Can Mike Komisarek establish himself on the Leafs' blue line based on his play, not his cap hit?
In last year's season opener Komisarek had 15 minutes in penalties and was generally fairly undisciplined. This year Komisarek avoided the temptation of the sin bin and managed to record an assist in a 3 - 2 victory over his former team.
The problem? Komisarek had the fewest minutes on ice by a Leafs' defensemen, playing only 12 minutes and eight seconds.
When Leafs General Manager Brian Burke first signed Komisarek, a hard-hitting, stay at home defenceman, it was a steal. I thought it must have been in the range of say, $3 million a year for three years.
Surprisingly, Komasarek signed a $22 million deal over five years for a cap hit of $4,500,000 a year.
Coming off the second worst season of his career (the first being his rookie season), Komisarek wasn't a candidate for a big payout. However, Brian Burke has shown before that he knows how to build a rugged and truculent team—he will be fine.
Enter year two of five and Komisarek has shown to be very physical, even too physical. After just 34 games and multiple injuries his season ended with shoulder surgery. Finishing with four assists and minus nine, Komisarek was hard-hitting but not so much stay at home.
After a disappointing season where Komisarek earned $1.125 million a point, the rugged defenceman is looking to redeem himself.
After finishing minus six in seven preseason games, Komisarek started off slowly. A game into the regular season and the blue liner's struggles continued after leading Leafs' defensemen in time on the bench.
Komisarek appeared lost in his own end for the brief periods he was on the ice. After losing his spot with veteran Tomas Kaberle to Luke Schenn, Komisarek showed no chemistry with Carl Gunnarsson. Both players fumbled the puck leading to a goal and both continued their struggles from training camp.
"He's going to be a work in progress to get him up to speed," said Leafs coach, Ron Wilson. "He didn't play very much last year and he didn't play very much within our system so his ice time wasn't a lot last night because other guys are playing a little bit better. And that's the way it's going to be."
Leafs brass can only hope that Komisarek finds the spark that Brian Burke saw in him because Leaf fans are a fickle bunch. If Komisarek doesn't get up to speed and start making better choices in his zone, Wilson and Leafs Nation will have a new whipping boy and it's only game two.
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