Despite the slow and steady decline of his trade value, Komisarek might still be able to help some teams who are playoff bound. In the last six months, a number of elements have come together to restore some notoriety to the commodity that is Mike Komisarek. While at the start of the season it might have been unimaginable, it’s quite possible that this a player who is now very moveable, and perhaps even desirable come trade deadline day. Here are six reasons why Mike Komisarek would be a better pick-up than you think:
1.) Adapting to the Game
First and foremost, Mike Komisarek has not taken his slide toward mediocrity lightly. Unlike Wade Redden who was seemingly happy to fade silently into the night, Komisarek has worked hard to keep up with the ever-increasing speed of the game. Last summer he lost some weight and focused on getting his skating up to par with what the Leafs required of him. This says a lot, as the Leafs are a team that really rely on speed to be effective.
The results were very positive. Komisarek had a great start to the season. He was noticeably quicker, and his numbers showed a vast improvement over his previous efforts as a Maple Leaf. In fact, his new-found speed had many Leaf fans discovering that Luke Schenn was in fact the least fleet of foot of all Maple Leaf defenders.
2.) Its a Seller’s Market
This year, more than in seasons past, there is a real dearth of teams who could be qualified as definite trade deadline sellers. Everyone seems to think they have a chance at making the playoffs. The hope is justified in a lot of cases. A five game win streak and any kind of slide by the teams being chased, and a club could easily move up two or three rungs on the conference ladder.
As a result, no one is anxious to move depth defenders, much less quality defenders. Steve Yzerman might have summed up the situation best when he sat down with Pierre Lebrun last month for an interview:
“Nobody is trading a top-four defenseman — nobody, unless you want to trade a superstar to get one,” said Yzerman. “Otherwise, nobody is trading a top-four defenseman. They want those guys, and they need them.”
Judging from this commentary, it seems that there is definitely a seller’s market. If someone wants to bolster their blue line, or just add a depth defender to their roster, it’s going to cost more than usual. In this kind of scenario, it might make more sense to take on a player like Komisarek than someone with a more attractive contract and cap hit. Due to the perceived burden of Komisarek’s 4.5 million dollar cap hit, the price of acquisition might be less than with rentals, and certainly better than any high-profile guys.
3.) The Rules Change in the Playoffs
Probably one of the most attractive things about Komisarek is that he is one of those guys you want on your team in the playoffs. While a lot of his antics might put him in the box in the regular season and disadvantage his team, the whistles always seem to magically disappear around the second week of April. Someone thinking about acquiring Mike Komisarek is probably salivating at the thought of him repeatedly cross-checking some poor forward in the kidneys whilst trying to screen their goalie.
4.) Change of Scenery
The old hockey expression that states ‘sometimes a player just needs a change of scenery’ seems particularly accurate with Mike Komisarek. Sometimes a player simply doesn’t work in a certain coaches system or style of play (See Kris Versteeg: suddenly dominant in Florida). Try as Komisarek has to fit in and be an impact player again, the Maple Leafs simply do not play a game that complements his strengths.
Speedy teams that require their defenders to make perfect, crisp stretch-passes out of the zone on every shift are likely going to find themselves wanting more out of a player like this. However, teams that play a more stifling, team-defense, trapping style game will probably find that acquiring Mike Komisarek winds up looking brilliant. In that kind of system, Komisarek’s strengths are very much required. He can make the simple play. He can box players out. He can clear the crease. And he can rub players out along the boards.
All of these things would probably shine through a lot clearer on a team like Nashville, Montreal, Tampa Bay or New Jersey. While this toolbox has pushed Komisarek down the Leafs’ roster, it would probably push him up into the top four on a number of different teams. For this reason, it is important to remember that trades are more about deciding how a player would fit on a new team than what he’s currently achieving.
At the end of the day, Komisarek didn’t earn a big pay-day in free agency by being a depth defender. He is almost certainly capable of more in a more apt role.
5.) Contract Is Manageable
Komisarek is most heavily slagged for the size of his contract. Yes, he will carry a cap hit of 4.5 million for two more seasons. However, his salary drops to just 3.5 million – a figure that might be to the liking of cap floor teams looking for inflated cap hits and reduced salaries (for example, the Islanders or the Panthers).
While that isn’t a huge bargain, one has to wonder if it’s possible to acquire a better player in free agency at a price more manageable than 3.5 million and a term more attractive than two years. Comparable players - Gleason, Volchenkov, Michalek, Ballard – have all recently received north of 4 million for more than 4 years on the market.
The reality is, that even though fans and media tend to find these players to be overpaid and underscoring commodities, NHL executives open the coffers for them every single off-season. For whatever reason, managers see value in these low scoring, but highly physical defenders. If that trend continues, than trading for Komisarek would be a touch more prudent than committing to an even longer and more expensive contract on the market. Two years and seven million is more manageable than meets the eye.
6.) Veteran Leadership
On New Year’s Eve, the Maple Leafs were embarrassed by how weak their PK was. Of course they had heard about it in the media for years, but the situation reached a boiling point that night. The players and coaches collectively decided that something had to be done.
It was at that point that Mike Komisarek returned to practice. The team spent the day working on angles and coverage. Ron Wilson had thick ropes out on the ice to demonstrate his points more articulately. Everyone was trying to get the train back on the tracks once and for all.
However, it came to light on that day, that discension over the way the penalty kill should be done was present in the locker room. On his first day back, Komisarek could be heard from the hallway outside the Leaf’s dressing room, calling out a player (rumored to be Luke Schenn) for not being on board. He scolded this player, and essentially told him to get with the program.
Apparently Komisarek’s voice carries respect among his teammates, because since that day, the Maple Leafs have not allowed a goal against while killing a penalty. That kind of presence can be invaluable in a locker room and might ultimately be the reason that the Leafs elect to keep Komisarek with the team rather than deal him.
Even off the ice, this player can contribute. The team who can take that, and find a role for him to excel in on the ice, will have a special asset.
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