will surprise you.
Had you walked into the first day of training camp, he would have surprised you. Komisarek always looked like he was chipped out of granite. He played at 240-plus pounds last year. Now it looks like someone has trimmed down the last 10 per cent. He looks finished.
The level of loyalty he inspired from GM Brian Burke after two seasons replete with injuries and rickety play was surprising. Burke identified Komisarek as a linchpin all summer and made it clear Komisarek’s job was still intact despite the arrival of three new defencemen: Cody Franson
, John Michael Liles and Jake Gardiner
Likewise the way Ron Wilson steered Gardiner, his prize rookie, into a pairing with Komisarek.
At 29, Komisarek tends to Gardiner like a proud mother. If Gardiner dropped a spoon at breakfast, Komisarek would stick it in his mouth before handing it back to him.
The two got to know each other last spring playing for the Team USA at the World Championships in Slovakia. Gardiner brought his mother and then bought her flowers for Mother’s Day. Komisarek, who was very close to his late mother, noticed. “You could tell he was well-raised,” Komisarek said.
After an efficient training camp, Komisarek looked good in the Leafs opener. He blocked four shots, was credited with six hits and made the Leafs crease most inhospitable. Gardiner looks tethered to Komisarek with a bungee cord; he strays but invariably finds his way home
Unburdened by the expectations to be a big-minute guy, Komisarek turned in tidy 18 minutes of work. He has recovered enough mobility to spend four minutes with the Leafs a man short.
And if his game is newly improved, so is his confidence.
“I want to play here for a long time and I want to get back to being a dominant force on a playoff team,” he said.
A dominant player on a playoff team. When was the last time you heard those words from Mike Komisarek
“No one is happy with the results of the last couple of years. You try to find the right new team, the right answers to get us going in the right direction and into the playoffs. You want to be part of the solution.”
He is doing that all right.
The Leafs are top heavy with defence. Franson watched last night’s game in a suit and while everyone likes the idea of competition on the blueline, the Leafs have in Keith Aulie a player who spent last season on the number one pairing. You have to give to get. If Komisarek’s game is for real, they have more to give.
What the Leafs need that they have landed in David Steckel
to win an obscene number of faceoffs, is another player who can goose the competition within the top six. Twenty scouts were signed up to attend the Leafs opener. That often means there is a little blood in the water.
Meanwhile, Mike Komisarek
, lighter in body and in spirit than at any time last year says he has heard the critics of his play.
“There are a lot of critics and people who doubt you. That’s been inspirational for me,” he said.