Rich Clune Season Review: The History of Tenacious Dicky

"Oh, hi there Mr. Corvo, I think you dropped something, let me help you." Rich Clune puts Ottawa Senators forward Joe Corvo on his wallet at Bridgestone Arena on January 11, 2014. - Frederick Breedon

Let's get something out of the way up front: I'm a Clunatic™, and I really don't care what you think.

The man. The myth. The legend. Dicky Clune.

[Language NSFW]

The Stats

GP Goals Assists Points +/- PIM Shoot %
58 3 4 7 -7 166 10.3
5-5 Pts/60 CF% CF% rel Sh% Sv% PDO Pen +/- per 60
0.88 47.10% -1.0% 5.70% 91.90% 97.6 -0.4

Season Summary

In an exclusive interview with OTF last fall, Preds forward Rich Clune told us that he tries to model his game after his hockey idol, the legendary and trollish agitator-turned-fashion and marketing executive Sean Avery. "I was not given the gifts to be the best goal scorer in the league, and that's okay," Clune told us in October. "But I do have the gifts to be the best agitator." Clune led the Predators with 166 PIMs in the 2013-2014 campaign, and finished 2nd overall in the NHL in fighting majors with 16 (just three fights behind Vancouver Canucks bad boy Tom Sestito), but a negative Penalty Plus/Minus per 60 minutes suggests he's got some work to do in the agitating area. A really effective agitator will draw more penalties than he commits, and that wasn't the case with #16, on balance, during the 2013-2014 campaign. (Note: fighting majors do not factor into Penalty Plus/Minus since they cancel each other out on the ice.)

The Toronto native's offensive production dipped a bit this season, too, notching one fewer goal and one fewer assist than he put up in a fewer number of games played in the lockout-shortened 2013 demi-season. That may be because he took 33% fewer shots this season than last, and it may also be that he spent the bulk of this season on the Wagon Line, which was comprised of players whose primary jobs entail grinding and wearing down opponents with physical play, ahem, on the forecheck. (See what I did there?)

After a temporary hiatus last summer, the Nashville Predators' best Twitter account, @richcluneshow, resurfaced. The cryptic Clune also added Instagram stills and videos to his online repertoire during the 2013-2014 season, once he ditched his former Blackberry for an iPhone. That's true Nashville grit, by the way.

The Clune family also featured in the 2013-2014 campaign here at OTF, as Rich's famously cheery and generous-of-spirit mother Anne Marie Clune also gave us an exclusive interview last fall via telephone from Toronto, Ontario, when we covered recent developments of the Ford Center in Antioch, TN, a collaboration between the Nashville Predators and Metro government. Mrs. Clune shared her personal insights with us on what it takes to be a hockey mom, in terms of resources, time, energy, and granting children the autonomy to grow and pursue their passions. She and her husband Tom, who will celebrate 28 years of marriage this coming Saturday*, have raised one NHLer (Rich), one ECHLer (Matt), and one collegiate baseball player (Ben), who currently attends the University of the South (Sewanee), just 88 miles down I-24 Eastbound from Nashville.

Highlight Moment

The debate over fighting's place in the pro game will rage on for years to come, I predict, and some of our beloved OTF community railed against Clune this year for being a "staged fight" kind of guy. But "The Code," for better or worse, makes bullies pay a price for their behavior, and #16 took an instigator penalty and a game misconduct to fight his friend Daniel Carcillo over a dirty knee-on-knee hit on blossoming Preds defenseman Roman Josi:

But more than just dropping the mitts when necessary, Clune's "team guy" street cred-- er, "ice cred" extended to rookie forward Colton Sissons's first NHL marker. This video doesn't reflect it well, but Clune, who assisted on the tally, was the first Predator on the ice to skate directly to the linesman, after sharing a hug and celebrating with Sissons, to retrieve the game puck for the young forward.

It's hard to hire that kind of thoughtfulness in any organization these days, much less in a pro sports organization, where ego-centrism dominates the culture. Good looking out, Dicky.

The Road Ahead

Last summer, a full year before his current contract would expire, General Manager David Poile re-signed Clune to a 2-year, $1.7 million extension. The term of that extension will begin on July 1, 2014, so Clune will don Predator Gold for two more seasons, each with a cap hit of $850,000. Here he is talking to media at Bridgestone Arena on May 14 about the recent hire of new Head Coach Peter Laviolette, after Clune and forward Patric Hornqvist helped the Predators Foundation announce over $400,000 in grant awards for 2014:

You can hear him say here again, similar to what he told us in October, "I'm not a player that's called upon to provide the bulk of the offense, but I love offensive zone pressure, being physical, and chasing teams down, and I think [hiring Laviolette] is going to help everybody's game." Having a hard-nosed agitator in the lineup to wreak havoc on the forecheck and in the neutral zone is not incompatible with the run-and-gun style of offensive system we should be expecting next year out of the Laviolette-led Preds. Rich Clune gets a bad rap for some of his antics, but he's a role player who was signed for his specific skill set, to do a job that needs doing in today's game.

It's not Clune's fault that Colin Wilson can't seem to finish, or that David Poile signed a free agent goaltender who had only started one NHL game prior to last season in Carter Hutton to back up all that Pekka Rinne brings to the table in case of the emergency that unfortunately happened. By way of comparison, former Preds winger Darcy Hordichuk played 53 games in 2006-2007, scored a lone goal and added three helpers, was -2 on the season, and amassed 90 PIMs. The Predators finished that season with 110 points -- the highest in franchise history -- with a regular season goal differential of +60.

I, for one, look forward to seeing how Clune continues to develop in Nashville, and how (or if) he elevates his game under a new coach in a new, up-tempo system. It seems like, with just a hair more discipline, the upward arc to Avery-ness could steepen more quickly for Clune. And with a hair more goals from the rest of the lineup -- guys who are paid to do it -- a lot of criticism of Clune will fade to black.

OTF Staff Grades

This review has gone on longer than most, so call me a homer or whatever, but I think Rich Clune is a great human being, and I think he's a great fit for the city of Nashville and for this organization. Statistics -- even #fancystats -- can tell us a lot about a player and the game, but as Nassim Nicholas Taleb observed in his tome on the limits of the power of prediction, The Black Swan, they can't explain or predict everything at all times. (See also Nate Silver's The Signal and the Noise.)

Burrito supreme, and a chicken supreme, and a Cutlass Supreme....

Dirk C
Jon C
Jason C
George B+
Jeremy D

*An earlier version of this piece reported that Tom and Anne Marie Clune had already celebrated their 28th wedding anniversary. We regret the error, and this piece has been updated to reflect the timing of their forthcoming celebration this weekend.

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