January 31, 2009
Commodore Super in Columbus
By DON BRENNAN
COLUMBUS -- The photo of Mike Commodore lying on a bed -- wearing only his underwear, cash and a look of ecstasy -- was snapped by a buddy of his a little less than a year ago.
He had just won the Carolina Hurricanes' Super Bowl pool.
"It was about $3,000, $3,500," the big redhead said yesterday morning. "It was one of those squares pools."
The picture went on his friend's Facebook page as a joke, and then, as these things can, wound up being circulated across the Internet after Commodore signed a five-year, $18.75-million US contract with the Blue Jackets. It was a deal that raised a lot of eyebrows in Canada, where the defenceman was considered a tough, defensively sound "character" player but unworthy of such big money and term.
But the photo was not Commodore flaunting his new wealth as the Blue Jackets' most secure player.
"I did sign a nice contract. It was way more than I thought," he said a few hours before last night's game.
Commodore became a Senator Feb. 11, when Bryan Murray obtained him and Cory Stillman in a trade for Joe Corvo and Patrick Eaves. The deal didn't work out for Ottawa or Commodore. In 25 games, he had no goals, two assists and a minus-9 rating. The Senators did not seriously try to re-sign him before he became an unrestricted free agent. It seemed an amicable parting, until a story by Blue Jackets beat writer Aaron Portzline came out in yesterday's Columbus Dispatch. The piece had Commodore saying many of the same things he did in this paper at the end of last year and as July approached. That after a great start to the season, the Senators coaching staff (under John Paddock) let bad habits develop "and by the time we caught on to it, it was too late." Said Commodore: "I didn't play well. I was not a good player. But when I go around the room and ask the other defencemen how we play in our own zone, and I get six different answers, how am I supposed to fit in? I was excited when I first got there. I thought we were going to the (Stanley) Cup Finals. What they were trying to do, I had accomplished. And then they brought me in there during my unrestricted year and demoted me? That's more than a little tough to take."
Commodore also told Portzline, "Bryan said some things to the media that he shouldn't have. I'd have a meeting with him and he'd end up saying things to the media that he wouldn't say to my face. I'm struggling, the team's struggling, and Bryan's telling the media that I'm a player with no hands and no ability. Then they'd come to me and I'd have to spin it somehow, or try to laugh it off."
Yesterday, the easy-going Commodore shrugged when asked about the comments.
"I have nothing to prove to the Ottawa Senators," he said of the first meeting with his old team.
Commodore is off to a great start with the Jackets. Heading into last night's game, he had 21 points this season and a plus-13 rating. Filip Kuba is the only Senators blueliner who has put up better offensive numbers, and nobody on Ottawa has that kind of plus-minus. He's also providing more of the back-line toughness Craig Hartsburg's team could really use.
"Mike played very bizarre in Ottawa last year," said Columbus coach Ken Hitchcock. "He was in between the player he needed to be and the player he should be. He was trying to do way too many things in Ottawa, in my opinion. I talked to him about that when we signed him. He needed to get back to what he is now, which is a defending defenceman whose job it is to shut down the other teams' best players."
Commodore is using a couple of different sources of motivation.
"As soon as I signed, I was getting text messages that I was getting ripped into (by the media) in Canada, and that's fine, I can take that," Commodore said. "Obviously, Columbus saw something that they liked in me. I want to show them that they made the right decision. I want to go out and have a good year."
So far for the Jackets, he's proving to be a good bet. Speaking of which ....
"I think it's going to be a good game," Commodore said when pressed for his Super Bowl gut feeling. "I like the Cards. I don't know if they're going to win, but I think they're going to keep it close. That seven, 7 1/2 (point spread), that's what I like."
STARTS AND STOPS
With the six-hour time difference in his hometown of Herning, Denmark, the parents of Senators' rookie Peter Regin have had to drag themselves to work after watching their son's first three games on the Internet. "The last couple of weeks have been tough for them, to be awake late every second night," Regin, whose first NHL goal was the game-winner in St. Louis Thursday, said yesterday. "But they fight through it." Regin's mom Lene works for an insurance company. His dad Regin is a "businessman" who can set his own hours. What's that? His dad's name is Regin Regin? "No, it's Regin Jensen," said the gangly centre. "I'm Peter Regin Jensen. It's kind of different over there."
Blue Jackets backup goalie Wade Dubielewicz knows the language problems Ray Emery is encountering in Russia's Kontinental Hockey League. Dubielewicz recently returned from the same loop, where he played 21 games for Kazan Ak-Bars. "It could have been a miscommunication, who knows?" Dubielewicz said yesterday of an incident earlier this week in which the former Senator goalie refused a cap offered him by his team's equipment or medical staff, then attacked the guy when the guy insisted Emery put the cap on. "If you just get pulled (as Emery did), you don't want to be told what to do. I can understand that. And I can understand how he could be pretty pissed off, and when you're kind of pushed that way. Especially him, he's a hothead. That's the last guy you want to push, especially when he's pissed off."
BLUE JACKETS 1 SENATORS 0
How They Scored
1. COLUMBUS: With an Ottawa penalty expiring, Jason Chimera backhands a pass back to the Senators blue line for Mike Peca. His slap shot bounces through the slot and is deflected past Auld by Jakub Voracek. BLUE JACKETS 1, SENATORS 0.
Selected by Don Brennan
Ken Hitchcock became a fan of Jason Spezza's when he worked with him at last year's world championships. "I really liked coaching him," said Hitchcock, the bench boss of the Blue Jackets. "He was kind of out there at the start of the tournament, he was doing his dingling dangling whatever, 1-on-5 stuff. Then we had a chat and it just (turned) 360. He was really, really good the last four games, and when it was down to sudden-death games, he was really good. He was dependable, he was really competitive, he was heavy on the puck, he was really efficient." Hitchcock said he's not qualified to comment on the star centre's play this season, because he hasn't watched Ottawa play more than five times this season. "To me, I don't look at how many times a player turns the puck over, I look at how many times he's weak on the puck," said Hitchcock ... To get more size in the lineup, Senators coach Craig Hartsburg dressed Christoph Schubert. The move came at the expensive of veteran C Dean McAmmond. D Alexandre Picard returned to the lineup after his first stint in the press box. Out was D Brendan Bell. "Brendan's got to be more assertive," said Hartsburg.