The Leafs are coming up on the final two years of the thorn that’s been stinging their side since 2009.
Mike Komisarek’s salary dips in 2012-13 to $3.5M, which saves the Leafs $2M compared to last season in actual cash. We’ve now entered (or will enter, when hockey starts) that window where a lot of people believed he could be dumped to a floor team who won’t mind paying him $3.5M and taking on the extra cap dollars along with it.
That idea was thrown around for a while, but fizzled out quite quickly.
The problem, of course, is that Komisarek’s play has been ridiculed so much that the thought of dealing him seems like pure non-sense. We’ve got this guy until 2014.
What to do with him? The common answer is to throw him on the third pairing with Jake Gardiner and see how it plays out. They didn’t spend a whole lot of time together last year, but it’s the only thing I can think of that makes sense until injuries shift everything around. But then there’s Korbinian Holzer, who is supposed to crack the Leafs lineup this season and push Komisarek to the press box.
So now Komisarek is coming off an awful season which was cut in half for him due to injury and press box duty, and he’s looking over his shoulder for a guy who many believe will supplant him easily. But I think he still has a couple of things going for him.
For one, he’s yet to experience a healthy season with Carlyle as the coach, obviously. I’m not sure how much he can help him, but his play can’t be much worse than it was with Wilson. Perhaps Carlyle’s tighter defensive style can get Komisarek focused on his shut-down duties a little better and help simplify his game.
Secondly, the guy seems genuinely upset with last year’s performance and is trying everything he can to erase it.
Skating is a part of hockey, right?
From earlier this month at the National Post:
“Usually you take a month off at the end of the year to get away from the game and forget about it,” said Komisarek. “I took a couple of days off and I was already back in the gym and excited and ready to redeem myself and hungry to compete again.
“People are always quick to remind you of your past failures and shortcomings. But you can’t change what’s happened. You’re in the business of going out there and proving yourself every night.”
It goes on to say he’s been working with skating coach Barb Underhill this offseason.
One thing I’ve noticed about Komisarek since joining the Leafs is an improvement in his skating already. He hasn’t been able to round out his game enough to earn his contract (few do), or most recently even stay in the lineup consistently. I do think his mobility has been improving. In comparison to Luke Schenn, he’s Denis Savard.
We’ve sort of avoided him this summer, or at least avoided saying anything remotely positive about him. I’m not ready to start declaring this the season of Komisarek, but I’d like to believe he’s actually going to be an upgrade from the 2011-12 version of himself.
It can’t get much worse. I’m interested to see how much better he can be.