He isn’t the Toronto Maple Leafs’ top goal scorer, nor does he play the most minutes, but with injuries to a pair of the team’s centres, Jay McClement’s role may be expanding.
While that’s fine with the Kingston, Ontario native, don’t expect the quiet veteran to boast or make a big deal about it. You see, Jay McClement likes to blend in — he doesn’t much care about being the centre of attention.
“It is perfect for me,” said the 30-year-old. “With my personality, I just put my head down and work hard.”
But with injuries to centres Tyler Bozak and David Bolland, McClement could be asked to play even a bigger role. In typical McClement fashion he’s downplaying things.
“Maybe I will play more on the PK (penalty kill),” McClement said. “Tyler (Bozak) was always out there to start the PK. The last 3 games I’ve been taking more draws.
“I just prepare the same way every night. I could play a lot less or a lot more. You have to prepare either way.”
“Jay Mac has always been a big piece of our puzzle,” said Cody Franson. “He can play first or fourth line. He’s very versatile.”
“What he does on the ice is almost secondary to what he does for the young guys in here,” added Franson. “He leads off the ice. He’s great with the kids. A true pro.”
Prior to McClement’s arrival as a free agent in the summer of 2012, the Leafs’ penalty killing was among the league’s worst — 28th in 2011-2012. Last season, thanks in large part to McClement, the Leafs’ PK was second best in the league.
This season he leads all NHL forwards in shorthanded ice time with a total of 65:23 — 4:42 per game — and again Toronto’s penalty killing is top five.
“Obviously it is a big responsibility. I take a lot of pride in it,” said McClement. “It’s something you can do a lot of scouting video on.”
“In Vancouver he was out for the full two minutes on the three on five,” noted Carl Gunnarsson. “You can always rely on him on the ice.”
While Dion Phaneuf’s contract status is a story in Toronto, McClement — who is being paid $1.5 million — is also an unrestricted free agent after this season. Yet his contract status rarely comes up.
“Usually as the season heats up there is more talk, but there are a lot bigger names in here that are coming up,” smiled McClement. “It’s somewhere I really enjoy playing. I feel I have settled into a role here where I can help this team be successful. We will see what happens.”
McClement enjoys the lack of notoriety, but he couldn’t help but laugh when he saw Toronto’s controversial mayor Rob Ford sporting a No. 11 Leafs jersey while taking his kids out trick or treating on Halloween.
Ford has been under hot water after a video was reported to have been released which shows the mayor smoking crack cocaine. After denying it for months, the mayor days ago admitted he smoked crack.
“I got a few texts from people,” chuckled McClement. “It had ‘Ford’ on the back. I am not into politics nor do I want to get involved.”
As always, Jay McClement would rather fly under the radar.