Cleary determined to prove his critics wrong

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

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Published on July 12, 2014
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.
Associated Press file photo

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.

"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.”