Dan Cleary: Saying Goodbye?

May 23, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings right wing Daniel Cleary (11) celebrates a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks in the third period in game four of the second round for the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit won 2-0. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

We thought the answer would come on Sunday–after all, that’s what Dan Cleary told us.

Instead, we had to wait until mid-morning on Monday when Ansar Khan broke the news that Cleary is deciding between two teams–and Detroit isn’t one of them.

The Red Wings already have too many forwards for their roster, and that was not counting when Cleary was still “in the mix.”

Cleary wanted to stay here (can you blame him?), but fans have since cooled on the Newfie.  He found his home on this Red Wings team when he was invited to training camp back after the 2004 lockout. He became a defensive forward that almost always put up 30-40 points in a season.

However, plaguing knee injuries kept sidelining him and causing him to be a little lackluster whenever he came back, at least for a handful of games. In the 2010-2011 season, Cleary went down with a lengthy injury, only playing 68 games that season. Before his injury, he had been on the verge of hitting his career-high points in one season.

Surprisingly enough, when he returned, he made it the rest of the way. 26 goals and 20 assists in 68 games, passing his previous career record of 42 points in a season.

So how do you potentially say farewell to a player like Cleary? He’s been a constant on this team since the previous lockout, winning a Cup in 2008 and almost making it in 2009.

Sometimes I feel like I’m the only one who looks at the bigger picture when a player leaves. Rather than how I feel about him in the present moment, I look at the overarching success.

He was one of the players who actually attempted to go to the front of the net and screen the goalie, anchoring the second line and giving us another Tomas Holmstrom-like player on another line. He was the guy who was pretty good at backchecking and keeping a defensive mindset, which is what the Red Wings always focus on with their forwards.

But he was also the one on Pavel Datsyuk‘s line this past season. And was referred to as “the load” on far too many occasions. This past year, Cleary didn’t seem to be himself. He was on pace to maybe hit thirty points. He looked like he was playing injured and not listening to those who told him to just sit out for a game or two, let it heal. He had to keep going.

That was just Cleary. He felt like he was the Red Wings’ Poochie… just without access to a time machine. He did what people set out for him to do, then disappeared in a static three-frame liftoff, though I don’t believe he died on the way to his home planet. He will find life on another team, wherever it is. Someone else will want his Red Wings experience, and as much as he wants to stay (and as much as the organization may want to keep him), it’s just out of the question at this point…we all assume.

But let’s remember the guy who scored goals like this and made our hearts soar on many different occasions:

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