As unimportant as Mike Commodore has become, it’s conversely very important to acknowledge the difference between a National Hockey League contract and the American Hockey League professional tryout (PTO) one he signed with the Hamilton Bulldogs in late November (via the Toronto Sun).
Save for a brief 48-hour window this past October in which owners and general managers were allowed to discuss negotiations with players (via the New York Daily News), the NHL has put in place a much-publicized gag order under which the Montreal Canadiens technically shouldn’t even be talking to Commodore.
This means the Habs, except for general manager Marc Bergevin signing him to the deal acting on behalf of the Bulldogs, officially had nothing at all to do with it.
The PTO entitles Commodore to a maximum of 25 games with the Bulldogs, a stint during which he can be let go or be signed for another 25 games (via lakeeriemonsters.com). So, Commodore will likely be a Bulldog for 50 games max before either becoming a free agent again or signing an official contract.
Put simply, Commodore is not a Montreal Canadien. He’s barely a Bulldog. A Lake Erie Monster, I could see. Even a Manchester Monarch with that mane of his, but a Bulldog?
Of course, why the Habs would want to talk to him would be as much a mystery as why the Columbus Blue Jackets ever gave him $18,750,000 over five years. Oh, right…Scott Howson. Never mind.
Commodore has made it to the Stanley Cup Finals twice in his career, once as a Calgary Flame and once as a Carolina Hurricane—even winning it all in 2006—but he accomplished all that as a depth guy. Most recently, he had trouble establishing himself with the Tampa Bay Lightning, a team in such dire need of blueliners head coach Guy Boucher has four skaters playing defense at all times.
In any case, the 33-year-old defenseman, since signing the deal, has played one game with Hamilton, going pointless against the Abbotsford Heat on Friday night in a 5-1 loss.
So, the question remains: Why? I mean, for starters, why would the Bulldogs sign a journeyman like Commodore? Injury concerns mainly.
With Greg Pateryn suffering a broken elbow, the team has had to resort to giving ice time to a rookie d-man by the name of Antoine Corbin, in whom Canadiens director of amateur scouting Trevor Timmins admits team scouts don’t see that much upside (via the Montreal Gazette).
Scratch that, actually. The team has had to resort to signing a rookie d-man by the name of Antoine Corbin, in whom it has so little confidence it opted to eventually play Commodore over him in the team’s last game.
Far be it from me to knock an unknown prospect, but, when you’re in a developmental hockey league and you get bumped in favor of a played-out Commodore, who's actually more defense-clown than man, don’t go buying that first Ferrari just yet.
Admittedly, Commodore does bring experience to the table. While he made for an overpaid Columbus Blue Jacket (apparently, there is such a thing, even with James Wisniewski making $33 million over six years), he has the chance to do some good in the minors and mentor some of the young guys…even if it’s mentoring them on what not to do.
I mean, if the likes of Jarred Tinordi, Nathan Beaulieu, Louis Leblanc, Brendan Gallagher, etc. are still riding buses in North America during the next lockout eight years from now (bank on it), wouldn’t they be considered failures?
As such, one, despite probably having an inkling of the answer already, might ask the same “Why?” of Commodore, as in why sign with an AHL team? His incredibly candid response (via CBC News):
“If I took the year off and I wasn’t playing, I think my NHL hockey career would’ve been over,” he said. “I didn’t want to take that risk.”
So, we have a defenseman who is essentially admitting he’s on the decline and may not be good enough. With the Canadiens already boasting three d-men who might not survive this current lockout in Francis Bouillon, Tomas Kaberle and Andrei Markov (literally in regard to the latter, considering his injury history), why take a chance on another?
There is no good answer to that one, unfortunately, especially with plenty of more deserving players on the farm in the event of injuries than him. To put it in perspective, consider this: By signing a PTO with Hamilton, he’s not guaranteed much of anything in the AHL—much less the NHL.
Put another way: The only ice time he would ever get in Montreal is during intermissions as Youppi!