When the Nashville Predators claimed Rich Clune off of waivers from the Los Angeles Kings, it was hard to figure out exactly how he would fit into the mold in Nashville. After all, the Predators already had a player who brought a physical presence and filled that enforcer role in Brian McGrattan.
Clune ended up being one of the few bright spots for the Predators in the 2012-13 season. He brought a physical presence to the lineup every night, wasn’t afraid to drop the gloves when the time was right and made some good plays offensively as well. Clune had four goals, 113 penalty minutes and finished the season with a plus-3 rating.
“I think Rich is going to be a really good player for us. He’s got a little bit of that edge. He skates really well, and he can make some good hockey plays,” said Predators Head Coach Barry Trotz.
An argument can be made that the Predators needed another guy similar to Clune this past season. There were times where they didn’t seem to have enough push back. They didn’t seem to have enough players that could create some positive energy when things weren’t going right. Clune provided some of that for the Predators all season long. Trotz likes to compare Clune to guys like Brandon Prust of the Montreal Canadiens.
“You look at players that have been in Brandon Prust’s mold a little bit, hard, they like to hit and he can get on people,” Trotz said. “He’s a Brandon Prust. We’ve used that name a couple times that he could be similar to that. He could be a little bit of Steve Ott. Chris Neil.”
Players like Clune are becoming very difficult to find in the modern day NHL. Today’s game heavily relies on skill and good goaltending. Players that can bring a physical element that can completely change the momentum in a game are few and far between. Fewer still are the players that can do that and still contribute on the ice without being a liability. Clune was able to be that type of player for the Predators.
“He’s one of the few players in the league that got 100 minutes in penalties. He was one of the top hitters in the league in terms of contact. And he got four goals. That doesn’t sound like a lot but if you get 100 penalty minutes in a shortened season, that translates to about 200 penalty minutes. Then you translate that into eight to ten goals. Those are guys that are harder and harder to find,” Trotz said.
All in all, Clune was a pleasant surprise for the Predators in the 2012-13 season. He had spent the previous three seasons as a full-time AHLer in the Los Angeles organization. Not many people expected him to succeed at the NHL level after only playing in 14 regular season NHL games in his career prior to being picked up by Nashville. At 26 years old, Clune may have finally found a way to stay in the NHL for good. He’s signed through next season with the Predators.
“That was a good pick up. Good scouting by our scouts,” said Predators General Manager David Poile. “He brought a lot of energy, certainly a replacement for [Jordin] Tootoo, and probably we need a little bit more of that.”