|Unless you're Lucic. Then he should leave you alone.|
Last year to much fan fare, Komisarek was an alternate captain and proclaimed the front runner to be the next leader of the Maple Leafs. Perhaps under the weight of that pressure Komisarek felt the need to wow his new team and the fan base. Instead of wowing Toronto, he kept the team almost permanently shorthanded. Not exactly what was expected of someone who was brought in to clear bodies on the penalty kill, and hopefully block some shots as well. Instead of calming down and adjusting his game last season, Komisarek was injured and with the exception of a few really solid weeks of play, he never had a chance to make himself comfortable in a Leaf uniform.
Enter season two, five games into the season, and the team, media, and fans are not seeing the "all-star" defenseman that was signed. He's playing an average of 13:28 minutes of ice time a night (lowest among defensemen), and while he is currently fifth on the team in scoring, he is not fulfilling the defensive role he has been asked to fill. It is nearing the point where Komisarek could be receiving a Ron Wilson message as a healthy scratch.
So up to this point I've just summarized Mike Komisarek's disappointing career as a Leafs defenseman. I use disappointing lightly. I am not yet ready to compare him to Larry Murphy, Jeff Finger type failures, but generally you would hope for more from your second highest paid defenseman. The point of this post is to more or less plea for more time for Komisarek. He's a solid defenseman, and despite some fans best efforts to trade him (again here), he's not going anywhere (yet.)
I get that there is still the mentality out there that the Leafs need to move a defenseman. I don't agree with it, but I get it. The assumption is Phaneuf is captain, Kaberle won't go, and Gunnarsson and Schenn cost a kings ransom. That leaves Beauchemin (who seems to get a passing grade from most) and Komisarek who has never had a chance to show his value to the team. This is all well and good for those of you who want to dump him, but please remember he has a No-Movement Clause/Limited No-Trade Clause. So good luck. The second factor is with his value currently being a $4.5 million player recovering from a season ending shoulder injury, and playing 13 minutes in the third defensive pairing, you'll be lucky to get Shawn Horcoff for him at this point (alright it's not that bad). So please give up on this idea. Third is if a team wants him, and his $4.5 million dollar cap hit isn't bad enough, his salary is actually $6 million this year, and $5.5 million next year before dropping in years four and five of his deal.
What are his flaws that are turning us against him? Basically, his positioning. He seems to be having a hard time reading the plays, and knowing where he needs to be. Considering the minimal time he's played with any of his defensive partners it's somewhat understandable that he's lost out there, and being paired with Gunnarsson who is having struggles of his own seems to be digging his grave. Perhaps not the best of pairings, but I commend Wilson on his reluctance to tamper with the success of the other pairings.
The upside seems to be that he is approaching the situation with a more disciplined game this season. Last season while looking just as lost, he resorted to throwing illegal hits at inconvenient times. For his mediocre play this season it's notable that Komisarek has only taken two penalty minutes in five games. While Komisarek did calm down over time last season as well, he certainly didn't show discipline in October when the team needed him the most.
The simple facts of the season for Komisarek are that he hasn't been bad, he just hasn't been as good as the top four. The chance for him to move up in the roster isn't there unless Schenn struggles in his role or possibly Beauchemin in his. Komisarek has had some bad moments this season, but he does have a goal and two assists (last season he only had 4 assists), he's second on the team in blocked shots (proving his worth on the penalty kill), and he has 11 hits in his limited ice time.
The moral of this long and winding story is this. Komisarek has been given a tough role this season, and that is to make the third pairing of defense as tough to play against as the first. While Phaneuf and Kaberle have better partners to help them in that task, Komisarek was given either Gunnarsson (who can't keep up now the there are expectations of the defense, and Lebda who has one exhibition game, and one regular season game under his belt. The same issue of communication that existed with the defense last season now only exists in the bottom pairing as three guys who have never played together try to establish themselves on the team.
So the Leafs are 4-0-1, nine points out of a possible ten. I know as there is a tendency to dissect the negative on this team and demand that under performing players be traded but it isn't that time yet for Komisarek. A night in the pressbox might be beneficial where he can study the way his defensive partner is playing and he can figure out how they can be better together. He hasn't cost the team any games this season, and he's likely to help save a couple later on, so maybe it's time to ease up on Komi.