During the playoffs, Eaves was playing excellent defense, grinding hard, and creating scoring chances. Cleary was falling down, skating slowly, and falling down more.
All of Eaves excellent playing didn't amount to much though, which is typical for a fourth liner. Cleary, regardless of how many times he fell or how slowly he was skating, still managed to put up solid numbers in the playoffs, and as per his entire tenure with Detroit, better numbers than Eaves.
Eaves is an effective fourth liner, and I really enjoy having him on the team. That I think everyone can agree on.
Cleary has been a less than stellar top-9 player, and I would even agree that he was a poor option for the top-six last year.
But we're still comparing a career fourth-liner to someone who has had success regardless of where he's placed in the lineup, and who he's playing against. Even if he's doing his job poorly, Cleary still brings more upside to the team than Eaves, or any 4th liner.