What is Ryane Clowe?
Is he a man?
Is he an idea?
Is he mass cultural delusion?
Was he once a real man whose story has been passed down from generation to generation such that he has become his very own tall tale?
What if I told you that Ryane Clowe was once a New Jersey Devil? ILWT 30 for 30 presents: Clowecussed.
Clowe the Devil
It's fair if you've forgotten by now. Clowe played about 200 minutes last year, almost a quarter of it on the powerplay. Before that he was a regular on a line with Michael Ryder and Adam Henrique. He has been met with an unfortunate combination of injuries, suffering 4 concussions in the last two years.
A Brief Aside: The NFL is under fire for there ineptness at addressing the concussion issue in their sport. Between the ESPN story about Chris Borland and the new Will Smith movie, "Concussions" about Dr. Bennet Omalu who discovered CTE in brains of NFL players, the NFL is going to have to change soon in order to purge themselves of this barbaric, gladiatorial image. According to HeadCase, a website built for the safety of young athletes, after football, ice hockey had the highest concussion rate by a significant margin. Ryane Clowe needs to be extremely careful if he returns. Though I joke about the situation with regards to his playing time he is one of the many pro athletes that needs to learn the lesson of Mike Webster.
Now to take hard left turn and get back into the article. That is who Ryane Clowe has been as a Devil, but most people seem confounded by the contract that he got, so I figured I could write a brief (ish) article reminding us of what he was and what he was supposed to be.
Clowe the Checker
Ryane Clowe is a checker. He had over 100 Hits in each of his last four years with San Jose. He also had right around 100 penalty minutes per year. He is in the Steve Bernier / Jordin Tootoo class of checker as far as numbers are concerned. Not quite as much as Tuomo Ruutu. He was also getting into the double digits in fights. Although he was good in fights (9-0-3 in his 12-fight 2011 season) it is inexplicable that he continued given his injury history.
Clowe the Powerplayer (almost a word?)
As a hockey player with regards to point production, his biggest effect was probably on the powerplay. In a stellar 2008-09 campaign, Clowe registered 24 points on the powerplay at a 6.8 points per 60 minutes pace. To draw a ridiculous and unwarranted comparison, Ilya Kovalchuk never had more than 4.9 points per 60 on the powerplay and his 2012 82-game pace was 31 in comparison to Clowe's 28 in 2009. All I'm saying is that he was good on the powerplay. No I changed my mind again, I'm saying he notably improved the powerplay. The graph below shows the Sharks powerplay goals per 60 minutes by year. The bluer the color, the higher their Corsi for rate was. Remember that Clowe started playing a regular roles on their powerplay in 2008-2009 and left the team in the middle of 2012-2013.
THAT'S all I'm saying.
Clowe the Prospect
We're going backwards a bit here aren't we. Whatever, this is my second article in two days so you'll have to forgive me. This article was a fun read for me. The Sharks top 20 prospects are listed there and among the comical observations is the fact that sandwiched between Steve Bernier (#3) and Ryane Clowe (#15) were names like Marc-Eduoard Vlasic (#5) and Joe Pavelski (#13). Regardless the point is that they projected Clowe to have "the combination of size, strength, physicality, and hands could make him a good third or fourth line winger for San Jose." He overachieved that, going for just over 50 points for 4 years while registering over 100 hits. The Sharks probably thought they had a mini-Lucic on their hands.
Clowe the Contract
Possibly Lou Lamoriello's most contested signing of the offseason heading into 2013-2014 was 5-year, $24.25 million contract given to an injury-prone winger with 60-point upside. Remember that this was 6 days "before" this. You have to assume that Lou, who was documented as being aware of Ilya's desire to go back home, reached for the first big, scoring, winger he could find and threw whatever it took at him to sign. For what it's worth, Milan Lucic earns $6 million a year, so if Clowe resumed his upward climb that injuries had stunted, he could have been a bargain. But that didn't happen. And it seems obvious now that it was never going to happen.
What Is the Point of This Article?
It's a valid question. With the story from Tom Gulitti that we might get a Clowe update within the week -- which I personally expect to be a retirement -- I wanted to make sure that that news wouldn't be read without context or emotion. This was a very promising player who was a force in a fight, a talent on the powerplay, and a nightmare to play against. He was given the chance with the Devils to rekindle that flame and his effort was derailed be an extremely dangerous assault of concussions that now threatens his career. A retirement, thought smart, and somewhat expected, is still a sad conclusion to the story of a true hockey player.