Dan Cleary: Is It Time To Bench The Newfie?

February 1, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Detroit Red Wings right wing Daniel Cleary (11) and St. Louis Blues defenseman Alex Pietrangelo (27) battle for the puck in the third period at Joe Louis Arena. Detroit won 3-5. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Dan Cleary has taken a lot of heat from Detroit Red Wings fans both this season and last season – not to mention seasons before that – but he had finally found a groove where he meshed well with his linemates for a few seasons in a row. Albeit with some injuries.

He surpassed his career high in points in the 2010-2011 season, and fans rejoiced. Even missing a fair amount of games that season, he still managed to return and hit 46 points.

And yet, he seems to be one of the main players on the roster this season that is falling under fan scrutiny yet again. (Let’s not get into Kyle Quincey…)

The third and fourth lines have yet to do much of anything for the Red Wings, aside from an assist by Patrick Eaves. And Eaves keeps being a healthy scratch. The bottom two lines have been a constant revolving door of players the past few seasons, with one too many prospects from the Grand Rapids Griffins ready to make the jump and not enough players that won’t have to clear waivers to be sent down. Which begs the question…

Is it time to bench Dan Cleary?

When Cleary comes on the ice for each shift, he’s practically invisible. In the 2010-2011 season, I remember a jolt of excitement almost every time he came on the ice, because he was on fire. When he steps on the ice now, fans are collectively cringing, shutting their eyes, and muttering, “Please don’t do anything stupid. Please.”

So far this season, Cleary has zero points, is a -3, and has the second-most PIMs outside of Jordin Tootoo with 18, two behind Niklas Kronwall’s 20 PIMs. He’s taking pointless penalties and putting the Red Wings in odd-man situations when their special teams are already lacking.

Babcock has threatened players before (maybe not in so many words), and it’s gotten them to produce. Who’s to say Cleary would be any different? If he sat for a game with Eaves staying in, or one of the multiple Griffins that are rearing to go, would that light his fire? Could it light his fire? Could he come back in the next game and score a few goals, or at least have some sort of impact?

Because something needs to happen.  The power plays and penalty kills are lacking. The third and fourth lines are virtually nonexistent. And many hoped Cleary would be one of the players to help invigorate the young guns. He’s one of the veterans on the roster; he knows the ropes, and many believed that knowledge would rub off and have a positive impact.

But there’s nothing.

Would benching Cleary for a game create any sort of change? Something needs to happen, because at his current output rate, fans will have heart attacks if nothing is done.