Ahead of their home opener, the Toronto Marlies have announced that veteran forward Rich Clune has been named the ninth captain in franchise history. From the official press release:
Clune, 33, has recorded two goals in eight games this season. In his six seasons with Toronto, he has registered 45 points (20 goals, 25 assists) in 172 regular season games. The Toronto native has appeared in 20 playoff games for the Marlies, collecting five points (2 goals, 3 assists) and capturing the Calder Cup in 2018. He has served as an alternate captain for the past five seasons. Clune has played more than 600 games at the NHL and AHL levels since being selected by the Dallas Stars in the third round (71st overall) of the 2005 NHL Draft.
“Rich has been an integral member of our leadership group for the past six seasons,” said Laurence Gilman, Toronto Marlies General Manager. “From his first day with our organization, Rich’s strong character, positive mindset and unwavering leadership has made him an exceptional member of our team. His influence has touched each and every Marlies graduate and he continues to inspire our young players on and off the ice. We are excited to see Rich continue to develop, and along with our leadership group, provide invaluable support and guidance.”
The Toronto Marlies are the primary development program for the Toronto Maple Leafs. The current Toronto Maple Leafs roster features eight players who were developed with the Marlies (Travis Dermott, Pierre Engvall, Justin Holl, Zach Hyman, William Nylander, Timothy Liljegren, Morgan Rielly and Joseph Woll).
The Marlies have been without a captain since Ben Smith left the organization after their 2017/18 Calder Cup victory. Previous full-time captains include Smith, Andrew Campbell, Troy Bodie, Trevor Smith, Ryan Hamilton, Alex Foster, Ben Ondrus, and Marc Moro. Clune has, on occasion, worn the “C” for one-off nights, and has been an Alternate Captain with the team since joining them 2015/16.
There is no better choice, especially this year, for the honour. Clune has been the team’s most vocal leader, on the ice and off, for several years, helping the team in just about any way possible. From his work ethic on the ice and in the weight room, to passing along what he’s learned through his personal growth to others, to defending his teammates on the ice, he has been the heart and soul of the team since joining them. His values have rubbed off on players who have graduated to the Leafs as well, making him a valuable piece of the organization on the whole.
Many players will tell you that, in a lot of ways, Clune has already been the unofficial captain of the team for quite some time now – which likely plays into them not announcing anyone over the last two years. The reasoning against giving him the distinction has always been in how frequently he draws in, as a combination of injuries, deep forward depth and the AHL veteran rule has often forced him to be on the outside looking in. After playing 83 organizational games in 2015/16, his workload fell to the 40 game range in the following two years and just a combined 31 games in his last two.
This year has been much different, however. Clune is healthy, and the organization obviously hasn’t been contract-heavy given the pandemic. This allows for Clune to get regular reps on the 4th line and the penalty kill, and he’s played in all eight games so far this season. Suffice to say, he’ll be a regular in the lineup for the first time since his first season, and after years of sacrificing his spot for the good of the team, he gets to return with his rightful spot on the proverbial throne ready for him.
Joining him in the leadership group are Tyler Gaudet and Kenny Agostino. Both are in their second year with the organization and are among their most heavily-used forwards in that time span. The 28-year old Agostino was previously an alternate captain with the Laval Rocket, while the 27-year-old Gaudet is in this sort of role for the first time since being the captain of – in a fun turn of events – Sheldon Keefe’s Pembroke Lumber Kings in 2012/13.