Leo Komarov is a man of many things. He is the Estonian-born Finnish hockey player from Russia that speaks four languages. He is a natural centre who made the transition to be able to play all three forward spots. Komarov is a former NHL all-star in 2015-16. He finished that season with a career-high of 19 goals and 36 points. He’s also the teacher’s favourite student.
Why Leo Komarov Is The Coaches Pet
Leo Komarov is currently on pace for less than 20 points on the season. This would be his lowest point total since the lockout-shortened season. That season also happens to be his rookie year. This raises the question why is he getting so much ice time. More importantly, why is he getting ice time on the Toronto Maple Leafs powerplay? As a player that has spent the majority of his career in the defensive zone, it is curious why he fits on the power play all of a sudden. Komarov has had just one goal and one assist on the power play this season. Komarov is also fourth among the Leafs forwards in total time on ice this season. Head coach Mike Babcock has been playing Komarov a lot, especially of late. In one recent game he clocked over 24 minutes of ice time.
— James Mirtle (@mirtle) January 5, 2018
Despite being given all the advantages to succeed, Komarov still has yet to replicate the numbers he posted in his all-star year.
Why Does Babcock Put Komarov In An This Offensive Position?
Babcock is a coach that frequently preaches that a player needs to earn his trust and prove that he deserves the minutes. It is very apparent that he trusts Komarov to play in the defensive end where he starts nearly 60% of the time throughout his career, but the question arises why he trusts him when the Leafs need a goal, on the powerplay, or at the start of overtime? Babcock’s first season in Toronto was also the year Komarov hit career highs in goals and points. He has shown Babcock, on the worst given team, that he was able to produce in those circumstances. Babcock has seen from Komarov that even in the worst possible time, he is able to give the team something, and even though that was two seasons ago, it still shows what Komarov is capable of.
A Possible Showcase?
A possible, yet however unlikely, reason for Komarov’s excessive minutes played could be to showcase him. Komarov is a pending UFA at the end of this years contract. The Leafs also have left winger Carl Grundstrom in the system playing in Sweden. He is projected to be a similar type of player but with more skill. The Leafs seem to be ready to move on from Komarov and may be hoping to maximize the gains from such a player. The Leafs seem to be going into the trade deadline anticipating players like James van Riemsdyk and Tyler Bozak to stay on as a form of “rental” that they don’t have to trade for. If they expect to make a playoff run, yet still load up for the future they can’t lose all three pending UFA’s for nothing.
Maximizing Komarov’s value and keeping van Riemsdyk and Bozak for the playoff push, and keeping the possibility to re-sign either one of them, seems to be the route to go to get the best of both worlds.
Leo Komarov Is On Borrowed Time
There is no doubt that Komarov is replaceable on ice by a prospect such as Carl Grundstrom or Kerby Rychel, but he still is one of the best players in the locker room. He is often the one to greet the new, foreign players with his multilingual skills and “uncle” quality about him. He would be a loss for the entire room, but one that is required for the Leafs to progress. Whether it is by trade or by free agency, Komarov’s time looks to be coming to a close in Toronto. He is clocking a lot of ice time, but with a coach like Babcock, everything is calculated. There is a plan in motion.
TORONTO, ON – APRIL 19: Leo Komarov #47 of the Toronto Maple Leafs skates during the warm-up prior to playing against the Washington Capitals in Game Four of the Eastern Conference Quarterfinals during the 2017 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Air Canada Centre on April 19, 2017 in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The Capitals defeated the Maple Leafs 5-4 to even series 2-2. (Photo by Claus Andersen/Getty Images)