Rich Clune Season Preview: Is the Statue Ready Yet?

Robert Mayer-USA TODAY Sports

Acquired from the Los Angeles Kings via waivers on January 15, 2013, just prior to the lockout-shortened season, Nashville Predators forward and Twitter bad boy Rich Clune quickly endeared himself to the coaches, management, and fans, earning himself a two-year, $1.7 million contract extension this summer. The new contract won't go into effect until next year, so what should we expect this season?

As Dirk noted over on the OTF Facebook page last night (have you given us a "Like" over there yet?), Rich Clune can definitely scrap, but unlike a traditional enforcer, he's in the Predators lineup to play some actual hockey. Clune played in 47 of 48 regular season games last year, potting 4 goals and adding 5 helpers. He also logged 113 PIMs, good for 5th in the entire NHL, and he led Nashville in fighting majors. His 159 hits were good for 6th most in the NHL.

Clune also scored the 8th penalty shot goal in Predators franchise history against his beloved Dallas Stars (the team that drafted him in 2005) on March 12:

That goal -- and the post-game interview Clune gave following it -- gave birth to the #100percentnolie hashtag on Twitter, but don't expect him to contribute much offensively in the upcoming season. Expect a hard-hitting, gritty third or fourth line role, and likely some fisticuffs. That is, after all, what earned him a two-year contract extension a year before his current contract expires. Expect also some great Internet trolling of the Dallas Stars organization . . . that is, until they finally build him a statue, and commence daily worship accordingly.

Of course, the broader storyline around Rich Clune is the human interest story of his career. Last season in a tell-all with ESPN's Scott Burnside, Clune recounted his struggles with and recovery from alcoholism and addiction (original feature here). The Predators in-house media team also produced a video vignette this summer, narrated by radio play-by-play man Tom Callahan, on Clune's career, which is well worth your time:

When he wasn't negotiating his contract extension this summer, Clune took to Facebook to raise money for Renascent, the treatment center in Toronto, Ontario where he began his recovery.

I can't really overstate what a premium GMDP appears to place on the kind of leadership a person who has faced the throes of alcoholism and addiction, and won out, brings to a locker room. The 2013-2014 Nashville Predators, like every squad before them, will face considerable adversity throughout the season: injuries will occur at inopportune times, a goal-starved offense will lay a few eggs, and a handful of 1-goal games will go the wrong way. Someone like Clune (or Brian McGrattan or Jordin Tootoo in years past) can help the rest of the team keep perspective, and remind them that seasons are won one day, one game, one shift at a time, and each provides an opportunity to make a change for the better. Look to Clune to offer that perspective when duty calls.

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