Mike Komisarek: Forgotten Man, Or Integral Part Of Leafs defense?

Mark RitterSenior Writer IJune 16, 2010

TORONTO, ON - DECEMBER 21:  Mike Komisarek #8 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates in a game against the Buffalo Sabres on December 21, 2009 at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario. The Sabres defeated the Leafs 3-2 in overtime. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)
Claus Andersen/Getty Images

Drafted seventh overall in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft by the Montreal Canadiens, Mike Komisarek was expected to be that prototypical shut-down defense-man with a bit of a mean streak who competes at a terrific level.

Komisarek made his NHL debut with the Montreal Canadiens in 2002-03, playing 21 games, posting one assist, a minus six rating, and 28 penalty minutes.

“Komi”, as Komisarek is nicknamed, had another stint with the Canadiens in 2003-04—a stint which saw him earn four assists in 46 games played.

It wasn’t until the 2004-05 season when Komisarek scored his first NHL goal. During that season, Komisarek scored twice, added four assists and added 116 penalty minutes.

Clearly, Komisarek was never going to be an offensive threat in the NHL, but his gritty play and compete level were enough to earn him a regular spot with the Canadiens, playing a total of 223 games over the next three seasons.

In the summer of 2008-09, with the Canadiens making major roster changes, Toronto Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke outbid the Canadiens for the services of Komisarek, signing him to a five-year $22.5 million deal.

While many fans felt that Burke had overpaid for Komisarek, Burke felt his addition would help solidify the Leafs back end, while also adding a level of toughness and tenacity to a roster that was all but void of both.

Unfortunately for Burke, Komisarek never got much of a chance to put his skills on display in 2009-10, as he spent nearly 50 games on the disabled list.

Through 34 games with the Leafs, Komisarek posted zero goals, four assists, 40 penalty minutes and an unhealthy minus-nine rating.

To put it mildly, Komisarek did not come as advertised and, in the minds of many Leaf fans, they wished Burke had never signed the seemingly overpaid stay-at-home defense-man.

With his shoulder injury all but behind him, Komisarek will get a chance at a fresh start in Toronto in 2010-11.

Burke expects Komisarek to have a major impact on the Leafs overall defense—making hits, clearing the crease area, and playing with the “truculence” that Burke desires in all of his players.

For Komisarek and the Leafs, a successful season would be one which sees him play a full season where he stays healthy and makes a solid effort defensively each and every night.

In his limited play in 2009-10, Komisarek appeared to be a player that was trying to do too much rather than just play his game—which is a simple grind it out style of play, bolstered by big hits and clean outlet passes.

Given his past injuries and desire to make an impression on the fans of the Blue and White, every Leaf fan can expect a huge effort from Komisarek, especially against the Montreal Canadiens—a team that Komisarek was right nasty to play against last season.

One of the bigger questions surrounding Komisarek is where he will play for the Leafs next season. The obvious choice would be to feature Komisarek on the second defensive pairing, but with youngsters Luke Schenn and Carl Gunnarsson making a strong push for more ice time, it wouldn’t be a stretch to see Komisarek as a member of the third pairing either.

With so many NHL teams needing defensemen, it also wouldn’t be a shock to see Komisarek traded.

Fellow Maple Leafs Tomas Kaberle and Francois Beauchemin have also been the source of many trade rumors, with Kaberle getting the most press.

One things for sure—Komisarek will be chomping at the bit to get going in 2010-11. For Komisarek’s, Brian Burke’s and the Leafs sake, let’s hope he brings his “A”-game— the Blue and White need him desperately.

For more NHL news and notes check out my website at www.theslapshot.com

Until next time,