It was very instructive to read the Steve Simmons (Toronto Sun) piece earlier this week on Maple Leaf defenseman Mike Komisarek.
Simmons sets up the piece by outlining how solid Komisarek had been in his last year with the Habs, playing with Markov. Komisarek was a statistical league-leader in key categories like hits and blocked shots.
But what Burke thought/hoped he was getting has not, as we all have seen, arrived yet, almost two full seasons in. Komisarek has not, consistently, been that "Montreal" player.
What I found most revealing in the article was the self-reflective comments from Komisarek himself. You can just feel the frustration. He is a proud guy, a veteran accustomed to being a leader on the ice. His diminished ice time probably makes him feel as though he is not contributing as he can in Toronto.
Importantly, he is not blaming anyone else for his situation. He knows he has, for whatever reason, not played with the same confidence and impact as he did under Guy Carbonneau in
. He says he still wants to stay in Montreal and contribute here. And the truth is, if he plays as he can, as he once did, he would absolutely be the ideal older d-man to shepherd a young defense built around Schenn, Dion, Gunnarsson and Aulie. Toronto
Not that it’s a shock to hear an athlete say he wants to stay where he signed the most lucrative contract of his career, but it beats hearing what we often do: that a guy is ticked, mad at the coach, or publicly upset at not getting more time or more “touches” or whatever.
Komisarek is, seemingly, looking in the mirror, and desperately seeking to find the simple, effective, confident game he once had.
I had said, when I posted late last season and early this season, that I felt strongly that Komisarek would bounce back. (Click to read that earlier post.) And I still feel that way. Whether it does happen or not, who knows? But I still believe the guy can play.
I’m not a fan of knocking or taking shots at guys who are giving their all. I think Komisarek is certainly doing that, and by all accounts is the consummate team guy.
When we talk about players, whether Komisarek or Brett Lebda or whomever, these are bona fide NHL players, individuals who have reached the pinnacle of their profession. It’s easy to point out their flaws or occasional “mistakes” when things go wrong, as they have at times for someone like Lebda this year.
But you watch them play and you know they have skill, ability. (Lebda, for example is a good skater, very mobile.) Quite often what they need is the right fit, the right coach, a good moment on the ice, to feel that jolt of confidence that makes everything better- and easier.
As for Komisarek, I’d love to see him step up and play like he can down the stretch and set the table for training camp in September. I'm not suggesting the Leafs should keep him simply because he was seemingly self-reflective in a recent interview. I just think he has something to offer in terms of his presence, leadership- and ability.
If he believes in himself, and the team believes in him too (and from the sounds of the Sun article Burke does), then fans should, too.
Because, if he ever does re-find his full game and help lead this team become a contender in the next couple of seasons, fans will quickly forget their earlier frustration.