EDMONTON — It took one day for Chris Clark to go from the penthouse to the cellar.
The Columbus Blue Jackets winger was acquired in a trade from the Washington Capitals just over a week ago, along with defenceman Milan Jurcina in exchange for forward Jason Chimera.
The trade took Clark by surprise, especially considering he was the Capitals captain at the time of the deal.
“Yeah it was one of those Merry Christmas things,” Clark said. “I didn’t have any clue to what was going on. I was just concentrating on what was happening there and family stuff.
“But we all know it’s going to happen eventually. It’s always tough to move on, but it’s been a week now and I’m getting to know the guys in the locker room and they’ve all been great. So taking care of that aspect has been easy.”
Heading into Thursday night's game against the Edmonton Oilers, Clark had four goals and 11 assists in 42 games this season. Thursday was his fifth game with the Blue Jackets.
“Coming here, the only guy I knew was Mike Commodore,” Clark said. “After that it was just getting used to the new systems, the new guys and seeing a lot of new faces.”
Clark, 33, spent five seasons in Washington, going through the entire rebuilding process. He left a Capitals team that is expected to challenge for the Stanley Cup to join a struggling Blue Jackets club who will most likely miss the playoffs.
“The hardest part is leaving the family,” Clark said. “It’s hardest on my wife and the kids. This is really the first time I’ve had to go a mid-season trade, so that’s been the real tough part.”
Clark didn’t have a lot of time to say ‘good bye’ to his wife and three kids. Shortly following the deal, he had to catch up to the Blue Jackets who were playing in New York against the Islanders.
“I was actually getting ready to go to our game, we had a game that night, and I got a phone call from (Capitals GM) George McPhee,” Clark said. “I was a little bit luckier that I didn’t have to leave until the next morning. The Blue Jackets were playing in Long Island, so I just had to fly to Long Island the next morning.
“So I had from that afternoon to the next morning to catch my breath a little bit.”
Originally drafted by the Calgary Flames in the third round of the 1994 NHL Entry Draft, Clark, was acquired by the Blue Jackets for his veteran leadership.
A native of South Windsor, Connecticut, he spent five years in the Flames organization, making it to the Stanley Cup final in 2004.
“Clarkie is a guy that has really brought a level of maturity and professionalism to our team that has really enhanced some of our leaders,” said Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock. “I think he’s really going to help us along the way in developing that professional attitude that is the difference between just playing and winning.”
Currently, the Blue Jackets are struggling. They went into Thursday’s contest having lost 13 of their last 14 games.
Having qualified for the playoffs for the first time in franchise history last year, the club needed some type of change.
“I don’t think you can have enough leadership,” Hitchcock said. “You have to have some people to learn from and he has a professionalism, he plays hurt, he plays banged up, he competes at a real sound level. He’s smart, he’s good on the boards and he keep the turbine moving. He fills a role that was filled by three or four people last year for us.”