Jul 17, 2014, 3:03 PM EDT
But to hear head coach Mike Babcock explain it, the Wings had reason to take a gamble.
“Last year, he didn’t bring anything,” Babcock told Detroit Sports 105.1 radio. “But the year before, he was a key, key component leadership-wise, forechecking-wise, heavy on the puck-wise, just being a heck of a player for us.”
The key to the deal, it seems, is Cleary’s knee. It was a problem throughout last season, forcing him to miss the final 22 games of the regular season and Detroit’s entire five-game playoff loss to Boston in the opening round. Even when he was able to play, the 35-year-old looked a step slow, scoring just four goals and eight points in 52 games, posting a minus-11 rating.
But a summer working with Red Wings trainer Mike Barwis — who Babcock called “the best in the business” — has led the Wings to believe Cleary’s knee issues are a thing of the past, though they’re still cognizant of the risks involved.
“We’ve been told that his knee’s really come on,” Babcock explained. “If he’s on one leg like he was last year, he can’t play on our team. If he’s on two legs, he can help us win.
“Is it going to happen for sure? No. Would we have wasted the money if he can’t play? I guess. Is it a calculated decision and risk on our part? Yes.”
As for Cleary, he says he’s taking the backlash and using it as motivation to make up for what he acknowledged was a disappointing campaign.
“You want to prove people wrong,” Cleary said, per the Detroit News. “My main objective is get healthy and play the way I know I can. Last year was a tough year.”
Sep 1, 2015, 10:11 PM EDT
They were near the bottom of the league in that regard last season.
Sep 1, 2015, 9:03 PM EDT
“The way he offered his house to me shows what kind of person he is.”
Sep 1, 2015, 7:33 PM EDT
They had strong attendance numbers last season too.
Sep 1, 2015, 6:04 PM EDT
The Blues have a vacancy with Patrik Berglund out for at least four months.
Sep 1, 2015, 5:05 PM EDT
A few players have leapfrogged Steven Stamkos.
Sep 1, 2015, 3:35 PM EDT
He played through the injury in 2014-15.
Sep 1, 2015, 2:07 PM EDT
That’s per L.A. GM Dean Lombardi.
Sep 1, 2015, 12:55 PM EDT
Which leaves the question — would they make a move?
Sep 1, 2015, 12:00 PM EDT
He spent all of last season with Lehigh Valley.
Sep 1, 2015, 11:10 AM EDT
Sep 1, 2015, 10:04 AM EDT
Veteran forward heads overseas after appearing in 600-plus NHL contests.
Sep 1, 2015, 9:00 AM EDT
He’s got plenty of potential, but he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself.
Sep 1, 2015, 8:00 AM EDT
Tuesday’s collection of links.
Aug 31, 2015, 10:22 PM EDT
His first game against Boston is scheduled for Feb. 9.
Aug 31, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
The start of his rookie campaign is approaching.
Aug 31, 2015, 7:30 PM EDT
Who will take advantage of the opening?
Aug 31, 2015, 6:00 PM EDT
The two have previously played together on the Czech national team.
Aug 31, 2015, 4:30 PM EDT
Former coach Jeff Daniels is also staying within the organization after being relieved of his AHL coaching duties.
Aug 31, 2015, 3:00 PM EDT
Looking to score an AHL deal.
Aug 31, 2015, 2:12 PM EDT
You can expect this question to be asked throughout the year.
- Report: Hawks feel Kane ‘disrespected’ team, have received trade calls 82
- Hawks’ biggest question: What happens with Patrick Kane? 75
- Hall of Famer Al Arbour passes away 22
- Poll: Who will be San Jose’s next captain? 24
- Mike Richards charged with possession of controlled substance 95
- Gio won’t go: Flames extend Giordano for six years, $40.5M 13
- Pens’ plan for now: Crosby starts as Kessel’s center 25
- O, Dear: Russia fined $85K for skipping Canadian anthem 31
- Kings ink Ehrhoff to a one-year, $1.5 million deal 27
- Quebec City, Vegas advance to final phase of NHL expansion process 50