Should David Clarkson Receive More Offensive Zone Starts?

Peter DeBoer could help Clarkson find his offensive game by giving him more offensive scenarios.

Last Saturday, David Clarkson scored a huge goal against the Nashville Predators, tying the game at 2-2 and keeping the Devils in the game. While it was pretty big for the Devils in that game, it was also somewhat of a big goal for Clarkson, as his first few games weren't that great. He let Flyers pest Zac Rinaldo get under his skin, while in the Carolina and LA games he wasn't really noticeable, and failed to cash in on a breakaway against LA. He didn't have a great start to the Predators game either, taking a 5 minute major which lead to two Predators goals on the Powerplay. Of course, the goal did give him some confidence going forward, and he could be able to build on it.

Of course, while one goal might not mean he'll start scoring more (he might just play better but not score), there are other ways to try and help improve a player's offense. One method, which Vancouver Canucks coach Mike Gillis used was giving Henrik Sedin and Daniel Sedin more offensive zone starts so they'd only have to worry about offense. The results were very good- in the last two years a Sedin has won the Art Ross trophy (Henrik in 2010, Daniel in 2011). While increasing Clarkson's offensive zone starts might not make him an Art Ross trophy winner, it might be a way to help him improve his point production.

First, I want to look at his zone starts over the last few years, and how he's fared in terms of even strength production. Data comes from Behindthenet.ca

Season

GP

Ozone Start %

ES Points/60

2007-08

81

48.9

1.29

2008-09

82

50.7

1.81

2009-10

46

51.6

1.95

2010-11

82

49.3

0.98

2011-12

4

47.6

1.25*

*approximate estimation- Behindthenet hasn't updated the data with the stats from game 4, so I had to calculate it myself.

So far in his career, you can see a trend. The more Ozone starts Clarkson gets, the better his even strength production is. Some data might be a bit skewed- he may have had a lower ozone start% in 2007-08, but  the 2010-11 Devils were not very good in terms of goal scoring and shooting percentage.

While there's no guarantee this will make him more effective on the power play, it should help his even strength scoring. Clarkson hasn't been a massive contributor when it comes to the power play, but at even strength he has been a pretty effective scorer. The two seasons he's had more than 50% of his zone starts in the offensive zone, he's been able to produce points at a higher rate vs his lower rate of point production with a less offensive zone starts.

Considering that it's only four games into the season, DeBoer might end up giving him more offensive zone starts. For comparison's sake, Zach Parise, Patrik Elias and Petr Sykora are only starting in the Ozone around 33% of the time. I'd assume some numbers are probably going to go up as the season progresses. If the Devils continue to be a good puck possession team, Clarkson should be able to pick up a few more offensive zone starts.

An added benefit of more offensive zone starts- his skating problems won't nearly be as apparent if the team can maintain possession in the ozone. Having to move up the ice with more defensive zone starts doesn't help considering that he's not the fastest guy on the ice and he does fall over quite a bit. Offensive zone starts should help him. Plus more offensive zone starts does simplify the game as he doesn't have to worry about defense as much as he would if he was receiving a lot of defensive zone starts.

While it's not something that will make Clarkson a very good scorer, it should be something DeBoer should consider doing considering that he likes to utilize Clarkson quite a lot. While it 's not going to guarantee success in making him a better offensive player, it should at least help him be effective at offense again.

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