David Clarkson finally given chance for Maple Leafs debut

John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Spo

It took a while, but David Clarkson will finally debut with the Toronto Maple Leafs on Friday night.

It seemed like David Clarkson was inevitably going to become a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs for a very long time. We all waited for Clarkson to make his debut with those same Maple Leafs later, but that debut was delayed because of a 10-game suspension in the exhibition season after Clarkson jumped the bench to join a fight while trying to protect a valuable teammate.

The wait is finally over.

Clarkson will officially don the Maple Leaf of Toronto (in a game that actually counts) on Friday night. The game will also begin to answer the question of whether Clarkson can ever live up to the massive seven-year, $36.75 million contract he signed this offseason.

When Clarkson had signed with Toronto, the walls of the internet came crumbling down as a healthy portion of the Maple Leafs' fan base panned the decision. Clarkson will annually count for $5.25 million against the salary cap, yet has scored more than 17 goals in a season only one time -- when he recorded 30 in 2011-12. He likely would have eclipsed the 20-goal mark last season, too, had he been afforded the opportunity to play more than 48 games. Then again, he is turning 30 this March and seven years is a long-time from that starting point.

The sentiment remains the same, however: Clarkson hasn't displayed an ability to consistently produce and many wonder if he ever will. That, of course, remains to be seen. What will be interesting to see is whether Clarkson can find ways to contribute beyond the scoresheet -- and do so in a way that those who disagreed with the signing turn over a new leaf.

Can Clarkson display that his style of play makes those around him better? Will he provide a service that few other players can? Will he help the team more times than he hurts them?

Even before Clarkson signed, he was identified as a "Randy Carlyle player." Well, now we'll all have an opportunity to see if that actually means anything.

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