February 04, 2009

Scott Clemmensen Finally Feels Like He Belongs

I had the opportunity to watch much of the Washington-New Jersey clash last night, won by the Capitals. New Jersey did not look great in this game, which is not only uncharacteristic, but unfortunate for me as it was my first time watching the Devils this year.

I try to watch every team twice a year, no easy task, especially while trying to keep my girlfriend happy. New Jersey was the only team I had yet to see. Not withstanding last night, they look like a contender this year.

Goaltender Scott Clemmensen is a great story, filling in more than admirably for the injured Martin Brodeur. Most experts, including myself, thought the Devils season was in serious jeopardy, but thanks to Clemmensen they are comfortably in the upper echelon of the Eastern Conference.

When I think of Clemmensen I always think of the great article he wrote (with the help of Rich Chere) in The Hockey News a couple of years back about life as Brodeur's back up. He rarely got to play. In fact, he played in just 19 games in two seasons as Brodeur's back up between 2005 and 2007.

Here's what he said about playing so little:
It’s hard enough to get to the NHL. When you get here and don’t have an opportunity to play, it can be even harder. It’s not enough to just be in the NHL regardless of how much money you’re being paid. I use the term “in the NHL” loosely. It’s not like I really feel part of it. I don’t play enough games. I don’t feel like I’m “in the NHL.”
But Clem remained a good teammate and did everything that was asked of him, even if it was only in practice. And he and Brodeur always got along.
There is no strain between Marty and myself just because there’s no competing. When Minnesota had Dwayne Roloson and Manny Fernandez fighting for the No. 1 job, their relationship was competitive. It would be like that if I wasn’t here and they had a guy who was used to playing and didn’t understand the situation.
But when he did get a rare chance to play, Clemmensen admitted he was never able to show his best stuff, not matter how good of a teammate he was.
But that doesn’t make the job any easier. You can’t be good at it. Nobody’s good at not playing all the time. You just have to deal with it. And when you do get in and play, it’s impossible to play at your absolute best. That’s a fact.
He also answered the curious question as to why he has twice resigned with the Devils.

People ask me why I re-signed with the Devils since I was an unrestricted free agent. Well, I’m kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. No team has seen me play enough to build my credibility or to garner a lot of interest. Other teams have goalies in the minors who get called up for injury reasons and they play more than me. So why would a team sign me when I’ve played less games in the NHL and I’m five years older than those other guys? That’s the place I’m stuck in.

Take David Leneveu and Phoenix, for example. Why would they bring me in? He’s played more games than I have this season.

If I want to be in the NHL, I have to sign here. It’s because of the lack of exposure. Nobody knows about me. I was drafted by New Jersey in the eighth round of my second year of eligibility.
It will be interesting to see if Clemmensen gets any interest this summer. Even more interesting could be the goaltending controversy that will erupt in New Jersey if Brodeur needs time to get his game back. Come playoff time, do you go with a struggling Brodeur, or the Clemmensen?


Gary Bellman said...

It's too bad for this year at least that Scott will be back to number 2 soon after Brodeur returns. But now, at least, the ill wind of Brodeur's injury has blown some good to Clemmensen and the Devils in that there is now an heir to the throne. I watch a lot of Devils games and SC has been great.

(If your girlfriend knew your calling soon after you started going out and objects to you watching hockey...)

Anonymous said...

i hope Clemmensen gets interest this summer... from Brodeur and the Devils. best case scenario for all involved is for Brodeur to tell Lamoriello that in order to fulfill his contract he should only play 60 games and Clemmensen should play the rest. that would keep Brodeur fresh for the playoffs and get Clemmensen into the net every fourth game.

vdkhanna said...

Joe, I highly recommend that you watch more of Devils hockey! Once Brodeur returns, you may very well be looking at the team that will hoist the Cup in June!