoff berth. But things quickly fell apart. The team fired Coach Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 3 and then sold off at the trade deadline. Now, they've only got four games remaining and are assured of missing the playoffs for the eighth time in the franchise's nine-year history.

That's quite a reversal of fortunes for Clark, who went through something similar when he was dealt to Washington from Calgary in 2005. Although the NHL had been on hiatus for a year, the Flames were the Stanley Cup runner-up and the Capitals were coming off a 59-point 2003-04 campaign.

"I knew [the Caps] had a great team," he said, referring to this season. "And the team has gotten better since the trade and the deadline and all that stuff. So I didn't see why [they couldn't win the Presidents' Trophy]. Unless there was a really big hiccup. I knew they had it in them to be the best team in the league."

When the Caps traded Clark, the veteran right wing had four goals and 11 assists. His offensive struggles have continued in Columbus, where he posted three goals and two assists in 36 games while getting mostly fourth-line duty.

"I've had my chances, but when you're not playing as much, it's tough to get into it," he said. "But you have to be able to work around that."

Clark said he doesn't know what the immediate future holds. He's got another year remaining on his contract, but he hasn't been given any indication from the Blue Jackets regarding next season. So, for now, his wife and kids have stayed in Alexandria.

"I'm a little bit in limbo," he said. "I'm sure I'll know more after the season."

Clark has been back to Washington twice since the trade. He's even returned to KCI to watch his mini mite-aged son play.

"The hardest part of the whole move has been not being with the family," he said. "It's drivable and the kids have been out here three times. So it's been more tolerable in that way."

The Clarks will be reunited soon enough, though. The Blue Jackets' season ends April 9 and Chris plans to return to the area soon after that -- just in time to see Washington go nuts for the start of the playoffs.


(Getty Image)

By Tarik El-Bashir  |  April 2, 2010; 6:22 PM ET
 
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Comments

chris clark should get to sit in the press box with the scratches for home games
he's not what he once was but is still a class act

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | April 2, 2010 6:50 PM | Report abuse

You have to feel for Clark. He was here for the bad times, dealt with injuries, and was a good captain. It's a shame he doesn't get to enjoy the good times, however there are no guarantees and the Caps hoisting the Cup is still a work in progress. Go Caps!

Posted by: kcbrichmond | April 2, 2010 7:08 PM | Report abuse

When I saw that Clark is pictured on the second to last season ticket, I felt a stab of pain that he's gone. It's just not fair for him to have come so far with the Caps and now be gone. I really hope for the best for him.

Posted by: false_cause | April 2, 2010 7:24 PM | Report abuse

@ Tarik--thanks for a great article on a classy guy. Here's hoping Chris Clark gets a chance to return to the Caps as an assistant coach when his playing days are done.

Posted by: nomarjax01 | April 2, 2010 7:40 PM | Report abuse

Ditto what everyone has said...Clarkie was and is a class act...wish the best for him for sure.

Posted by: ralCapsFan | April 2, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

CC was one of my favorites and I was sad when he was traded. It seems he doesn't have the best of luck but hopefully, next season, he can lead the Blue Jackets to a great run.

Clarkie has great leadership skills and any front office or coaching team would be lucky to have him, when his playing days are over.

Posted by: kinokonoko | April 2, 2010 8:00 PM | Report abuse

Keep your head up Clark, you deserve all the credit I can give you. Thanks for being a great captain.

Posted by: alee06 | April 2, 2010 8:20 PM | Report abuse

Poor Chris. I feel so bad for him. Being with the team and producing for them when he was bad. And then totally snake bit with injuries over the last 3 years.

He and Knuble are my favorites among the veterans on the Caps. While the kids on the team are my current favorites, they have needed the veteran leadership which he so ably provided.

I enjoyed meeting him after a couple of practices and recall him signing autographs even with his hand in a cast.

Posted by: CapsFan75 | April 2, 2010 8:33 PM | Report abuse

just wanted to say thank you to chris clark for all he gave to this team, and to say that he deserved much better than the way he was treated with that trade. if the powers that be don't give him a seat for the caps playoff games, i will give him mine!

Posted by: 33spinner | April 2, 2010 8:37 PM | Report abuse

To former Captain Chris Clark:

Next time you play here, in whatever jersey, there's a standing O waiting for you. Can I get a "Clarkie"?

Posted by: oldtimehockey | April 2, 2010 9:05 PM | Report abuse

I feel for Clarkie having had career years when the Caps were terrible and then all those injuries seems to have really affected his play negatively. I agree with the trade because Clark is no where near as good as he was even 2 years ago. It's a sad fate for too many professional athletes that they are traded away to help improve the team.

