Boston Bruins defenseman Connor Clifton has a whole lot of heart and grit —second on the team in hits per game (2.9) and fifth on the team in blocks per game (1.1), respectively — but, as reality would have it, not much else.
Despite the 26-year old Long Branch, NJ native’s chippy and aggressive style of play, at 5-foot-11 and 175-pounds, Clifton is neither a defensive stud nor a reliable (or semi-reliable) point-producer from the blue-line. Which is a bit maddening when you consider the fact that, as a top-six blueliner on the third pair defensive unit, he is typically playing against opposing teams’ weakest offensive and/or defensive players on a nightly basis.
So far, this season, Clifton has just two points (one goal and one assist) with a -2 rating in 26 games and 16:31 TOI per game. In his four-year NHL career with the B’s, he has 12 points (four goals and eight assists) in 120 games. Neither stat line, no matter how one breaks it down or comes at it from all manner of different angles and opinions, is going to get it done.
Clifton try as he might, does not have enough on defense
Plus, one could argue Clifton being traded would be mutually beneficial for him, too. The undersized Bruins defender, known for having an offensive game in college, would likely revert back to that style if moved to a club in dire need of a two-way, if not straight-up offensive, defenseman.
There is no shortage of NHL teams that could use a puck-moving rearguard. Especially one with an offensive pedigree, like 56 career points (19 goals and 37 assists) in 156 games through four seasons at Quinnipiac University. Of course, it is not that he was Adam Fox-like in college, he wasn’t, not even close even, but 50+ points at the Division I level of NCAA competition is nothing to sneeze at either.
On the latest episode of the CLNS Media Network’s Bruins Beat with Evan Marinofsky, B’s reporter Ty Anderson of 98.5 The Sports Hub, essentially said as much (and a whole lot more). You can watch that episode here.
Now while Derek Forbort also leaves a lot to be desired in his defensive play, he at least has an on-ice presence at 6-foot-4 and 219-pounds that Clifton simply does not. On top of that, with a yearly salary of just $900K (at a cap hit of $1M), the ex-2013 draft pick is making peanuts with the B’s anyway.
Finally, given his “junkyard dog” role on the team and the way in which he has to play in Bruce Cassidy’s system, one might conclude that, for all we know, the 26-year old may just actually want to get out of dodge already.