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Sunday, August 11, 2013

One Star, One Sheet: Wendel Clark

Wendel Clark

1st Overall Pick 1985
2x All-Star
330 Career Goals

  Wendel Clark was the face of the Toronto Maple Leafs franchise from the mid 1980s to early 1990s.  He was anarchy on skates.  He could score, he could hit and he could fight.  A fan favourite, Clark would have three stints with the Maple Leafs, never playing a full season with any other franchise.
  Drafted 1st overall in the 1985 Entry Draft, Wendel would lead all rookies with 34 goals, while only playing in 66 games.  Clark played with reckless abandon and laid out some legendary hits, including this one on Bruce Bell of the St. Louis Blues.  Clark's take no prisoners style of play would quickly take a toll on him.  After playing 80 games in his sophomore season, Clark would play a total of 81 games over the next three seasons and wouldn't play more than 70 games again in a season again until his 11th season in the league.
  Clark would start the 1991-92 season on fire, scoring eight goals and 13 points in his first six games, before once again going down with an injury.  There was a big change when Clark returned to the Leafs, Cliff Fletcher had just pulled the trigger on, arguably, the best Leafs trade ever, acquiring Doug Gilmour in a ten player deal with the Calgary Flames.  The Leafs played better than .500 hockey the remainder of the season but fell short of the making the play-offs.
  The next season would be the season that will go down in history as the greatest Leaf season, for anyone under the age of fifty.  The Leafs would add the supporting cast to not only make it to the play-offs, but make it to one win from the Stanley Cup final.  After a disappointing regular season, 39pts in 66gp, Clark would get 20pts in 21 games during the play-offs, including 10 points in the seven game series against the Kings, along with a memorable fight in game one vs Marty McSorley.  In the final two games, both losses, Clark scored five goals.
  Clark would have his best season in 93-94, scoring 46 goals and 76 points in only 64 games.  Which would be 60 goals if prorated over 84 games, which was the length of the 93-94 season.  It was also the last season Clark would top 100 PIM.  The Leafs would again reach the Stanley Cup Finals but lost to the Vancouver Canucks.  Clark struggled in the series, only getting one point in five games.
  The off-season Cliff Fletcher made another stunning trade, sending Clark to the Quebec Nordiques in a deal that would bring future HHOFer Mats Sundin to Toronto.  Clark would spend the 94-95 lockout shortened season in Quebec before being traded to New York Islanders, for Claude Lemieux.
  Wendel's time on the island would be short.  The Islanders, one of the worst teams in the NHL, in the standings and in the fashion sense, would trade Wendel Clark back to the Toronto Maple Leafs in a deal that would include promising young d-man Kenny Jonsson and a 1st round draft pick, which would be used on Roberto Luongo at 4th overall, going to the Islanders. 
  By this time, injuries had played a toll on Clark and he was no longer a bull in the china shop.  The Leafs were also not the Leafs he had left in 1993.  The Leafs were dispersed in the 1st round of the play-offs in 1996 and would miss the play-offs in each of the next two seasons.
  Clark would sign with the Tampa Bay Lightning for the 1998-99 season.  He would be traded to the *gasp* Detroit Red Wings and finished the year with 32 goals and a Lady Byngian 37 PIM in 77 games.  The Red Wings, in pursuit of a three-peat, were bounced in the second round.
  As a free agent, Clark would sign with the *gasp* Chicago Blackhawks.  Clark struggled with the Hawks, scoring only two goals in 13 games before being released.  He would finish his final season with his third, and final stint, as a Toronto Maple Leaf. 
  Clark played the game with reckless abandon, but ultimately paid the price.  While Wendel Clark is not a HHOFer, he is a hockey legend.  The ultimate hockey triple threat; goals, hits and fists.


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