You really must commend Mike Komisarek this last year or so with how he handled his situation with the Toronto Maple Leafs. No one in their right mind turns down a lucrative contract when provided with one (heck, I know I wouldn’t!) but it was pretty unfortunate given a combination of injury, overall organizational depth and a change in the game away from clutching and grabbing that it left Komisarek on the outside looking in. Yet throughout the entire ordeal he has never pouted or openly chastised the organization, something you almost expect to happen with professional athlete’s these days; he continues to conduct himself as an absolute professional in not only his actions but also his demeanor. In my opinion too many people judged him based solely on his paycheck however with the announcement that he had been placed on waivers (something he had to approve due to stipulations in his contract) ultimately expresses to the hockey world that he is a player who just wants to be involved, play the game and prove that he still has something of value to add to an organization.
There are still quite a number of qualities that he can ultimately provide a squad above and beyond veteran leadership and professional demeanor. Komisarek is a hard nosed defensive defenseman who when paired with an experienced and mobile d partner could thrive. He is a large, imposing body at 6’4”, 237 lbs and has the ability to clear the front of the net with relative ease. The argument against him for the most part has been foot speed and lack of a decent first pass out of the zone. For someone that large do you honestly expect foot speed? Let us not forget that this is the NHL and d-men are going to get beat from time to time. Take an upcoming match and spend it focusing on one defenseman on the opposing team for the entire game and hopefully that will give you a better idea of how all, not just your own teams defensive pairings suffer. The Leafs given their speed blow around plenty of opposing defenseman on a pretty regular basis. Also, being paired with a more mobile partner would also allow for the defensive zone exit duties to be left with his partner. Given that Komisarek has usually been partnered with rookie defensemen, having a quality line mate would allow him to focus on what he does well instead of the exposure of what he does not.
Its almost too bad that the amount of his contract has been such an anchor to his movement, teams like Ottawa that have been absolutely decimated by injury or Edmonton could have used a good depth acquisition like Komisarek for the remainder of the year. I still really hope he gets picked up on waivers somehow and like Hal Gill proves that he still has the qualities of an NHL level defenseman to bring decent minutes to a team.
All of the above being said, Komisarek is an amazing addition to the Toronto Marlies, a team I have really enjoyed not only watching but supporting over the last couple of years. They are already in a solid position for a deep playoff run for the Calder Cup and I personally believe that the playing time would not only be good for Komisarek as a professional, allowing him to remarket himself to potential NHL suitors but also as a person to getting in some much needed game time. Let’s face it, everyone likes winning no matter the level and this gives him ample opportunity to enjoy the game and the remainder of his time with the Maple Leafs organization while continuing to contribute; whether that be on the ice or in the locker room with emerging players who look to learn as much as possible from veterans like Connolly and himself.
The Marlies can also now officially finish off the season with a defense core that for all intents and purposes appears just as skilled as when the season first started. Gone are Fraser, Kostka and Gardiner but the additions of Marshall, Komisarek and even Reilly give them plenty of added depth, size, experience and choice. This makes for an interesting six with the likes of Ranger, Holzer, Komisarek, Mottau, Marshall, Gysbers, Yeo, Reilly, Blacker, Grimshaw and Syvret. Unfortunately given the current log-jam it would only seem logical to release Grimshaw and Syvret from their PTO’s with the Marlies and return them back to their ECHL clubs for the remainder of the year. That being said I should mention that Grimshaw really impressed and I hope the Marlies will make an effort to get him signed as an AHL player on the squad next year. This abundance of former, current and emerging NHL defensemen also gives the coach plenty to play with and the ability to suit up lines against specific teams. Imagine if they need a shut down core in one game, they could potentially field line combinations like Ranger/Komi, Mottau/Holzer, Marshall/Gysbers or on the flip side if they want to field a fast and mobile d core they could pair up Ranger/Blacker, Reilly, Holzer, Marshall/Komi. This is definitely a defensive squad that are going to give opposing teams absolute fits and I look forward to watching how the pairings work out during the remainder of the season.
One note since this article was written was the annoucement that Mark Owuya has been loaned to ECHL Reading Royals who are currently in a playoff position of their own and I do hope this allows him more playing time in an effort to continue his development. He has the natural ability and it is only a matter of time before he receives more regular minutes in the AHL. There is also a rumour that Jussi Rynnas may be returning to Europe after the end of this season which would also signal more playing time with the Marlies for Owuya although I am torn about the Rynnas departure. He has shown flashes of brilliance at times but in all honesty the paycheque he received in North America is nothing compared to what he could command in Europe so I really don’t blame him for reconsidering his options.
Thats it for now but with the NHL trade deadline coming up, definitely expect more on this space soon 🙂