Posted by: JIMALLCAPS1 | April 2, 2010 9:11 PM | Report abuse

Class act all the way. I feel much like most of the posters on here. He stuck it out in bad times and then as we turn the corner he is traded, it has to be rough.
I agree with one post I saw about letting him come sit up in the press box with the scratches during the playoffs.
Good luck to you Capt.Clark

Posted by: jotay131 | April 2, 2010 9:15 PM | Report abuse

so Caps fans lets play the what if game. If clark is bought out do you sign him for say a million? Do you want him on our 4th line?

Posted by: caps512 | April 2, 2010 9:27 PM | Report abuse

@caps512: No. I liked Clarkie and he is a good guy, but he was just not the same player after coming back from the injuries and he is now injured again. It is time to move on. There are guys in the system that deserve a shot on the Caps next year over bringing back Clarkie.

Posted by: NovaCath1 | April 2, 2010 9:33 PM | Report abuse

Wow Philly seriously may not make the playoffs. They lost 1-0 to the Canadiens. They're in the 8th spot as of right now.

Posted by: rachel216 | April 2, 2010 9:37 PM | Report abuse

meh i havent blinked once since clark was traded. we're much better off because of it and sorry but it was Ovie's time for the 'C' and with his latest injury im so glad we're not going to have to go through another postseason without a visable captain. nice guy, real class act but as far as his role as a Capital...never liked him

Posted by: capsfan387 | April 2, 2010 10:22 PM | Report abuse

I loved Clark for his grit and leadership, but he hasn't been his old self this season. Chimera was a huge upgrade. However, I would love to get Clark back in a management role - guys like him are rare. If he is on the Jumbotron at VC anytime in the future, I will happily join in applauding him for his years of hard work.

Posted by: timmyv38 | April 2, 2010 10:23 PM | Report abuse

"His offensive struggles have continued in Columbus, where he posted three goals and two assists in 36 games while getting mostly fourth-line duty."

Yup, that pretty much sums it up...this guy sucks.

And his leadership is SO overrated. When he was our "leader" (and playing full-time and healthy) during the Glen Hanlon years we were terrible. When Bruce came around and his injury woes started, and his leadership disappeared we became a better team. Judging by the way we traded this hack away and suddenly rattled off a 15 game winning streak, the team obviously didn't miss his incredible leadership that so many of you claim he possessed.

Posted by: chrisclarksucks | April 2, 2010 10:55 PM | Report abuse

Chris Clark pretty much sucks at the sport of hockey now, but that has no bearing on his leadership or him personally.

Did Chris Clark steal your lunch money? Beat you up?

Posted by: richmondphil | April 2, 2010 11:32 PM | Report abuse

so Caps fans lets play the what if game. If clark is bought out do you sign him for say a million? Do you want him on our 4th line?

Posted by: caps512 | April 2, 2010 9:27 PM |

I support the trade 100%, especially when it became full circle with re-acquiring Juice. Clark was easily the worst forward playing for us when he was traded. No good as a checker, no good as a scorer. We dumped over 1 mil of salary space and a 6th rounder for a much better player of the same ilk. Great trade.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 2, 2010 11:34 PM | Report abuse

chrisclark, maybe you should try looking at what was going on during that time. Most of the time that Clark was captain, the team was horrible because the personnel weren't there, and because the coach was horrible. Boudreau becoming coach was a major factor in the Caps becoming the team they are, and it is entirely coincidence that Clark was hurt then. Clark's playing ability and his leadership ability are not linked - he was the leader in the locker room when the Caps went from worst to winning the division, he was the leader when they led the division for pretty much the entire year, and he was the leader for the first half of this year, when the Caps were ruling the East. Have the Caps been better under Ovie's captaincy? Yes, but it is not due to Clark being a poor leader - it is due to Ovie being an outstanding leader.

Posted by: timmyv38 | April 2, 2010 11:36 PM | Report abuse

And before someone misinterprets what I am saying, I wish the best for Clark on his future teams and his future career. He was a great leader. This was evident by the plethora of quotes you can find about the players praising Clark. He's a great character guy...I am just glad he isn't on the team anymore, especially with his salary. The Chimera/Juice flip was a great trade by GMGM; dumping a bad forward for a slightly better one and more importantly, saving about 1 mil/yr in cap space next year.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 2, 2010 11:37 PM | Report abuse

Clark's playing ability and his leadership ability are not linked

______________________

Exactly, couldn't agree more. I have no doubt Clark was a great leader...he just didn't have much to give on the ice anymore.

Posted by: richmondphil | April 2, 2010 11:39 PM | Report abuse

Injured? well that bites! This was the one road game I'm going to this year.

