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Blues signed Kyle Clifford to provide beatdowns.

Well … we’re waiting

Earlier this season, during a pregame skate, local broadcast crews focused on a ringside conversation between St. Louis Blues Left Winger Kyle Clifford and the San Jose Sharks Kurtis Gabriel.

What seemed at first glance as an old meeting between two friends, quickly became highly animated. Gabriel stood there unflinching and stone-faced as Clifford gave him a lashing near the Sharks bench area. At first, these appeared to be old friends, just not buddies, friends perhaps.

Bad blood was in the air

Minutes later, just after the opening face-off, Clifford and Gabriel dropped the gloves. The Blues winger unleashed a flurry of hammers to Gabriel’s coconut. The Sharks player responded by twisting and turning Clifford as the two ended up dancing the rest of the fight away.

Gabriel got a five-minute major and seemed to be hurt after the fight. He only logged 4:10 of ice time that game.

Fight Video from Sportsnet

“Gabriel has been getting into it with Sharks opponents over the last few days,” wrote writer Ali Thanawalla of NBCSports.com. “Prior to San Jose’s games against the Vegas Golden Knights on Friday and Saturday, the 27-year-old chirped with Ryan Reaves before each contest.”

Video from Jomboy Media

Clifford has not been much of a factor for the St. Louis Blues this season, This is surprising because he brings championship pedigree to the Blues. He’s the gritty player who won’t take any sh*t off anybody. Ryan Reaves learned that, although it was young Dakota Joshua and not Clifford who delivered that lesson.

Video from Jens95

Kyle Clifford, Where Are You? Who are you? An Enforcer? A Mentor?

Clifford seemed to be factoring into games for a while but has largely disappeared in recent weeks.

In his last five games, he was a complete non-factor against the Vegas Golden Knights, the Los Angeles Kings, and the Sharks – all Honda West Division foes. Those were all games the Blues would need to win to stay alive for a playoff berth in this highly competitive Honda Division. Only four teams from each division will advance to the 2020-2021  Stanley Cup playoffs.

Early NHL Career

Drafted in 2nd round in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft (35th overall) by the Los Angeles Kings, Clifford was a stalwart in Hollywood’s ice corps from 2010-2011 until 2019-2020. He helped the Kings hoist the Stanley Cup two times – in 2011-12 his second year and again in 2013-2014. That year, he played in 24 playoff games and had a goal and six assists for seven points and a minus-2 with five blocked shots during the Kings’ Cup run.

He amassed 39 penalty minutes while spending an average of 9:47 on the ice in those playoffs.

Video from The Postgame

Moved in a deal to Toronto

With Clifford set to become an unrestricted free agent, his name quickly popped up in trade rumors.  He eventually was dealt to the Toronto Maple Leafs in February 2020 along with Jack Campbell for Trevor Moore, a 3rd round draft pick (from Columbus) in the 2020 NHL Draft and Toronto’s third-round pick in the 2021 draft.

Clifford played in five Stanley Cup playoff games in 2020 with the Maples Leafs. It was in LA that he made his name known in the NHL. “His departure from Tinseltown would be lamented for many years to come,” writers said.

Historically Terrible Trade for LA

RinkRoyalty.com ranked the Clifford trade as one of the three trades that have and will continue to help shape the landscape of the LA Rebuild.

“Clifford won two Stanley Cups with the Kings, and while he was never a major point producer, he was a physical forward who always seemed to be in the right place at the right time, wrote Ryan Sikes on RinkRoyalty.com about the Clifford trade at the time.

Video from LA Kings

In his career, Clifford has played in 702 games, scoring 64 goals and adding 72 assists for 136 points. He is a minus-14 player in his career. Clifford has racked up 861 penalty minutes and averages about 9-10 minutes a game on the ice.

The Blues thought they were signing the tough guy they had not really had since Reaves patrolled the ice for the BlueNote. Hopes were high for the newly signed winger.

Video from KSDK.com

“He plays the right style of game that we want,” Coach Craig Berube told St. Louis Post-Dispatch beat writer Jim Thomas after early practices. “He’s a ‘north’ guy, he bangs bodies, he cycles the puck. He looked good out there. I thought that (fourth) line was fine and they looked good, it looked like they got some chemistry.”

The expected bang Clifford was to bring has been more like a tiny pop. So far this season, he’s played in 25 games, but his stat sheet has been empty. He has four points with three goals and an assist.

A “Secret” signing?

Perhaps Clifford’s signing did not register with fans. After all, it came on the same day Blues Captain Alex Pietrangelo opted to sign with Vegas. As a “consolation” prize, the ‘Note signed power-play QB Torey Krug. Clifford signed quietly that same day. While Krug made page 1 news, Clifford’s singing was buried in the transaction agate deep inside the sports section.

Clifford signed a two-year deal worth $2 million.

“I’m really looking forward to getting down there and being part of the group,” Clifford told stlouisblues.com. “Coming off a Stanley Cup two years ago, it’s a good team and we’re going to make a good run here.”

Blues Hockey Analyst Joe Vitale discusses Clifford’s fight

Joey Vitale on Vladi’s return, Clifford fighting Gabriel and much more

The upcoming schedule is a ballbuster

The Blues’ upcoming schedule will feature a murderer’s row in Minnesota, Vegas, Colorado, and the Kings over the second half of the season. With mere percentage points separating the top four in the division, the Blues cannot afford to give any games away. Nothing is a given in this division.

As a part of that task, players like Clifford may not figure into the nightly stats, but being the enforcer is a role that will serve the Blues very well moving forward. The Blues need him to fill that role.

He along with the other big bodies needs to start using them.  the Blues have allowed other teams to control the punk in their defensive zone. Pat Marron was that guy. He had the size and mouth to frustrate opponents. Kyle and Joshua are on the fourth line to provide energy and a disruption in the other team flow.

To date, this has been one of the problems that the injuries and salary cap have prevented Armstrong from addressing.

Not Coach Berube.

After the loss on Saturday night to the Knights, Berube berated his team. While not naming names he stated, “players need to do their jobs.” Clifford is one that stands out to us.

We just got to get Clifford going. He can do it. He is a champion and he’s proved it. He is the veteran presence the Blues need in that tough-guy role.

Hey Kyle, go beat some ass.

 

Now back to full strength …

Brock Banner

A St. Louis Blues blogger, NHL podcaster, and writer for the STL Fan Report.

rob@stlfanreport.com

STlfanreport.com

Twitter @realBrockBanne1

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