Playing for 'the' rival

Rocket All HabsCorrespondent IJuly 3, 2009

MONTREAL - JANUARY 24:  Eastern Conference All-Star Mike Komisarek of the Montreal Canadiens warms up during the McDonalds/NHL All-Star open practice as part of the 2009 NHL All-Star weekend on January 24, 2009 at the Bell Centre in Montreal, Canada.  (Photo by Dave Sandford/Getty Images)

posted by Rocket
All Habs

I'm thinking, today, about Dick Duff. Duff played just over five seasons with the Montreal Canadiens. He won four Stanley Cups with the Habs and is a member of the Hockey all of Fame.

Not a big player in stature, Duff was known for being a fierce competitor and earned the reputation as "pound-for-pound one of the toughest men in the game." Duff was also a guy who would shine in big games, especially in the playoffs.

So why does Duff come to mind today? Well, prior to playing with the Canadiens, Duff was a member of the Toronto Maple Leafs (with a very short stay with the Rangers in between) where he had played for 10 seasons.

Duff knows all about playing on both sides of a fierce rivalry, which was perhaps more intense in his day with only six teams in the league. And Dick Duff wore No.8.

Mike Komisarek is about to be introduced to Dick Duff's world, in reverse. When the NHL schedule for 2009-2010 comes out in a few weeks, Komisarek will circle his first trip back to Montreal. It's too much to ask the Bell Centre faithful not to 'boo' him. They will, probably every time he touches the puck.

But Jacques Martin should also circle that date. Because he and the rest of the Canadiens are about to find out how difficult it is to play against Mike Komisarek.

In the lead up to the free agency period, RDS was fond of discussing Komisarek's contract demands (thought to be in the $4-5 million range) with his point total for last season: 11 comprised of 2 goals and 9 assists.

Conveniently, left out of the reports, was the fact that Komisarek has been at the top of the league in hits and blocked shots since he starting taking a regular shift in the NHL. Brian Burke is a smart GM, and recognized Komisarek's contribution and his potential value to the Leafs.

It should be understandable that Bob Gainey could not devote that much of his salary budget to a pure defender. With the departure of Mathieu Schneider, Gainey needed to get a defenseman who could also play the power-play. Jaroslav Spacek fills that need.

Could the salary gap between the Canadiens and Leafs offers been narrowed? Not likely. Those who quote a half million dollar figure forget the substantial difference in taxes. In addition to financial considerations, Komisarek also had a front row seat to see the reputation of his teammates tarnished with false accusations by agenda-driven journalists. Does he need any more reasons?

It's very difficult to see a Canadiens player go to our oldest rival. But, we wish Mike Komisarek well in Toronto. He has been nothing but a classy and fierce competitor who proudly wore the bleu, blanc et rouge for just over five seasons.

Not unlike a fellow No.8, Dick Duff.