Getting injured in his Blue Jackets debut wasn’t exactly what David Clarkson had in mind when he thought of what it’d be like to play in Columbus.
Though, unfortunately, that’s just kind of how it’s gone down this season. Welcome to the never-ending problem, you might say – and it’s almost literal. The Blue Jackets crossed the 500 'man games lost to injury' plateau on Wednesday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Clarkson’s former employer, and he was a popular guy in the dressing room that morning.
That part was quite ironic, as he wasn’t even playing in the game and has already been ruled out for the rest of the season. Here was a guy who had played only a couple of games with the Blue Jackets and hasn’t even really had a chance to get his family settled in Columbus, but he was being asked to reflect on his time in Toronto and also look ahead to his next chapter.
And what a perfect time for it, too: Wednesday was Clarkson’s first on-ice session since leaving the game on Mar. 3 with what was termed as an upper body injury.
“It would’ve been nice to be healthy, but my first shift of the game (Feb. 28 vs. New Jersey) I got hit weird and when they did an MRI, I had some tears inside my obliques,” Clarkson said. “The training staff has been amazing here. It was weird you guys (Toronto) were in town – this was my first day back on the ice – but I felt pretty good out there. I think everything’s coming together.”
Clarkson’s trade to Columbus on Mar. 26 represented a fresh start and a new opportunity, two terms heard quite often in professional sports when players change teams – but for Clarkson, it was the god's honest truth. Since signing a seven-year, big-dollar contract with his hometown Maple Leafs in the summer of 2013, it had been a rough go for Clarkson on several fronts.
He wasn’t consistently healthy, his production wasn’t at the level he or the team had been expecting, and the pressure of playing in Toronto didn’t help matters. Coming to Columbus and joining a young, emerging team like the Blue Jackets was a major factor in Clarkson agreeing to waive his no-trade clause to facilitate the trade, which sent injured forward Nathan Horton the other way.
In joining his new team, a group that’s been on quite an impressive run lately, Clarkson is anxious to get back to doing the things that brought him success earlier in his career and he’s quite confident that he can rediscover the form that made him an attractive commodity when he hit the free agent market.
“I’ve been successful doing the little things,” Clarkson said. “The last few years have been tough. I’m hoping to come here and get the opportunity to be part of something. I think the record that this team has in the last 10 games is something that shows what we can do, and I’m excited to be part of that. I’m looking forward to next season and being part of this organization.
“This team had a lot of injuries this year. Every team goes through that and it’s about finding a way to overcome it, and sometimes it’s hard to overcome. These last 10 games are so, it’d be easy for a team that was out (of the playoffs) to not go through the motions, but not be there every night. These guys in this room have, every night, gone out there and battled back and they might be down a goal or two, but they’ve found a way to come back and win and good teams do that.”
The excitement of being part of a new team and a new group of personalities was quickly quelled when Clarkson was diagnosed with the oblique injury that would end his 2014-15 season. But in the meantime, he and his family (wife, Brittany, and their two young children Colton and McKinley) will get acclimated to Columbus and settle into their new home – a place that Clarkson has already become quite fond of in his short time here.
“It’s one of those cities – it’s a sports city,” Clarkson said. “They love their sports. Me playing one game and watching from up top, they’re passionate and they care and they get into the game. There are nice restaurants, the schools…I’ve got kids, so for me, you look at school boards and things like that.
“Everything’s great. As a family, we’re excited and this area is a spot that a lot of people don’t know about, but it’s beautiful.”