Buzzing The Net - Junior Hockey

The developments of the last week with two of the Quebec Major Junior hockey League's problem children are a study in contrasts.

Monday, the Halifax Mooseheads officially parted ways with Garrett Clarke, an abrasive defenseman full of potential who apparently gets under his own team's skin as successfully as that of opponents.

Matt Wuest has been following the saga on his excellent Q Files blog. The Coles notes of the straw that broke Clarke's camel's back: bad penalties led to a benching, which led to him being a healthy scratch Sunday as the team snapped its four-game losing streak with a 5-2 win over the Moncton Wildcats.

Owner and recently self-installed head coach Bobby Smith obviously didn't like the way the player handled the situation. Smith, trying to re-establish a winning culture in what should be a marquee Q market, told him to take his shinpads and go home. (Actually, given the brevity of the press release, he may even have asked for the shinpads back.)

"We feel it's better for the team and Garrett that we part ways at this time" Smith's lone quote in the release stated. "We'll address this issue further at the QMJHL trading period next month."

It wasn't the first benching for Clarke, a developing pest too often on the wrong side of the line between helping and hurting his team.

Smith had his reasons, but this move is opposite to the way the Moncton Wildcats handled their problems with Russian forward Kirill Kabanov.

Moncton coach and director of hockey operations Danny Flynn was always ever-so-careful in his public comments about the player over more than a year of off-ice distractions, projecting patience even if he might not have always been feeling it inside.

Flynn was thus able to maintain value for the player, reaping four draft picks and a young goaltending prospect in last week's deal with the Lewiston Maineiacs (coincidentally, the first team Clarke wore out his welcome with). By publicly cutting Clarke loose, Smith has put a big dent in Clarke's trade value because teams know the Mooseheads are stuck with an asset they aren't using. Of course, Smith believed it had to be done, trade value or not, for the sake of his team's chemistry between know and the next trade window, which doesn't open until Dec. 19.

For Smith, seven weeks of putting up with a potentially crippling headache that could ruin the season, in his view, obviously wasn't worth playing nice to the outside world in order to maintain Clarke's stock.

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