Cleary determined to prove his critics wrong

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With his ailing knee feeling better, he’s confident he’s in for a comeback season after re-signing with Wings

You won’t hear much of it here in his native Newfoundland, but the Detroit Red Wings’ re-signing of Daniel Cleary is sparking a lot of outrage among Red Wings fans, at least if you go by the reaction on social media sites such as Twitter.
Just type in “Daniel Cleary” in the search field and you’ll get an idea of the prevailing feeling, which seems based, in large part, on the belief the presence of too many veterans like Cleary on the roster creates a roadblock to the development of younger players.
However, it doesn’t appear to faze the 35-year-old left-winger from Riverhead, Harbour Grace, who is taking the criticism in stride.

Daniel Cleary has scored 123 goals and added 150 assists in 592 games over nine season with the Detroit Red Wings. He’s hoping his 10th will be one that proves that he can still be an effective contributor for the NHL team.

"Everybody is entitled to their opinion," Cleary told Ansar Khan of MLive.

"You try not to let any of the negativity — or the positive comments — affect you.

“We live in the day of social media; anyone can say anything. You can't worry about what people think. You got to do what you do."

Cleary had been an unrestricted free agent for a second straight season before signing a $1.5 million extension Thursday. The contract also includes a $1 million in bonuses, reportedly based on games played, and according to capgeek.com, the deal also includes a no-trade clause.

He’s looking for what he calls “a bounce-back” season after struggling for most of the 2013-14 campaign, which saw him score just eight points (four goals, four assists) in 52 games. Things got so bad that by late January, Detroit head coach Mike Babcock, who just months previous had lobbied hard to have the veteran forward re-signed, made him a healthy scratch.

 

Has resumed skating after resting knee

He didn’t play another game during the season. A chronic knee injury worsened and prevented him from returning.

"My knee has been bad for three years, a lot of wear and tear," told MLive.

“(I) had a rough start, then had a reaction to the Synvisc (an injectable treatment used for knee arthritis) and it got blown up, swollen, and the season was over.”

However, the time off appears to have helped. Cleary has resumed skating as part of his of-season workouts and is reporting the knee as being “a lot stronger, a lot better."

So is his assuredness that 2014-15 will be a better season.

“It's going to take hard work and dedication. That's my goal. I'm confident,” he said.

He will also be looking to live up to the faith shown by Babcock and Detroit general manager Ken Holland, who lived up to a verbal agreement made 10 months ago by signing Cleary to a new contract. At that time, the winger appeared poised to sign a three-year, $8.25 million free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Flyers, with the only thing keeping it from becoming official being the Flyers need to clear up salary-cap space to fit in Cleary.

But he had also made it clear that his first choice was to stay with the Wings and the delay in finalizing an agreement with Philadelphia gave him one last chance to reach a deal with Detroit.

Things were eventually worked out, with Cleary signing a one-year deal worth $1.75 million, helping the Red Wings, who had their own salary-cap issues. In return, Holland promised that Cleary would be looked after, in some way, this season, hence Thursday’s deal, based on loyalty demonstrated by both sides.

 

Part of five-man veteran core

This will be Cleary’s 10th season with Detroit, giving him the same Wings’ seniority as team captain Henrik Zetterberg and fellow forward Johan Franzen. Only Pavel Datsyuk, who has been part of the roster since 2001, and defenceman Niklas Kronwall, around since 2004, have been with the club longer.

“He had a tough year, but we’re hoping he’s going to bounce back,” Holland told the Detroit Free Press as he discussed the Cleary re-signing.

“We’ve had luck with players with heart and determination.”

However, Holland added that if Cleary doesn’t have a big camp, “he won’t be in the lineup.”

That’s fine with Cleary.

"It's a competition,” he told MLive’s Khan. “I'm going to go in with an open mind, work hard on and off the ice and see where the chips fall.”

Organizations: Philadelphia Flyers, Synvisc, Red Wings Detroit Free Press

Geographic location: Detroit, Philadelphia

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Recent comments

  • Stehen d
    July 15, 2014 - 23:47

    Something that seems to get overlooked when people discuss the potential deal with the Flyers is that it wasn't a guarantee. The Flyers were prepared to offer Cleary a PTO or a professional tryout to earn that contract. This is similar to what Danny did ten years ago to earn a spot with Detroit. Its fair to say that Danny probably had a 50/50 shot at making the flyers. The problem here is that had he accepted the "offer" and not made the team he could have ended up in the AHL, Europe, or retired. I guess the point I'm trying to get to is that he really didnt leave all that money on the table, just the possibility of it.. In fact, Danny had spoken with Red Wing management many times during last season and had many oppritunities to sign long before free agency. Don't be fooled, Danny is just like everyone else who plays pro hockey and at the top of his wish list was money followed by term preferably with his current team but was prepared to look elsewhere and there's nothing wrong with that. If the Flyers offered a guaranteed roster spot on a three year deal in the 9 million range there is little doubt he would be wearing a Philly jersey now.

  • Stehen D
    July 12, 2014 - 20:23

    Zetterberg actually played 79 games in his rookie season in 2002-2003. Dan Cleary didn't play his first game for the Red Wings until after the lockout in the2005-2006 season so your way off by saying he has the same seniority as Zetterberg. You are right that him and Franzen started playing in the same season. do you just guess at this stuff Mr. Mccarthy? Pretty Busch League to make an error like that.

  • Maggy Carter
    July 12, 2014 - 12:03

    It is fairly rare what Cleary did - giving up $8.5 mil over three years for $1.75 mil for one and a promise of another. Cleary might recover fully (as fully as you can relying on hyaluranic acid to keep bone from scraping bone) and hopefully enjoy a banner year. Either way the coming season could well be his swan song. The average age of retirement in the NHL is 28. The veteran at the moment is Jaromir Jagr of the Devils at the ripe old age of 42. If Cleary's teammate Daniel Alfredson manages to hang on, he will also turn 42 mid-season. Unlike Cleary who had only 8 points to show for 52 games last year, Alfredson racked up 49 points in 68 games. And while Cleary was dogged by injuries, injuries of course are part of the aging process that pushes out players like Cleary in favour of younger players with much stronger legs and lungs. If Cleary does leave during or after the season, the 36 year old-come-December will do so with the knowledge that he is one of about only 15% of all NHL players to ever take Stanley home with them - and in Cleary's case - the first ever Newfoundlander to do so. The grinder might be wiser to take his leave soon and save what's left of his knees for the golf course. You are already a winner!