October 6, 2011

AHL Journal: Monarchs' Clune will get under your skin

By Dan Hickling

Richard Clune (photo: Dan Hickling photo) If Richard Clune had tried his hand at acting instead of hockey, he might have been perfectly cast in any “Leave It To Beaver” remake as the irascible Eddie Haskell.

Or so opposing players and their fans would have you believe.
With his angular cut and churlish face, Haskell – er, Clune -- looks the part of the pot-stirrer, which indeed his is.

Anyone who has seen him play, especially during the past three seasons for the Manchester Monarchs, know what an in-your-face sheet of sandpaper he is.

The yardstick is the 222 minutes in penalties he picked up last year. Few, if any of those, were for delay of game.

Besides, they don't call him “The Richuation” for nuthin'.

“I don't think anything will change for me,” said Clune, who was a Dallas Stars third-round draftee in 2005. “Every year I've been a little more polished, offensively. And I'd like to expand on my role in that sense. Put more pucks in the net and set up more goals.

“But, first and foremost, I'm going to be a thorn in the other team's side. Sometimes you hear about guys putting pressure on themselves to play a more physical role. But I have a lot of fun with it. It doesn't seem like work to me.”

Even so, there is more to Clune than meets the eye. The 24-year-old from Toronto is particularly thoughtful when talking about his place in the game, and where he hopes it will take him.

The key word, he said, is balance.

“I think every year that's gotten better,” he said. “Coach (Mark Morris) has really worked with me on my game. I know what he expects of me. And he's always been able to see the bigger picture as to the type of player I need to be, to get to the next level.

“I'd definitely like to expand my role offensively, and to be trusted defensively. And I think that's come a long way.”

It takes smarts to grasp the full game, and Clune has already shown that underneath all of that machismo, there is an abundant supply of smarts.

In 2005 while in junior, Clune was given the OHL's Bobby Smith Award, which is handed each year to the league's Scholastic Player of the Year. Previous winners include the likes of Dougie Hamilton, Steven Stamkos, Brad Boyes, and three-time recipient Dustin Brown, the captain of the Kings squad that Clune is fighting like mad to ascend to.

Two years ago, Clune got a 14-game shot with L.A., not nearly enough to satisfy him, but ironically, nine more NHL games than the Kings got out of Lauri Tukonen, the highly-skilled but brittle former first-round wing they eventually swapped to Dallas for Clune.

“When I was up with L.A.,” he said, “I was kind of that energy guy that they didn't have. But last year, I made a lot of strides in my defensive game. This year I hope to build on that.”

Build on it, sure. But change the “Clune Channel?” Don't count on it.

To him, it's the only part to play. It's all there in black and white.

“I'd lose interest in hockey if I couldn't play my style,” he said. “I'd fade away.”

Around the AHL

Forward Alex Berry (ex-UMass) was making a strong bid to land a spot with the Portland Pirates. However, a gruesome accident during a practice last week but a quick end to that notion. Berry collided with another player near the boards and wound up with dislocating and breaking his wrist. Making matters worse, the wrist bone broke through the skin, cutting an artery on the way through, resulting in a great amount of blood loss. Quick work by the Pirates training staff prevented what could have been a tragedy, allowing time for Berry to be transported to a nearby hospital. His return this year is in doubt. … The well-seasoned forward corps of the Springfield Falcons got even cagier with the free agent signing of gritty veteran winger Adam Mair. Mair, who has 618 NHL games (Toronto, Los Angeles, Buffalo, New Jersey) to his credit, last played in the AHL back in 2002 while with Manchester.

Dan Hickling can be reached at feedback@hockeyjournal.com.