June 29, 2010
Leafs' Komisarek hungry as hell
By ROB LONGLEY, QMI Agency
This summer, Mike Komisarek doesn’t need a trade or free agency to provide a fresh start.
But if ever a guy could use one, it is the big defenceman who a year ago was the celebrated Maple Leafs acquisition of the NHL free agency period.
By Komisarek’s own admission, the rest of the year is best forgotten.
To recap, there was a rough start, borne from his desire to make up for decades of ineptitude with the franchise. While Komisarek struggled in his own end, the team was even worse, with an 0-7-1 beginning that dug a whole much too deep to recover.
A nagging shoulder left over from his days in Montreal turned into a full-blown injury over New Year’s in Calgary and after a month of trying to rehab his way back into game shape, the Leafs finally decided to shut him down with season-ending surgery.
“I came in there trying to change the world in a day and you can’t do that,” Komisarek told the Toronto Sun Tuesday in phone interview from his Long Island summer home.
“If everyone does their job well, we’re going to be in the playoffs. It’s not just one guy who is going to turn it around. The team needs my impact to be a calm, steady defenceman and that’s what I’m going back to this year.
“I’m healthy and training is going really well.”
He’s also hungry as hell.
The competitor in Komisarek has churned his way through what has already been a long off-season even though it’s still June. It’s included sleepover visits from Leafs strength coach Anthony Belza to check on his progress and resolve to come to his next training camp in the best shape of his career.
“We can’t change the fact the team hasn’t made the playoffs in five years,” said Komisarek, who also lost a trip to the Olympics because of the surgery. “What we do know is it’s a long, miserable summer when you don’t get in the playoffs. You dwell on it all summer.
“The season we had as a team and as an individual wasn’t reflective of what we are capable of.”
The boxscore on Komisarek’s first season as a Leafs wasn’t what anyone — most of all the player — was expecting when general manager Brian Burke made him his big July 1 move a year ago.
In 34 games he had no goals and four assists while growing increasingly frustrated in his play. Burke never lost faith in Komisarek, however and the prospect of the 28-year-old returning to the player that made him such an attractive acquisition in the first place is a key to the Leafs’ turnaround.
Since his Feb. 10 surgery with Alabama specialist Dr. James Andrews, Komisarek has been in and out of rehab hell though the former Hab has a funny story to go with the procedure.
“I was still sort of medicated and (the doctor) comes up to me and said the shoulder isn’t going to be 100 per cent,” Komisarek recalled with a laugh. “I was in pain and ready to hit the guy in the face.
“Then he told me it’s going to be 110 per cent and that it was my job to do the rehab.”
A recent trip to Andrews’ clinic for a follow-up confirmed Komisarek is ahead of schedule, so it has been worth the effort. And unlike last summer, when he trained on Long Island, Komisarek plans to return to Toronto in two weeks and once he gets the green light, will resume skating with his teammates.
“This organization gives us every single tool to succeed and it’s up to us to go out and do the job,” Komisarek said. “I don’t care about the last five years — the most important thing is what are we going to do about it.
“It’s one thing to talk about it and say you want to improve, but it’s up to us to make sure it happens on the ice.”