Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mike Komisarek Signed 8X10 Picture

In the last decade or so, there have been two universal truths about the Montréal Canadiens:

1. If a defenseman played alongside Andrei Markov, he would look so good that he would eventually leave as an overpaid free agent. Case in point: Sheldon Souray (to the Edmonton Oilers), Mark Streit (to the New York Islanders).

2. If a player was deemed such a powerful leader that he'd be viewed as ''the next captain'', he would be moved before that would happen, as was the case with Christopher Higgins (traded to the New York Rangers), Craig Rivet (shipped to the San Jose Sharks), Kyle Chipchura (sent to the Anaheim Ducks), and Josh Gorges (who refused a trade to the Toronto Maple Leafs to later accept one to the Buffalo Sabres).

Enter Mike Komisarek, who fit both bills.

The seventh-overall pick of the 2001 draft - behind Ilya Kovalchuk (1st), Jason Spezza (2nd), Stephen Weiss (4th), and Mikko Koivu (6th), and ahead of Pascal Leclaire (8th), Tuomo Ruutu (9th), Dan Hamhuis (12th), Ales Hemsky (13th), Chuck Kobasew (14th), R.J. Umberger (16th), Alexander Perezhogin (25th), Derek Roy (32nd), Michael Cammalleri (49th), Jason Pominville (55th), Peter Budaj (63rd), Tomas Plekanec (71st), Craig Anderson (73rd), Patrick Sharp (95th), Jordin Tootoo (98th), Christian Ehrhoff (106th), Kevin Bieksa (151st), Mike Smith (161st), Dennis Seidenberg (172nd), Ryan Clowe (175th), Marek Zidlikcy (176th), Andrew Alberts (179th), Cristobal Huet (214th), Johnny Oduya (221st), Marek Svatos (227th), Martin Gerber (232nd), and Pierre-Alexandre Parenteau (264th) - played in the 2009 All-Star Game, held in Montréal, where Alex Kovalev stole the show. It was the same year he finished 17th in Norris Trophy voting (Markov finished 6th, while Streit was 13th).

Judging from that list of draft picks above, some are clearly out of place, as Plekanec, Anderson and Sharp should probably have been picked in the first round, possibly in the top-10, but Komisarek's pretty much where he should be, in my opinion.

Sure, Markov had a hand in making him look good, but it was his steady and physical play that complemented his partner's style perfectly, freeing him to concentrate on exiting the zone and creating offense, then coming back to defend with speed and positioning while Komisarek cleared the front of the net and intercepted cross-ice and through-the-paint passes. He even led the league in blocked shots once.

In any other city, it's a thankless and anonymous job, but luckily, having been drafted by the Habs and playing in front of the knowledgeable Montréal crowd, the gentle affable giant became a star defensive defenseman, the Scott Stevens of the post-lockout era.

And over time, the smiling behemoth American took on a more vocal role on the team, became a trusted veteran and a reliable presence. Which meant the Leafs had to have him. And they did, and they ruined him.

That's not entirely fair nor true. He wasn't "ruined", he was just a little slower than he used to be, and wasn't put in a position to succeed in the same way he'd been with the Canadiens. Plus, he never really fully recovered from a fight against the Boston Bruins' Milan Lucic - and was a lesser physical presence for the remainder of his career.

He finished said NHL career with one season playing with the Carolina Hurricanes and a failed try-out bid with the New Jersey Devils. He then returned to finish his degree at the University of Michigan, and currently acts as an assistant coach for the Wolverines.

He has suited up for Team USA five times in total.

Here he is with the Habs, during better and brighter days (though his left eye might disagree), wearing the classic bleu-blanc-rouge uniform prior to a face-off:
He signed it in blue sharpie, mid-picture, on top of the blue line on his jersey. It may have shown more had he signed it on the red part of the jersey of on the ice between his legs. Still, it's a beautiful picture of one of the toughest customers to wear #8 in my lifetime (with Brandon Prust being a close second).

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