Former Leafs captain Wendel Clark
Photo credit: Sportsnet

Leafs legend Wendel Clark shares thoughts on what is needed to win in the playoffs

Published February 6, 2024 at 11:01
BY MATT GARLAND

Former NHLer Wendel Clark was one of the toughest and most beloved Leafs of all-time. Clark's game had it all; he could score, deliver crushing hits and defended his teammates when it needed to be done. Bar none, he was one of the fiercest competitors to have ever donned the blue and white.

Clark joined the NHL Network's crew at the All-Star weekend festivities for an interview. Among the topics discussed, was the current state of the game and how valuable physicality is to a team's overall success come playoff time. Surprisingly, Clark seems to believe that the playoffs during his time were very similar to how they're played now.

"In the playoffs I don't think it changed that much. If you watched the finals last year, that was as rough a final [as you'll see]. You need all styles and all kinds of players to get you there. You have to have that element because there's four rounds. It's best of seven.

You play one way all year, but then you may change styles because teams and good coaching change the way they are playing against you. You have to have part of your lineup that wears the other team down to give your good players the chance to play well."




When looking at how this current Leafs team is constructed, you would be hard pressed to find a player that has the style of play that Clark believes wins in the playoffs. It's no coincidence that it took the franchise 19 years to break their first round drought. Yes, they've added Ryan Reaves, Tyler Bertuzzi and Max Domi, but Reaves is not likely a playoff regular, Bertuzzi isn't showing the same level of productivity that we've come to expect from him, and Domi's defensive shortcomings won't land him any minutes against top competition in an attempt to exploit matchups at home.

Aside from Reaves, neither of the other two players are going to strike fear into the hearts of the opposition, and unfortunately for Reaves, his offensive and defensive skills aren't good enough to keep him in the lineup consistently, let alone good enough to play against anything other than the other team's 4th liners on any given night.

It's no secret that this team has lacked "team toughness" in the past. If they want to have any sort of sustained playoff success, they'll all need to channel their inner Wendel Clark in hopes of fighting their way into a position where the can compete for a Stanley Cup. If they can't find that fire and that passion and add that to their game come playoff time, this may be another long summer in Toronto. Let's hope the team was paying attention to what Clark had to say this past weekend.
POLL
February 6   |   956 answers
Leafs legend Wendel Clark shares thoughts on what is needed to win in the playoffs

Do you think this Leafs team, as it's currently constructed, can play a nasty, physical game that can win you a Stanley Cup?

Yes, but they need to commit to team toughness15616.3 %
No, this team isn't wired that way63966.8 %
They're only 1 or 2 pieces away16116.8 %
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