Something both odd and surreal is occurring within the Columbus Blue Jacket organization and it deals with the status of defenseman Mike Commodore.
Is Commodore truly an injured player whose return status is indefinite, or is it something more provocative, something carrying a deeper meaning?
Let’s begin with a chronology of events.
October 15th: Mike Commodore is declared a healthy scratch (benched for reasons other than an injury) for the Blue Jackets home opener. The usually garrulous Commodore is obviously displeased with head coach Scott Arniel’s decision and utters the following: “If you are going to ask, don’t bother because I have nothing to say.”
The reason for Commodore’s benching is not the result of poor conditioning—something that plagued Commodore during the 2009-2010 season—but for what was communicated by Arniel “for mobility reasons.”
October 16th: Mike Commodore is now reported to have suffered a chipped fracture on his left thumb, the X-Rays for which were taken later in the afternoon of October 15th, in which he was deemed a healthy scratch. Commodore admitted that he’d hurt his thumb in the first game in Stockholm, Sweden on October 8th, but that it wasn’t a result of a fight he engaged in with San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe. There is deemed no timetable for Commodore’s return.
October 19th: Mike Commodore is placed on Injured Reserve (IR). Commodore is considered day-to-day; however, there’s no timetable set for his return.
October 20th: It’s now being reported that Mike Commodore has a strained left thumb and that the fracture that showed up on the October 15th X-Rays were a result of an old fracture. Commodore continues to be placed on IR with no timetable for his return.
However, Commodore continues to practice with the team and remains on the ice for extra conditioning. It’s further reported that the sprain affects Commodore’s ability to push and shove the puck in corners or in front of the net.
October 24th: Mike Commodore states that he does not have a timetable for his return.
Is it me, or does something seem fishy?
Commodore goes from a “mobility issues” healthy scratch to a fractured thumb with a day-to-day status for his return to a sprained thumb—and that the fracture is an old injury—and now not only is he placed on IR but there is no timetable for his return.
I would buy that story but it seems there’s more to this saga.
It was no secret that Commodore’s lost 2009-2010 season was the result of conditioning issues; however, I don’t buy and never will buy the notion that it was due to his conditioning program over the summer.
I’ve already elaborated in previous articles as to why that doesn’t hold any weight. Commodore was merely out of shape and it was one of a myriad of factors in a disastrous 2009-2010 campaign. To Commodore’s credit, he did come into this season’s camp in far better shape.
So, if it’s not a lack of conditioning, then what, besides what’s being reported, is the issue? I think there are many reasons to consider:
- Mike Commodore, a strapping, classic stay-at-home defenseman, is not considered the type of defenseman who can thrive, much less function, in Scott Arniel’s up-tempo system. A system in which defensemen are often asked to lead the rush on the offensive end. In short, Commodore’s an asymmetric fit for the new system.
- Do the conditioning issues still remain? After all, Commodore continues to practice with the team and remains on the ice, afterwards, for extra conditioning.
- Is this a sign of things to come, given that Commodore was considered to be a frequent healthy scratch had mobile defenseman Kris Russell (injured groin) been healthy enough to play? Additionally, with the rise of defensemen now being developed in the Blue Jackets system—Nick Holden, Cody Goloubef, John Moore, David Savard and Grant Clitsome, just to name a few—is Commodore soon to be rendered obsolete (continued healthy scratches)?
- Is Commodore being held out as he’s “in play," meaning he’s being held out as a means to trade him to another team?
As insane as the last possible reason for Commodore’s unknown status may be—“trade bait”—particularly as he’s the team’s highest paid defenseman and one of the highest paid players on the team, the other reasons lend towards repeated healthy scratches . And for a team like the Blue Jackets, who continue to struggle with attendance and mounting financial losses as a result of their arena lease, that appears to be a foolhardy way to recognize any investment made in Commodore.
So if it’s indeed for reasons to trade Commodore, let’s look at a few possible scenarios/potential suitors:
- Edmonton: Commodore is from the Alberta province and his mother still lives in the area. Also, the Edmonton Oilers don’t appear to have any salary cap issues. The Oilers also have a disgruntled defenseman in Sheldon Souray, who’s currently on loan to the Washington Capitals American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate Hershey Bears.
What may have made this possibly moot is Souray recently sustaining an injury as a result of a fight for the Bears. It was also speculated that Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson may have held off a trade with Edmonton as he may have wanted to include forward Chris Clark in the deal, due to Clark struggling both in training camp and towards the end of the 2009-2010 season after he’d been traded by the Capitals to Columbus. However, Clark has been performing very well as of late and a recent injury to Blue Jackets forward Ethan Moreau has possibly put the kibosh on this scenario.
- Ottawa: Ottawa Senators GM Brian Murray has been quite discrete in proclaiming that he’s considering adding a veteran defenseman to aid the struggles of his team’s performance, particularly those of his young defensemen Erik Karlsson and Brian Lee.
However, Commodore would be one of the least possible trade possibilities the Senators would ever consider. Mike Commodore’s performance while in Ottawa late in the 2007-2008 season left a lot to be desired, as Commodore registered only two assists in 26 games and had a +/- rating of -9 in those games. But it was Commodore’s less-than-flattering comments about his time in Canada’s capital city that may be the death knell towards ever returning to the Senators.
- Carolina Hurricanes: Commodore was a member of the Hurricanes 2005-2006 championship team and played for the team for two-and-a-half seasons until he was traded to Ottawa in a NHL trade deadline deal, late in the 2007-2008 season. A return to the ‘Canes could make some sense as they appear to have some room under their salary cap; however, what precludes this from being a possibility is Hurricanes’ GM Jim Rutherford’s change in organizational direction from a veteran team to a youth movement.
- Anaheim: This team’s defensive woes, after suffering the loss of both Chris Pronger (trade) and Scott Niedermayer (retirement), have been facilitating the continued demise of the 2007-2008 Stanley Cup champions.
This team plays a gritty, physical style, they have room under the salary cap and they also have a head coach in Randy Carlisle and a GM in Bob Murray who are on the “hot seat,”, and it’s this last factor that may lend towards a team like the Ducks making a move like this to salvage a season and a potential dwindling fan base.
- Toronto: Commodore’s physical style would seem to be a perfect fit for GM Brian Burke’s extremely physical vision of the legendary franchise. Toronto also appears to have some salary cap room and has a defenseman in Luke Schenn who has struggled since being the 5th overall selection in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft.
However, Brian Burke will not consider such a deal without asking for quite a bit in return, namely one of Scott Howson’s premier young forwards, of which Nikita Filatov would easily fit the bill. Filatov is a speedy forward in the mold of Phil Kessel, who Burke acquired from the Boston Bruins before the 2009-2010 season. So, as they say, “Buyer Beware.”
One other thing to consider is the possibility of placing Commodore on waivers, or possibly re-entry waivers, should no team claim him during the initial waiver period. However, were Commodore placed on waivers, given his salary, it’s doubtful a team would claim him and if he were claimed via re-entry waivers, the Blue Jackets would then be liable for half of his remaining salary for the next three seasons.
So, while the uncertainty and possible drama of Mike Commodore’s situation continue to unfold, keep in mind these scenarios. It should make for interesting times for both Commodore and the Columbus Blue Jackets.