When the Detroit Red Wings signed Daniel Cleary last season, I told Detroit general manager Ken Holland that it was going to be an unpopular move with the fans.
Holland looked at me and said, "Who do I listen to on Cleary, the fans or the guys in the room, my players and my coach?
"Everybody wanted me to bring Cleary back."
That was then, this is now, and not much has changed in one year.
Despite the objection of the fans, the consternation of the pundits and the dissent from within the Wings organization, Cleary is a Red Wing once again for at least another year.
I am not a fan of this move.
However, as my father used to tell me when I was upset about a situation out of my control, "Arthur, people in hell want ice water."
So it’s time to move on and figure out how the Cleary signing was brought about and what it means for the Wings.
Holland made a verbal agreement to re-sign Cleary, and honored his word.
Cleary will be on the Wings roster, but have to earn his ice time. He could very well be the 14th forward on a roster of 14 forwards, and find himself a healthy scratch more times than he’s in the lineup.
When Cleary’s signing would pose a problem and have the fans in an uproar is if Detroit inks Daniel Alfredsson to a new deal. This move would balloon the roster to 15 forwards, one more than the Wings want to carry.
Tomas Jurco would be the odd man out.
Jurco would have to begin the season in Grand Rapids since he doesn’t have to clear waivers, drawing comparisons to Gustav Nyquist last season. And the finger of blame will once again be pointed to Cleary.
What could complicate matters even more is if Anthony Mantha and/or Teemu Pulkkinen look strong in training camp and the preseason.
Holland is very aware of how Cleary’s signing is being received, but is not too concerned with the reaction. At the end of the day, this is his team and he calls the shots.
Cleary is also in tune with the overwhelming criticism.
"Everybody is entitled to their opinion. You try not to let any of the negativity -â or the positive comments â- affect you," Cleary said. "We live in the day of social media, anyone can say anything. You can’t worry about what people think. You got to do what you do."
I find Cleary’s comments extremely interesting. He’s an astute guy and is well aware that many people in the Wings organization have stuck their necks out for him.
It’s now up to Cleary to "do what you do," which is help the Wings win hockey games, because that’s the bottom line in a bottom line business.
However, if Cleary cannot contribute and his skills have eroded, it’s up to him to be a stand-up guy and walk away from the game.
He owes that to Holland, his coach, his teammates and to Wings fans.