There were only so few articles in Canadian media written about the Leafs signing Leo Komarov. Most of them didn’t even go deep enough to explain what type of a player Komarov is as they were limited to general information – 25-year-old Finnish energetic winger, born in Estonia, 5’11, 198lbs, 11 goals and 24 points in 46 KHL games this season…
While all of it is true, it doesn’t address his key-feature for which his was glorified in Dynamo Moscow and hated by everyone else outside of the organization. Leo Komarov is let-him-know-you’re-there, Avery-vs-Brodeur type of agitator whose idol is Jarkko Ruutu.
I’ve gathered a few recent quotes about Komarov to give you a better idea of what to expect of him. These quotes appeared throughout May in Sport-Express, Sovetsky Sport, R-Sport, Sportbox.Ru, Allhockey.Ru and NTV-Plus:
Alexander Eremenko, Dynamo Moscow goalie, 2012 Gagarin Cup MVP:
‘Leo really knows how to get under your skin. I know because I played against him! He’d stand next to you, give you a little slap on the pads here and there, give you a snow-shower… You can’t send him off for 2 minutes for stuff like this but you know exactly what he means by that. All these little things are very annoying. He can piss anybody off, no matter who it is!’
Sergei Gusev, Former Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman, currently plays for Avangard:
‘I don’t what’s up with Leo Komarov’s head. He always spears people, runs into our goalie, tries to provoke us. I don’t understand we the refs let him get away with it. Perhaps, they’re right and I’m not. We just have to defend our goalie all the time. We just have to bite the bullet.’
Alexander Khavanov, Former Toronto Maple Leafs and Dynamo Moscow defenseman, NTV-Plus hockey analyst:
‘Avangard let Leo Komarov became a factor in the final series. It took me by surprise that nobody knew how to stop him. You don’t want to go after him. You want to go after [his goalie] and defensemen. You pick on [Mikhail] Anisin who’s 5’5. You do this and you’re going to piss Komarov off and set him off his game.’
Andrey Safronov, Dynamo Moscow GM:
‘Our only loss this off-season is Leonid Komarov. It’s not that we didn’t agree on the terms for a new contract – we just have a gentlemen’s agreement. After we won Game 7 of the final series he came up to me and [head-coach] Oleg Znarok and said: ‘Oleg, Andrey… It’s been the dream of my life to play at least one game in the NHL.’ We figured it’d be only fair to give him a chance. Leonid will go to Toronto and if he’s not going to be an NHL regular by November, he will come back to Dynamo Moscow, which he truly loves.’
Leo Komarov, Toronto Maple Leafs newest member:
‘With my style of play, I get a lot of penalties. It’s just the way it is. I try to help my team.’
In the Gagarin Cup Finals, which lasted 7 games and ended with Dynamo’s 1-0 win in the decisive match-up, Avangard got 70 penalty minutes, while the Muscovites received only 40. Make no mistake – Komarov is responsible for the gap.
So what do we know about him now? Despite his gritty and provocative nature Komarov was a top-6 forward in Dynamo and quite often a 1st-liner, while on Team Finland he was only a 4th-liner at the 2 recent World Championships. This indicates that his skill level may very well not be high enough to compete for a top-6 spot on the Leafs.
Which brings another question to the table: would he be able to pull off his dirty little tricks as well in the NHL as he was in the KHL? He’s good at getting on goalies’ nerves, but keep in mind that KHL defensemen are somewhat more tolerant than their colleagues in North America.
Sure, Komarov speaks fluently (at least to some extent) four languages – Finnish, Swedish, Russian and English. However, as of now there’s no way of telling how good he’s going to be at chirping in the NHL.
Last but not least – it looks like the Leafs have to make up their mind pretty quick about Komarov. Judging by his former GM and head-coach’s statements, it doesn’t look like Leo’s going to be ok with being down in the minors for too long.
Leafs have embarked on a risky journey signing Komarov, but, hey, wouldn’t you risk it for an entry-level deal?