Habs turn to future Captain Crunch

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 2:50 PM ET

Mike Komisarek’s value to the Montreal Canadiens is measured less in goals and assists than it is in ice packs and leadership qualities.

As such, there would exist a difficult hole to repair along the Habs blue line should the big defenceman fall to the temptation of unrestricted free agency next July.

Naturally reluctant to discuss the topic is Komisarek, who many believe will ultimately become the team’s first American-born captain since Chris Chelios shared the “C” with Guy Carbonneau almost 20 years ago should he remain attired in the bleu, blanc et rouge.

“I’m sure there’s going to be plenty of talk about that, but it’s out of my hands,” Komisarek, who next year should at least triple his current $1.7 million salary, said. “I can control what I can do, and that’s playing hard, and doing what I do, and helping the team win. My agent and (GM) Bob (Gainey) will figure out what’s going to happen here in the future.”

Drafted behind only Ilya Kovalchuk (Atlanta), Jason Spezza (Ottawa), Alexandr Svitov (Tampa Bay), Stephen Weiss (Florida), Stanislav Chistov (Anaheim) and Mikko Koivu (Minnesota) in 2001, he has developed into a strong voice in the Habs dressing room.

“He’s a vocal one, and obviously he plays hard,” said Kirk Muller, the former Montreal captain who now serves as an assistant coach with the team.

“That’s the biggest thing when you’re a so-called leader, to lead by example. You hear that all the time. But Mike’s not afraid to express himself either, and push guys and say the right things and back it up by playing.”

Komisarek said there’s a noticeable difference in the attitude of the entire team from his rookie season. Now, he explains, the Habs have some chemistry.

“My first couple of years, it wasn’t a close group,” he said. “And I think that’s really changed the last couple of years. It’s more of a family atmosphere. Guys really get along, guys enjoy being around each other, and it shows on the ice.”

A University of Michigan product, Komisarek spent parts of three seasons developing at the AHL level with the Hamilton Bulldogs before becoming a full timer with Montreal in 2005-06. Last season, he was a guiding force in the Habs run to the playoffs.

Komisarek not only lead the team in penalty minutes, but he also found time to finish first among all NHL shot blockers and second in total number of hits.

Nightly, he played against the opponents’ top scorers, and he also fuelled some heated rivalries with musclemen such as Boston’s Milan Lucic.

“I love playing defence,” Komisarek said. “My job is to keep the puck out of the net and make it difficult for the other team’s forwards. Make them pay a price, be in their face and play physical and block shots and use my body. That’s what my team needs me to do, and it’s something I enjoy doing.”

“Every night we’re usually matched up against the other team’s top line, and you have to be ready, you have to be on your toes or these guys can make you look silly. So it’s always a challenge. Whether it’s (Dany) Heatley, Spezza, (Daniel) Alfredsson here in Ottawa or (Vinny) Lecavalier and (Martin) St. Louis in Tampa. There is always guys who are world class players and can make you look silly.”

MIKE KOMISAREK

Age: 26

Born: Jan. 19, 1982, West Islip, N.Y.

Position: Defence

Height: 6-foot-4

Weight: 242 lbs.

Drafted: Seventh overall in the 2001 NHL entry draft by he Monreal Canadiens

Career notes: In the 2007-08 season, Komisarek led the NHL with 227 blocked shots and finished second with 266 hits. He was voted the team's candidate for the Bill Masterton Memorial Trophy by the Montreal chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers Association. A lower body injury forced Komisarek out of the lineup March 22, ending his string of consecutive games played at 196.

NHL numbers: 295 games, 10 goals, 37 assists, 47 points, plus-13, 285 shots on goal, 375 penalty minutes in regular season; 25 games, one goal, two assists, three points, plus-6, 32 shots on goal, 36 penalty minutes in playoffs.


Videos

Photos