I guess I understand why Habs fans are all over Mike Komisaerk for signing with the hated Toronto Maple Leafs, especially when the disparity between the two offers was so slim.
It's very easy to call him a traitor, with the way the team cultivated him, the way Bob Gainey fired a pretty darn good head coach in Claude Julien essentially to get him more ice time, the way team owner George Gillett and the entire organization was behind him when his mother passed away, the way this city embraced him as one of their own.
Yes, you could think of Komisarek as a traitor, that's your right. I prefer to think of him as a loser.
Not a loser in the normal sense of the word, as in a guy who always loses. No, Komisarek is not that, and he's not a loser in the high school sense of the word either because I've always found him to be a very likable guy, and that opinion of him won't change any time soon.
But, to me, for Komisarek to go to Toronto for the next five years he has to be a guy who has zero interest in actually having a chance to win, perhaps for the entire length of his contract.
Stranger things have happened, but the Leafs don't look like a team that is anywhere near ready to make the jump to mediocrity, which is where the Habs are right now.
Luke Schenn is a very nice building block, I've always been a fan of Tomas Kaberle's game, and this Nazem Kadri kid they drafted looks like he could be pretty good. But otherwise, what do the Leafs have going for them? Nik Hagman? Mikhail Grabovski (who signed today for three years at $2.9 million per. I don't even need to make a joke for that to be funny)?
They don't have a whole lot, and everyone looking to Brian Burke to work some sort of miracle in Toronto better not hold their breath, because nothing in his recent professional history has shown he's capable of that. In Vancouver, he was pretty crafty in drafting the Sedins together, but he was never able to build a winner off that. In Anaheim, he inherited a pretty good team from Bryan Murray and then had Chris Pronger fall in his lap, practically giving him a Cup.
Burke's a good GM, don't get me wrong, but there are limits to what a GM can do in a certain window of time. I would have to believe that if Burke hits home runs with every single move he makes (and I would suggest he's already missed that boat with the Grabovski signing), it will take at least another three seasons for the Leafs to be a true contender. But it will most likely be four or five, because even the greatest GMs make mistakes every now and then.
The one thing that disappointed me abut Komisarek was Gainey's claim that there was never a counter-offer made to the Canadiens reported proposal of a five-year, $20 million deal, which works out to only $500K less than what the Leafs offered. That's a bridge that could have been gapped, you would think, if there was a real interest from both parties to get it done.
Today, speaking on TSN's Off the Record, Komisarek said he did go back to the Habs with a counter-offer, but later he said "not all marriages work out." (He also closed the interview by saying, "Mr. Landsberg, any time for you buddy." Doesn't it make you want to puke?) That sounds to me like a guy whose mind was made up as soon as the Habs were eliminated from the playoffs and he began referring to his time here in the past tense, totally ducking every question about where he would play next year.
The way I see it, Komisarek simply wanted out of Montreal, though I'm not entirely sure why. Maybe he saw the direction Gainey was going with another small, speedy team and didn't want the burden of having to handle the Milan Lucic's of the world alone. Maybe he was sick of living in a French city. Maybe he needed a city with new women to hit on. Who knows?
But to paint Komisarek as a traitor would be wrong because while he was here, he gave everything he had and more. He's a player of limited talent, but who's oozing will. He sincerely wore that Canadiens jersey with pride, and even though he didn't want to come back, I don't think that should overshadow what he did while he was here.
But that's just me. I would understand perfectly if no one out there agrees.
I think none of you would disagree, though, that this is a sad end to Saku Koivu's time in Montreal. In terms of years (not seasons), he's the longest-serving captain in Canadiens history, and even though those 10 years were the darkest period of that history, he will be missed.
Koivu was not a fantastic quote, he was not the warmest athlete when it came to dealing with reporters, but he was always there to answer for his team. He took that side of his role as captain quite seriously.
Everyone knows all the tremendous things he's done for the Montreal community, and all the baseless, vindictive attacks he had to endure despite all his charity.
But really, I will miss Saku Koivu because he was a competitor, he played his best in the biggest games, he inspired his teammates by taking on bigger, stronger men and coming out with the puck, he knew when to push the right buttons with the right players to try and coax a little more out of them. Basically, even though he never won anything while he was here, I've always considered Koivu a winner.
For him to leave the franchise without so much as an offer to come back, even if it were for a pay cut, I feel is sad.
But I'm also happy for him, because he will finally get to see what it's like to play for a team where you're not expected to contribute beyond your means, you're not expected to represent a population that views you as a foreigner, you're not expected to be the public face of the team.
And though I agree that Koivu has seen his best days, I feel he will have an enormous year wherever he signs. In any case, I'll be wishing he does.