Posted by: letsgocaps3 | April 2, 2010 11:49 PM | Report abuse

chrisclarksuckssucks

Posted by: Capt_Kirk_in_AZ | April 3, 2010 12:00 AM | Report abuse

"he was the leader in the locker room when the Caps went from worst to winning the division"

@timmyv - How was he leading the team in the locker room when he wasn't even in the locker room, he was on IR the whole season.

I think you all drank wayyy too much Chris Clark kool aid. I'll give him credit - he is tough, has taken pucks to the face, been knocked out by Wade Redden (LOL), but I just couldn't stand this guy when he took up a roster spot and was beloved by people for no good reason.

But none of this really matters now. Chris Clark is gone, my user name will always be this, and the Caps have a real leader in Mike Knuble.

Posted by: chrisclarksucks | April 3, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse

richmondphil, I am totally with you. Clark was a great leader who was past his playing prime and couldn't recover from all the injuries he had taken. Chimera is like a bigger, faster version of Clark, but without the leadership. As I said earlier, I would love to have him back in a coaching position or something similar, but not as a player. I think McPhee made an unbelievable deal with the Chimera trade, but I do feel bad for Clark that he went from being the captain of the best team in the NHL to a 4th liner on a mediocre team.

Posted by: timmyv38 | April 3, 2010 12:17 AM | Report abuse

chrisclarksucks, injured doesn't mean he's not in the locker room - it just means he's not playing. You are making a very dumb mistake of mixing up on-ice leadership and locker room leadership - which he was still doing according to every Cap. Look at what they said about him, how he would come around and see how they were doing and give them advice on anything. That is what a captain does, and it is what Clark did for the Caps for the entirety of his captaincy. If you think Clark sucked, that's your prerogative - but at least know what you're talking about instead of just babbling.

Posted by: timmyv38 | April 3, 2010 12:21 AM | Report abuse

This year hasn't been too different for Clark.... he's injured. Seems par for the course.

Posted by: griz0615 | April 3, 2010 7:42 AM | Report abuse

I'm sorry but I don't feel one bit bad for this guy. I don't wish him any ill will, but he signed a monster deal and will still collect every penny of it despite the fact that the only year he was worth anywhere near his salary was a year that didn't even matter.

Posted by: LesGrossman | April 3, 2010 8:08 AM | Report abuse

To all the people who said Marcus Johansson will be a top 3 centers next year, please have some patience.

Here is an article reviewing the Caps prospects playing in Europe. Johansson and Orlov both look like they are progressing well. Gustafsson, not so much.

http://www.hockeysfuture.com/articles/12013/capitals_european_prospects200910_review/

Posted by: sgm3 | April 3, 2010 10:31 AM | Report abuse

@sgm3

Thanks for the link to the Euro prospects.

And wouldn't you know it, the Caps ended up drafting the "wrong" Hedman. (But Victor Hedman was already taken anyhow.)

Posted by: CapsFan75 | April 3, 2010 10:37 AM | Report abuse

Speaking of Orlov, here is a funny quote from his recent interview with russian-hockey.ru (I don't think they have an English version of it):

"Q. As a kid, everybody wants to be like someone... Who were your idols?
A. Always liked offensive defensmen - such as Fetisov, Bobby Orr, Kirill Koltsov..."

Probably the one and only time Koltsov had his name mentioned in the same sentence as the other two ;-)

Posted by: igor_k17 | April 3, 2010 11:02 AM | Report abuse

And, turns out Orlov played at forward for a couple of years... if/when he finally comes here, I guess Mike Green will not be the only target for the "He is not a good D, he is just a mediocre winger!" crowd ;-),

Posted by: igor_k17 | April 3, 2010 11:08 AM | Report abuse

Nice link sgm.....intesting note that little gussy is in hershey these days, wonder if he played when #85 was called up.

Posted by: RichC3 | April 3, 2010 11:54 AM | Report abuse

This will be quite an interesting evening for me: all my teams will play -
starting with 1. FC Köln
followed by the Caps and
the Dallas Mavericks
will hopefully make it three wins at one evening ...

... however, how will the Caps' lineup look like? Especially on which line will Chimera play?

Posted by: FCKoeln1 | April 3, 2010 12:42 PM | Report abuse

@ everyone who responded to me.

I would take clark back if he realized that his role was to be matt bradley and be a forth line winger at 1 mil. If he ever gets healthy (yea thats a big if) he could at least score slighly more than most 4th line wingers.

I for one don't want our prospects to come up and be a 4th line winger. If they can't make the 3rd line they should get more playing time in Hershey.

GMGM made a great trade in getting chimera.

Posted by: caps512 | April 3, 2010 1:54 PM | Report abuse

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