From Rich Hammond in an interview with Matt Greene about Kyle Clifford, “one bad dude.”
GREENE: “It’s just a guy making the ultimate sacrifice. They’re trying to get the momentum going, and it’s the hardest job in hockey, for sure. He’s a guy who came in here, and both he and Westie [Kevin Westgarth] have done a great job for us this year. I think it’s lost on a lot of people, some of the guys he’s fighting. Thornton, I don’t even know how old he is, but he’s 12, 13 older than him, and there’s no fear. The way he goes about what he does, it’s amazing. It’s amazing to all of us, and you just want to let guys like that know that they’re appreciated and how valuable they are to a team.”
Answer: So that’s palpable on the bench, right? I see you guys banging your sticks on the boards, that sort of thing…
GREENE: “It’s huge. He’s got everybody’s respect in this room. At the same time, you can just tell from the way he approaches the game and the way he battles, that he will do anything for us. I know that I, and I’m sure everybody else in this room, would do the same thing for him, too. It’s amazing to watch him go out there and do it every night, him and Westie. It’s a tough job, and you just want them to know they’re appreciated.”
Kyle Clifford is developing into a very special player. Set aside the pugilistic skills for a moment. He’s 19. He is willing to hit anyone, be hit to keep the play alive, has no fear of going to the net, doesn’t hesitate to shoot when the puck is on his stick and he has a lane, is an excellent skater and, most importantly, has already gained the respect of his teammates. That is leadership in the making. That is a player who, down the road, may become the team’s heart and soul. Think Shane Doan, Brendan Morrow, our own former Adam Deadmarsh or, my favorite analogy to Kyle Clifford, a young Adam Graves.
Some question whether Kyle will be a 20 goal scorer and get to the top 6 forward spot. If his development continues at this pace, I am not sure you could reasonably argue to the contrary. Fortunately, there is no rush. Right now, I enjoy seeing Clifford on the ice. I do wish he would fight a bit less, especially the heavy weights. He’s no goon and I don’t want to see a freak injury set back his development. There is a nice skill set in that bad dude package and Greene is right, Kyle is one bad dude.