Rich Clune – ‘Not a lot of guys here will win the scoring title’

Clune at Kings training camp (photo: CIKIRI)

Take the following players on NHL contracts: Trevor Lewis, Ethan Moreau, Scott Parse, Brad Richardson, Jarret Stoll, Kevin Westgarth…add in prospects Brandon Kozun, Andrei Loktionov and Tyler Toffoli…then top it off with Trent Hunter, who is in camp on a tryout deal…what do you have?

Ten players vying for six spots total on the Kings third and fourth lines for the upcoming season.

Now, add Rich Clune to that list.

“Sure, the odds are against me. Bring it on, I don’t care. I’m not going to quit and go to Europe. This is what you play for, right?”

It was an interesting opening comment from Clune, not only because it showed pure raw-emotion towards what he’s up against, but also nearly picked up right where we left off the last time we spoke.

Back in July, Clune visited MayorsManor, during a time period when several Kings prospects were in the midst of leaving their AHL affiliate in Manchester and signing contracts over in Europe – something he had attributed to a disastrous combination of “the mighty dollar…a bit of an ego thing…and maybe a little frustration.”

All valid points, but things Clune said he’s willing to overlook for the time being.

When you’re speaking with the 24-year old left wing, you usually have to separate the sarcasm from the truth, and this time was no different.

“I don’t think I’d like the food over there anyway,” he said.

Putting that aside, he’s taking a different approach to the difficult road many must travel to reach the NHL.

“I’m here to see it out. I want to make this team just as bad as anybody else. I’ll go through a wall for anybody here,” Clune explained.

“I love this team and I owe a lot to the management and coaching staff for giving me my shot two years ago. I think I’ve come a long way as a player, on the ice and off the ice.” Then, as if stating his case, he added “I think I’m definitely better than I was when I played here (14 games during the 2009-10 season).”

Don’t think he’s just coasting through camp though, with some sort of ‘whatever happens, happens’ attitude. In fact, he’s already thinking ahead to a possible Gordie Howe hat-trick in a few weeks.

“In a perfect world, I make this team and I start on opening day, maybe kick the (bleep) out of someone, score a goal,” Clune shared. “I think I can make an impact in this league.”

Making the team this year isn’t about personal goals for him though. He sees himself as a ‘team first’ guy and has already seen a similar change around the locker room during Kings camp the last few weeks.

“The feeling here is that you want to do anything you can to push this team in the right direction.” said Clune. “You can tell this team is going to go somewhere this year.”

And even though the Kings have yet to play their first game of the new season, he’s already figured out how this year’s squad will be judged in the future.

“There aren’t a lot of guys in here who are going to win the scoring title – maybe Anze Kopitar. But, everyone else is going to be judged based upon the team’s success and they’re going to be able to live their lives as champions, hopefully.”

For him, the answer is simple – “I’d rather be on a team that has 23 guys looking to be champions, (instead of with) a couple of guys trying to win the scoring title.”

To be the ultimate team player, part of it is about knowing your role. This is an area Clune surmises the players have started to figure out.

“I think everyone here knows what they want and knows what they have to do – from the draft picks up to the guys who are going to play. For a guy like me, it’s kind of like being a Navy SEAL. You never know when you’re going to get thrown into action, right?”

In his first exhibition action on Wednesday vs the Coyotes, he played about eight minutes and led all Kings players with four hits.

So, what’s his mental approach from here on out?

“I have nothing to lose. I know what it’s like to be cut and I know what it’s like to make the team. I’m just going to leave it all on the ice. It’s in God’s hands.”

Which are hopefully more gentle than Clune’s fists.

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