Keep it Simple, Komisarek

First, stop hurting your teammates. 

Firing pucks and injuring Leafs winger, James Van Riemsdyk is only the latest incident.

Mike Komisarek has not lived up to the $4.5 million cap hit signed as an unrestricted free agent in the summer of 2009. That much is crystal clear.

With two more seasons, barring a trade or buy out at the end of the 2013 season – a likely candidate – Komisarek must make adjustments in his game. No longer can he aimlessly seek targets for body contact, he has to change things up.

It’s doubtful he can ever justify the $4.5 million cap, and never did, but with some tweaks and a lower, altered expectation, for a specific role, not the cap hit, he could still be of use.

Towering at 6-foot-4 and 237 pounds, he should be taking some points on the type of game of another former Montreal blueliner, Hal Gill.

It begins with improved decision making, specifically on the frequency of committing to the big hit. That one play alone is a cause for concern as he takes himself right out of the play. Sometimes, it works. Sometimes … 

Here he stops Campoli dead on the spot with the play, with a two on one going into the corner where the where the puck is recovered by then bobbled by a Canadiens forward before the Leafs finally get it out of the zone, to the detriment of Mikhail Grabovski. That’s a great, clean hit in a situation with timing that led ultimately to the puck being moved out of the zone. However the hit also took him away long enough to create a two-on-one down low. With different fortune that could have ended up as a scoring chance.

He can cut through the middle here, too, as he does with Sean Avery here. On the play, there’s a winger on the right wing as he engages Avery. As soon as the pass across is made, Komisarek uses his long reach and extends to hit Avery and take the puck before he is able to shoot it. If Avery had made a little pass through the middle, he would have caught the streaking winger all alone with a scoring chance. 

The reliance on the big hit I think gets Komisarek into more trouble than the dazzle the moment is worth. This is a situation where the old adage of ‘finishing your checks’ has to be modified for the situation rather than the established norm. Every rush is unique and doesn’t always require a finishing check along the boards. He gets pulled into the commitment to make the hit and open up space behind him.

The purpose of body contact is to separate the man from the puck, which isn’t predicated a big collision; only the end result is relevant, separation of the man from the puck.

This play against the Senators is a great example. 

First, he takes his man, Jason Spezza streaking down the wing. He has support and numbers as two Senators are joining the rush. Spezza knows he’s going to be hit, it’s telegraphed and Komisarek is committed to the contact. Spezza just chips it through and creates a race into the zone.

He follows up the Spezza collision by smashing Alfredsson in the corner, utilizing his aggressive nature. He is predictable in this regard, hitting to hurt and pulling him out of position. He must cut down on the aggression and pick his spots laying the body. Luke Schenn was guilty of this trait as well.

Hal Gill, while not as enthusiastic a hitter as Komisarek, eased on trying to make the big hit and started to utilize his long reach to push puck carriers to the outside, a skill Komisarek can adapt. Gill topped out at hits per game almost five seasons ago, while being more strategic about hits.

Hal Gill

Season Team GP Hits Hits/Gm
05-6 BOS 80 91 1.14
06-7 TOR 82 121 1.48
07-8 TOR, PIT 81 127 1.57
08-9 PIT 62 78 1.26
09-10 MTL 68 82 1.21
10-11 MTL 75 75 1.00
11-12 MTL, NSH 76 75 0.99

Komisarek on the other hand has maintained a healthy hits per game mark north of two – aside from a 1.95 average in 2010-11. 

Season Team GP Hits Hits/Gm
05-6 MTL 71 145 2.04
06-7 MTL 82 248 3.02
07-8 MTL 75 266 3.55
08-9 MTL 66 191 2.89
09-10 TOR 34 85 2.50
10-11 TOR 75 146 1.95
11-12 TOR 45 104 2.31

Moving forward, he needs to simplify. KISS. Keep it simple stupid.

He could also adopt the net presence similar to Gill, as a protector of prime space in front of the net, clearing rebounds and getting pucks out of danger. If Leafs goaltending going into the season remains unchanged, clearing the front the net will be just as crucial to the space afforded for shots on goal from the crease. Last season, the Leafs let a moderate amount of shots on goal from in close.

These shot location charts, show how a team like Nashville with Pekka Rinne in goal did a good job spreading shots from distances and kept a lower shot count in close in comparison to the concentration of shots closer to the net. TheStanley Cup Champions Los Angeles Kings showed a similar pattern.

Even in the comical turn of events that ended up in a goal off his head, Komisarek tried so hard to initiate contact instead of trying to separate the man with the puck, and the rest was just Keystone cops ending up in a futbol style goal.

As this play starts, he has his sights on the hit. He watches as the forward skates through the middle and engages, flies over his man and leads to the rest of the breakdown.

If he kept some semblance of balance and kept the space to a minimum instead of trying to get the big hit, the loose puck off the broken play is scooped up and cleared.

In the end, Komisarek will have to simplify, make better use of his large frame and reach, keep players to the outside and just stay in front clearing space of opposition forwards protecting the crease and clearing out rebounds.

He could emulate Hal Gill, or stay the same and be more like Todd Gill.


Stats compiled through

Compilation videos included snips from these sources:

  • I liked Burke, however when I reflected back to the first summer of free agency under his watch a Verboding of negativity on his free agent acquisitions and even the major trade that brought Kris Versteeg to the Leafs.
    We all remember the Mike Komisarek signing, but what really got me was when Burke after boasting he was going to bring truculent players to the leafs he traded for Versteeg , when I think we could have had Dustin Byfuglien instead. Burke dismissed Byfuglien as a one year wonder. I don’t know about you , but I would take Byfuglien as a Leaf any day. Oh by the way, when I enter the word Byfuglien my new I pad Thesaurus it spits out the word truculence !

    So Mr. Nonis are you the guy who is finally going to figure it out, or is our savour still 20 years away, geeze I hope not I’ll be 80 years old by then. Luckily I had the pleasure of seeing the 62 63 64 & 67 Leafs win in my life time.