Clifford leaves shovel and trade rumors behind, returning to Kings


Kyle Clifford is a simple man, he makes no bones about it.

From the game he plays on the ice, to the lifestyle he leads off it, there are no secrets. It’s point A to point B and he’s happy every step of the way.

While some of his teammates have been off getting married or taking exciting vacations this summer, the 22-year old forward has been home training by day, relaxing with friends and family by night.

After the Kings were eliminated by the Blackhawks in the Western Conference Final, even Clifford’s return home was as basic as they come.

“I ended up driving back from Los Angeles,” he told MayorsManor. “It took me two days to do that and then I probably took four or five days to relax and get my life in order back home, then I got right back at it and started training.”

It’s a similar routine followed by teammate Colin Fraser, pack up in LA and drive back to Canada.

“I enjoy driving,” Clifford said. “I have a big truck too, so it’s comfortable to drive in. It’s nice to see a bit of the States and across the country. It’s a fun drive, it can be a bit annoying sometimes, but I just enjoy it. I just drive and pretty much have the country music going the whole time, just get in a groove. When I need to sleep, I sleep; and when I need to eat, I eat.”

Keeping it simple, always.

He was quick to point out one major difference compared to Fraser’s road trips though.

“No Nickelback! I know Fraz probably has all their albums blaring the whole way back home, but not me.”

Clifford was also content staying home in his small town outside of Toronto last month, rather than making the hour drive over to London for Drew Doughty’s softball tournament.

“I’m not a baseball player,” he quipped. “I’ll sit on the sidelines and drink a beer.”

Originally drafted by the Kings in the second round at the 2009 NHL Draft, the 6-foot-2, 209 pounder immediately impressed team officials at Development Camp that summer and again a few months later – with then-assistant coach Mark Hardy dubbing him the MVP of Rookie Camp.

When all the talk was centered on top prospect Brayden Schenn a year later, it was Clifford who made the team out of training camp and went on to have a solid rookie season, including being one of the most productive players during the playoffs.

He backed that up with second year numbers nearly equaling his rookie campaign. Unfortunately though, he was injured early in the 2012 playoffs and was limited to just three games while the Kings went on their 16-4 run to the Stanley Cup.

When the lockout hit last fall, Clifford signed on with the ECHL’s Ontario Reign.

“It was really good for me,” he said by phone on Thursday. “It worked out well, as far as finding confidence early. When you’re down at that level, I was playing almost every-other shift. So, I had a chance to work on my development process and conditioning and to get ready. When the lockout ended I was ready to hit the ground running.”

Clifford also credited new LA assistant coach Davis Payne for contributing to his success this year.

“He can definitely critique the game really well. As far as off-ice stuff, like video, he really broke the game down and did a good job with me and made it easy to understand. It just helped my game a lot too.”

With seven goals and 14 points last season, Clifford matched his career high; however, he did it in just 48 games. Yet, even though all the work put in seemed to have paid off, he still believes he has more to offer.

“I just want to continue to work at my game. I don’t want to change it. I want to make my game better and move up the ladder. I want to push for more minutes. I think I can contribute with more than just a fourth line role. That’s my goal. I think if I have that mindset, it will either push guys to be better or it will help the team out in the end.”

It’s also the playoff loss from a few months ago that still stings quite a bit.

“I think we were all on the same page with that loss in Chicago, it hit us pretty hard,” Clifford explained. “It was pretty devastating because we knew the type of team and type of character we had and we knew what we were capable of. Obviously, coming off the Stanley Cup the year before, it was definitely disappointing. I think it adds some motivation to our team’s summer training.”

He’s also a bit introspective about not making it back to the Stanley Cup Final for a second straight year.

“As an individual, you always look back and think of the things that you wish you would have done a little differently or a little better. For that series, I think to be more of a physical presence would have maybe helped it. At the end of the day though, it is what it is. They won and we lost. We just have to be better prepared next season.”

When camp opens in September, the Kings will feature a few new faces, including left wing Dan Carcillo – somebody Clifford will likely be battling for playing time early on.

“He’s a tough player and he knows how to agitate,” Clifford remarked. “He does his job really well. I think he’s one of the best in the game at what he does, as far as agitation goes. He knows how to get under team’s skins. So, I’m looking forward to playing with him.”

