Sep 14, 2013
Before the lockout-shortened season began last year, Nashville found a particular name floating on the waiver wire, a player they knew they wanted to take a chance on. Fast forward nearly nine months to the day and Rich Clune still can’t be thankful enough for the opportunity from the Predators.
“Nashville took a chance on me last year and I want to be here. When they approached my agent about signing an extension, it was a no-brainer. If anything, it gives me confidence, confidence in myself and that I belong here. They believe in me and what kind of player that I am and what I’ll be here in a couple of years. I think in a couple of years, it’s my goal to be the best at what I do in the league. I think that every team will want me,” said Predators forward Rich Clune.
Signing a two-year, $1.7 million extension on July 17th, Clune had no intention on making the Predators wait before he re-upped with the organization.
“A lot of people ask me ‘Why did I sign an extension right away? Why didn’t you just go to free agency next year and try to get teams into a bidding war’, I’m not about that,” said Clune. “My first year in the league last year? My numbers speak for themselves. I led the Western Conference in hits. I led the Western Conference in fights. I had a lot more points than guys who were competing with me in those categories. There aren’t too many players around the league who are like that. I’m looking to repeat again this year, just do everything better and more confident.”
With training camp well underway for Nashville, Clune is one of a small group of forwards who are expected to turn up the intensity of Nashville’s grit level for the upcoming season. The Predators specifically brought in players like Eric Nystrom and Matt Hendricks to make sure that Nashville wouldn’t be, for all intents and purposes, pushed around night in and night out.
“We’re going to be like a pack of dogs. At some times last year I kind of felt like…you know [Weber] competes hard, and [Fisher], but those guys don’t need to focus on my part of the game, that’s not their strength. My strength is to be a [expletive] piece of [expletive] on the ice and to go in the other teams face. At the same time, if you can’t play at this level, then coach isn’t going to put you on the ice,” said Clune. “A guy like Hendricks? We’re just going to compliment each other, we’re cut from the same cloth. Strength in numbers, we’re going to come at teams in waves. With Nystrom, myself, Hendricks, Goose, we’re going to come at them and swarm them. We’re going to challenge teams and be a lot harder to play against than last year. It’s going to make our job easier to come at teams in numbers and it’s going to make the guys that are putting the big points on the board’s job easier. It works out for everybody”
Grit, though, isn’t the only thing that Clune has in his arsenal. With the addition of Hendricks to the lineup, both forwards have a keen knack for being able to find the back of the net when it isn’t their primary objective during the course of a sixty minute game. Clune finished last season with four goals and five assists, Hendricks with five goals and three assists, an added bonus from the third and fourth line.
“Anybody who plays in the NHL for the most part, other than heavyweights, were scorers at one point in their career. I was a scorer in Juniors, a 30 goal scorer, I know how to put a puck in the net if I get a chance,” said Clune. “When you’re in that kind of checking role, you’re not going to get a lot of scoring chances so you have to bear down. The difference between one extra goal is huge when you’re coming from a checking line. If I can score ten goals this year, that’s my goal. I think I can do it.”
Overall, Rich Clune appears to be happy where he is in Nashville. Not because of his new contract, but because he knows he’s a puzzle piece that has found his spot on the board.
“There are a lot of forwards here, but there is a reason I am here. I’m a lot different than a lot of players. There are a lot of guys with a lot more skill than me, but they’re not here because they don’t work like I do and they don’t compete like I do,” said Clune. “I think I can be a valuable player on this team.”
Photo Credit: Sarah Fuqua