|Mike Commodore chases Brian Gionta of the New Jersey Devils during his second game as an Ottawa Senator.
”I remember playing against this team (Ottawa) in Carolina the last three seasons and how tough it was to slow them down,’’ Commodore told NHL.com. “It’s an offense capable of moving the puck and creating opportunities very quickly. As a defenseman, I never had any fun trying to keep up with this group. So I began to think how exciting it would be to become a part of it all. It’s always fun playing with a team that is this dynamic. I understand my role, which is to get the puck to our forwards as quickly as possible and allow them the freedom to do the rest. I’m looking forward to helping this team get on a little run moving forward into the playoffs.’’
Of course, Commodore is referring to Ottawa’s triple threat of Daniel Alfredsson (34 goals, 39 assists), Jason Spezza (23, 49) and Dany Heatley (28, 35), who sit snugly among the League’s scoring leaders.
Commodore and Cory Stillman were acquired by Ottawa in exchange for defenseman Joe Corvo and forward Patrick Eaves. Stillman, 34, who is only the sixth player in NHL history to win the Stanley Cup in two consecutive seasons with two different teams (Tampa Bay and Carolina) and Commodore, 28, each bring a wealth of playoff experience to Ottawa.
”The two guys we lost were big parts of our team, so it’s always kind of a different mix-up when you have a trade at this time in the season,’’ Ottawa goalie Ray Emery said. “But we’re pretty familiar with the guys (Commodore and Stillman) we were getting and realize that in a playoff run and, short term, they have experience and are more than likely going to be a big part of any success we have down the stretch.’’
Commodore, who’ll be playing for his fourth team in seven NHL seasons, understands his role.
”My game is physical but, at the same time, I want to move the puck and get it up ice whenever I can,’’ Commodore said. “I’ll still take the body whenever I can, but I don’t want to be overzealous. Over the course of an 82-game season and then, hopefully, during another two months in the playoffs, a team may play a few seven-game sets. I know the work involved and how demanding that is, so if my style of play doesn’t pay off at the start of a series, it might pay dividends in a Game 6 or 7.’’
That’s what Ottawa General Manager Bryan Murray is hoping for in the 6-foot-5, 228-pound Commodore, who has 14 goals, 47 assists and 413 penalty minutes in 272 NHL games.
”I was told that Ottawa needed someone to play strong defensively and stand up guys at the blue line,’’ Commodore said. “They said they needed someone hard to play against in front of our net. So that’s what I’m focused on doing and, hopefully, I’ll provide the team what it needs.’’
Ottawa coach John Paddock understands the importance of having a defensive defenseman along the blue line.
”There was a misconception when the (new NHL) came in that people thought it was all about puck movement,’’ Paddock said. “You still need big players, big defensemen. You’ve got to have somebody that makes the other team’s forwards know they are going to get hit.’’
Despite suffering a 5-1 loss to Buffalo in his first game wearing a Senators jersey Tuesday, Commodore was his feisty self in front of the Ottawa net, throwing a few crunching checks and also breaking up a three-on-one Sabres rush.
Still, the whirlwind of activity, which included a trade Monday, flight to Ottawa for a home game Tuesday, an optional morning skate in New Jersey Wednesday prior to a 3-2 overtime loss to the Devils, hasn’t gotten the best of Commodore.
”I suppose I’m a little tired since it’s been a hectic 48 hours, but I’m young and I feel it’s important to spend as much time as I can at the rink to get to know the guys,’’ he said. “I want the team to know that I will work as hard and contribute as best I can. We’re all here for the same reason.’’
In addition to bringing his physical game, Commodore will also become an immediate fan favorite with his signature Ronald McDonald-like red hair. As is the case each season, Commodore will refuse to visit a barber so long as Ottawa remains in the playoff hunt. He has twice shaved his red hair for charity. Once in Calgary following the Flames’ run to the Stanley Cup Final in 2004 that ended in a loss to Stillman and the Tampa Bay Lightning in seven games. It also happened in Raleigh in June 2006, for the Jimmy V Foundation following Carolina’s seven-game series triumph against Edmonton in the Final.
”I still have lots of time to let it grow and get all hyped up,’’ Commodore said, grinning. “Hopefully, it’ll be a while before I’m forced to get it cut.’’
Contact Mike Morreale at email@example.com.