Perhaps being part of the Kings almost didn’t come to pass though. Various credible sources said the King were shopping him recently, with Edmonton and Montreal two of the teams he was most commonly liked to.

Part of that makes sense. As reported all summer, the Kings are up against the salary cap and after picking up Carcillo – who will likely make about half of what Clifford will next year – it was a reasonable assumption.

Still, Clifford and his agent continued to press forward.

“I left a bit of that process to him,” Clifford explained. “Obviously, I wanted to take part in it. But, when we discussed it on the phone, after the call ended, I’d just leave it alone and let him worry about it instead of me stressing about it.”

They now have a two-year deal in place, as we reported earlier today.

As for the money, well, Clifford probably said it best – “Whatever it ends up being, it’s going to be good money; better than shoveling shit for $10-an-hour, like I used to do when I was a teenager.”

And those trade rumors?

“You can’t invest too much time into those things and start stressing yourself out. I really took it with a grain of salt. I’m set on being a King. I love our team, I love our core group and I think we’re going to win more Stanley Cups.”

RELATED CONTENT:

Confirmed: Kings have new deal in place with Kyle Clifford

Exclusive: Clifford is leaving LA, taking his talents to Ontario

Trevor Lewis is thinking of fighting Kyle Clifford tonight?

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Comments

  1. lakingsphan0427 says:

    I love the last paragraph and yes I hope we win a few more cups..

  2. Lamothness says:

    Gotta love how these players talk about their team. Really shows you their character. Can’t wait until next season!

  3. John Coktostone says:

    Cliffy is a winner. I am glad he’s staying a Los Angeles Kings player.

  4. Crown Royal says:

    It was not surprising that DL kept Clifford rather than trading him. KC is both tough and mobile, a nice combination to have in any player.

    I’ve heard KC being compared by Kings fans to Darren McCarty on more than one occasion, most recently after he re-signed. There are certain similarities. KC and McCarty are about the same size (though McCarty may have been a little heavier) and both would be considered bottom six wingers with grit more than being top-six goal scorers. No player drafted by DL has improved his skating as much as Clifford. He’s got a long skating stride which enables him to reach players and make hits (like DB) that many other players wouldn’t be able to make. However, I’m not sure he has the offensive potential that McCarty displayed for awhile, at least, with the Wings. That’s a question that DL and the Kings are most likely pondering as well.

    The year after Detroit was beaten in the finals by the Jacque Lemaire trapping Devils, McCarty went to Sweden and worked very hard one-on-one with Thomas Storm, a famous Swedish developmental coach at Hammarby (later owned by AEG). He turned himself into a better player with Storm’s help. I watched him (my son was playing in the Hammarby hockey youth section at the time) and spoke with McCarty at some length while he was there. He simply could not accept the fact the Wings had been beaten and wanted to win the Cup so badly he flew to Sweden to work on his game. Nick Lidstrom was also there, not to improve himself, but rather to support McCarty’s efforts. Lidstrom was that kind of leader and, by the way, the nicest hockey player I’ve ever met. McCarty went on the next season to score 19 goals and score the game winning goal of the finals as the Wings swept the Flyers to take the Cup. DL has talked often about the Wings being a model for the Kings as that’s just an example of the kind of dedication and leadership the Wings had during those years.

    KC has skating ability and shows up every shift. He definitely needs to work on his puck skills. I’m hoping he and the Kings find ways to get the most out of his offensive potential. He’s still young enough that he might become a player who can score 15-20 goals a season and play his way into the top six on a consistent basis. Only time will tell.

    • I think KC can be a lot like Brendan Shanahan was… a tough guy early on but then a true leader that contributed on the score sheet as well…

  5. Clifford is a beast. Glad he got a two year deal. The Colonel works his butt off on the ice for the Kings.

Trackbacks

  1. [...] reported by John Hoven over at Mayors Manor, and later made official by Jon Rosen and the Kings front office, 22 year-old forward [...]

  2. [...] Clifford tells John Hoven of Mayor’s Manor his particular grounded way to look at being a professional athlete and being not bothered by how large his paycheck is. [...]

  3. [...] Clifford leaves shovel and trade rumors behind, returning to Kings [...]

  4. [...] Clifford leaves shovel and trade rumors behind, returning to Kings [...]