"Any variation of ‘Clut,'" he said in an interview yesterday.
Clutterbuck was thrust into the NHL spotlight earlier this season when he was given another nickname: "Buttercup," by "Hockey Night in Canada" curmudgeon Don Cherry, who criticized Clutterbuck's fighting with a visor on. Undaunted, the Minnesota rookie hit back and defended himself.
But hitting is what Clutterbuck does best, and more frequently than anyone in NHL history when it comes to a single season. The 21-year-old winger from Welland, Ontario set a League record for hits recorded in a season with 317.
In a wide-ranging conversation, we talked about that record, and which player in NHL history he'd most like to hit; what it's like to punch Sean Avery of the New York Rangers; Cherry's comments and his response; the pressure of the playoff race; the fan campaign to get him considered for rookie of the year; as well as the usual questions about cars, cards and booze. Enjoy.
Q. Mentally, how do you deal with being in a playoff race with, like, six other teams for the last month? Are you scoreboard watching?
CLUTTERBUCK: I got The Hockey News application on my Blackberry and scroll through it every hour or so.
I think you just have to come to grips with the fact that you can really only control what you can control. As long as you're giving it everything you've got, then you've got nothing to regret at the end.
There's always a perception about the Wild as the Jacques Lemaire/trap team, and some fans are just turned off by the idea of you guys making the playoffs. Do you ever get the vibe that people outside of the Wild fan base are rooting against you because of that?
I'm not sure that I can feel people rooting against us. Not anymore than the boos and jeers a visiting team would get in any building. As far as I'm concerned, I don't think it's as big an issue as people might think.
Honestly now: Did you think Marian Gaborik would ever play again this season?
I really didn't have any idea. The whole thing was pretty quiet, which is how it should be. He was able to work pretty hard, and had a pretty good doctor, from what I hear, operating on him. He's feeling pretty good now, I guess, and I'm happy for him. He's definitely helping us out when we need it most.
Are you careful around him in the locker room? You know, not bumping into him or anything?
The first time I heard about it was when [Wild defenseman] Kurtis Foster was down in Houston to do his conditioning after coming back from his femur injury. A couple of fans down there gave him some buttons to bring home with him, and he showed up with these buttons and gave them to me.
I looked it up on the Internet, and found a couple of blogs and stuff that had this mini-campaign going. I thought it was pretty cool.
Yeah, probably not. I don't think there was any point where I thought that was going to happen.
That's because they look at glamour stats instead of cool stuff like "hits." You broke the NHL record for hits this season; were you aware of how close you were to setting it?
Coming up to it, I just didn't want to change anything. I figured if I changed something ... you run the risk of getting hurt if you go out of your way to hit guys and stuff like that. I just wanted to keep on the same pace I was going, and I figured if I did that then it would come.
It's kind of a weird record, because it's so subjective from arena to arena. Did you ever look at the score-sheet and be like, ‘This is crazy. I didn't have this many hits in this game'?
It happens sometimes, especially earlier in the season. Now I've been on the radar with a couple people and you get a little more credit for the hits that you have. A lot of times, I'm hitting guys after they release the puck or hitting a D-man after they make an outlet pass. So it's not something that people are really looking for; they're looking for the hit where the guy is skating up the ice with his head down and he gets buried.
Over the course of time, people have taken notice. But there's still some buildings that are [inconsistent], where I'll feel like I had eight or nine hits and the score sheet says I had two. It's not like they're out to get me; it happens to everybody, too.
If you could lay a solid check on anybody in NHL history, who would it be?
[Much contemplative thought] That's a good question. Probably Claude Lemieux.
[Laughs] But you wear No. 22! Isn't that a Claude tribute?
Not really. That's the number that was given to me. But it's grown on me.