What a difference a few short months can make, eh?
Just a year ago, Mike Komisarek was one of the most popular members of the Montreal Canadiens.
It was to such an extent that just this past season, loyal Habs fans mass voted the shot blocking, hard hitting blueliner onto the starting lineup in the 2009 NHL All-Star Game.
Granted it was not his best year, especially after an errant punch hit Milan Lucic’s helmet and put him out of action for a few weeks early in the season.
Many began to see Komisarek’s play become ineffective with injuries to fellow defenceman Andrei Markov late in the season.
Without a contract and a quick exit from the playoffs by Lucic and the Boston Bruins, fans now began to wonder if the pending free agent would return to Montreal.
Well folks, we got our answer and boy did it make our jaws drop!
Many expected the American-born Komisarek to look to the pastures closer to home.
With Komisarek being a native of Long Island, the New York Islanders, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils were considered the top contenders for the 27-year-old with the Philadelphia Flyers as a dark horse.
It was then revealed last week, after the 2009 NHL Entry Draft, that the Canadiens had offered Komisarek a new contract.
It was figured that the contract was in the vicinity of $20 million overe four years. Not bad for a guy who made $1.9 million last year and is not an offensive minded rearguard with a high giveaway ratio.
Many would not be surprised if he turned it down, figuring he would go for a five to six million a year deal.
Late Wednesday afternoon however, Canadiens fans got a real kick in the puck bag.
Out of nowhere, it was announced that Mike Komisarek was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Outrage!!! Joining the Canadiens’ greatest rival.
What makes it worse is the terms of the deal, five years for $22.5 million. That’s one extra year for just $500K more per season.
Maybe not a big deal on a player who has played elsewhere in the NHL, but Komisarek was drafted and brought through the ranks by the Canadiens.
Why Mike, why?
What went wrong?
Was it the terms of the deal that includes the fact that Komisarek can select twelve teams that he could be traded to?
Is it the fact that the Leafs’ GM is Brian Burke, the man who is also overseeing Team USA for the 2010 Olympics?
Was it in spite?
Did Komisarek want more and that when he refused the Canadiens’ offer (not even a counter offer was made), Habs GM Bob Gainey traded his long time friend Christopher Higgins to the Rangers?
Maybe, in Gainey’s mind, he figured the Rangers couldn’t afford Komisarek, Wade Redden and Marc Staal. Was that it?
In a conference call on Thursday, Komisarek told reporters that going to the Islanders was never on his radar.
“I've always had a vision of myself playing in a traditional hockey market,” he said.
“I enjoy having that atmosphere, that electricity in the building, day in and day out.”
“It was great in Montreal and it's going to be really great in Toronto. It's tough to find that now in New York. They're looking for a new building and they've got questions with their team. At the end, Toronto was a good fit for me.”
Regardless, Canadiens players just don’t jump ship to the Leafs!!
Trades happen, see Mikhail Grabovski, John Kordic, etc.
In Hall of Famer Dickie Moore’s case, he retired when he learned that he was going to be traded and was then picked up in an inter-league draft a year later by the Leafs.
Moore could have stayed retired but he loved the game and wanted to see if he could still play.
Komisarek knows he can play, but joining a rival such as the Leafs for essentially the same amount of money is an insult to the fans who placed 1,373,628 votes to get him into the all-star game.
Instead, this coming season he will hear the boos from the large majority of the 21,273 in attendance at the Bell Centre and, barring injury, at least six times!
“I'll worry about that when we get there but I'm sure you guys (reporters) won't forget that date. People (in Montreal) are definitely not going to be cheering for me. Hopefully, one day, we'll move on.”
Hope all you want Mr. Komisarek.