Connor Clifton in 2022
Key stats: 60 GP, 2G, 8A, 10PTS
Other stats: 156 hits, 53.8% CF (5v5), 1G/1A in the playoffs
Reader rating: 5.7
Writer rating: 5
Connor Clifton’s reader/writer ratings for this season put him firmly in “average” territory.
Overall, he joins a handful of Bruins players in having a season that you wouldn’t necessarily say was horrible, but it certainly wasn’t as good as you’d hoped for.
Clifton existed in kind of a tough spot on the Bruins’ roster last season, as he seemed to be pretty consistently on the bubble.
Bruce Cassidy had a number of options on the back end, particularly at the start of the season, which gave him the ability to rotate guys in and out based on performance.
And at the early part of the season, Clifton was one of those guys who was rotated out. He had a clanger or two at the start of the year and found himself on Level 9, before eventually getting back into the mix.
Ultimately, Clifton played more often than not, skating in 60 regular season games.
He has his ups (career highs in games played and points) and his downs (a few “you’ve gotta sit” scratches after some noticeably poor games).
At his best, Clifton’s brand of “Cliffy Hockey” is both entertaining and effective: his style of play can border on chaotic, whether rushing the puck or tossing his small (for a hockey player) frame around with reckless abandon.
When he’s “on,” it’s fun to watch — but when he’s not quite on, whether it’s with careless pinches or sloppy giveaways, it can be glaringly obvious.
While it remains to be seen how things shake out roster-wise once the B’s are fully healthy, Clifton will likely find himself in a similar bubble spot this season.
It’s not really a knock on him either, as it’s reality for depth defensemen — if you’re not an established top-four guy, your grip on ice time can always be a bit tenuous.
Still, Clifton should have a chance to show his stuff to Jim Montgomery in the early part of the season, particularly as Charlie McAvoy and Matt Grzelcyk recover.
It should be a great opportunity for Clifton to make an impression on his new coach, and to give Montgomery something to think about when he has all of his defensemen available.
I think it’s safe to say that most of us enjoy watching “peak Clifton” play.
If he can clean up some of the more careless aspects of his game while continuing to do what makes him effective, we may see him once again set a new career high in games played.
If the mistakes continue, it’ll be another season on the bubble, which isn’t the worst place to be.