In September Daniel Cleary was more or less a Philadelphia Flyer.
Before that he fielded a personal call from Penguins’ superstar Sidney Crosby who asked him to consider joining Pittsburgh.
Yet, reports indicated that the unrestricted free agent made his decision and agreed in principle to a contract to join the Philadelphia Flyers. The only thing left to do was hop a plane to Philly and put ink to paper.
However, before the clock struck midnight Cleary had a change of heart and decided to rejoin the Detroit Red Wings. At the time it seemed the general consensus around Detroit was that people were excited to see Cleary return.
In particular, Wings’ benchboss Mike Babcock has been one of Cleary’s biggest advocates since he joined the organization in 2006. And, for the record, you can put me in the glad to see Cleary come back category as well.
I believed Cleary provided the Wings with some intangibles lacking in their lineup, qualities such as: grit, veteran leadership, a physical presence, and 15 to 20 goals.
Yet, to return to Detroit Cleary was forced to take a significant pay cut because the Wings had already spent big dollars on Daniel Alfredsson and Stephen Weiss. But, like the unselfish professional that he is Cleary inked a one-year, $1.75 million dollar contract to play for the team that his heart never left.
They say hindsight is 20/20.
Cleary has had a dreadful start to the 2013-2014 season. Through 20 games he has only 3 points and was recently a healthy scratch.
He turns 35-years-old next month and so far this season he looks his age. The Newfoundland native has looked a step or two slow on a lot of nights and has some wondering if the game has simply passed him by.
So the question is: Do the Red Wings wish Cleary would have boarded that flight to The City of Brotherly Love?
If the Wings had chosen not to talk Cleary into coming back for another season it’s likely that having a budding star like Gustav Nyquist buried in the minors would be a non issue.
The Wings are in one of their worst slumps in recent memory and Cleary hasn’t shown any signs of life. Truth be told he’s had a number of serious injuries throughout his lengthy NHL career and has put his body through the ringer.
But, it’s still hard to believe that his play could drop off so abruptly from last spring when Cleary led the Wings in points during the playoffs.
Detroit desperately needs the 2013 playoff Daniel Cleary to return to form. Whether he will or not is another question altogether.
At this point I’m not ready to throw in the white towel on Cleary, but I do have it firmly in hand.