Monday, February 2, 2009

How much dough for Komo?

Alright, I'm going to put my head on the proverbial chopping block with this one, but here goes: I think Mike Komisarek is overrated. Not just by Habs fans, either. I think Komo is considered to be more than he really is by most of the league.

There, now that the controversial opinion is on the table, let's dissect it. First, we should look at what Komisarek actually is, which is a big, strong, fairly mobile defenceman with a huge heart and extremely limited offensive ability. (Breakaways courtesy of Brian McCabe notwithstanding.) That package is one many teams would find valuable. The fact that he hovers around the top of the league in hits and blocked shots every year increases that value significantly. But, in terms of pay, most comparable guys in the league, like shot-blocking machine Anton Volchenkov in Ottawa, whose cap hit is 2.5 million, and St.Louis' Jay McKee who comes in at four million a year, don't make anywhere near the giant salary many are projecting for Komisarek.

Of course, I know a player's contract is about more than just his numbers. There are the intangibles, like his presence in the room, his impact on the chemistry of the team and his leadership abilities. No one can deny Komisarek is a great unifying force for the Canadiens. He's the first guy to pat a teammate on the back when he's done something great, or console him when he's made a mistake. He'll drop the gloves in defence of his mates. He's well-spoken and confident in public, and seems well-liked and respected within his team. But, is that enough to make him worth the five-plus million a year that many fans and pundits are predicting he'll pull down in his next contract?

While the intangibles are great, and should certainly play a role in negotiations, they still can't be the biggest factor in a GM's decision about what kind of offer to make a player. And, this year, Komisarek's play on the ice isn't good enough to warrant a giant deal. I've seen him make some pretty horrible mistakes that have cost the team, including yesterday's rotten giveaway to Dennis Wideman with a second to go in the first period that ended up in the Habs' net for a backbreaking, game-tying goal. In the game against the Kings on Saturday, Komisarek made a play that's become fairly typical of him this year. On the PK, he abandoned the man he was supposed to be covering in favour of double-teaming partner Andrei Markov's man. As a result, Komisarek's guy was wide open and tapped in an easy goal. Also this season, Komisarek's puck-handling has been fairly shaky. He's always relied heavily on Markov to start the play up the ice, but this year he often seems completely lost about what to do with the puck if he can't get it to his partner. His first pass is often intercepted, seemingly more often than it was in previous years.

Other general managers drool over Komisarek's physical package, and I'm sure many of them would have been willing to offer him five or six million a year in a long-term least before worrisome rumours about a looming drop in the salary cap began to emerge this season. Even so, there will probably be a team or two desperate for solid defence that will cough up the dough for Komisarek this summer. That's why I hope Bob Gainey signs the big guy before it comes to that.

Gainey won't win a bidding war for Komisarek's services because he knows what we know...that Komo isn't the equal of defencemen like Jay Bouwmeester or Zdeno Chara, or even Markov, who actually present a well-rounded game on the ice and, it can be argued, deserve the millions they get. I think Komisarek is important to the Canadiens' future, and he's got the intangibles to be captain material someday. But if he's to stick around, he'll have to consider some intangibles too.

Does he really like Montreal as much as he says he does? (Sorry, Mike, but your old buddy Souray fed us that line once before. Fool me once, and all that.) If he's telling the truth about that, I think he and Gainey can negotiate a fair deal, somewhere between 3.5 and 4.5 million dollars a year. He's certainly worth that, despite his shortcomings. I'd like to see a deal happen sooner rather than later, because the high bidders are circling and if he hits the open market, Komisarek will not only be overrated, he'll be overpaid for it. And it won't be in Montreal.


Topham said...

It's hard to evaluate a player like Komi, isn't it?

One actually has to watch him play.

As PIMs are a very poor proxy for toughness (see Segei Kostitsyn's 10 minute majors), so too are hits and blocked shots good indicators of the value of a defender. Yet in all three cases, people put them forward. Probably because without them, what could be used?

It bothers me recently that Komisarek is getting hyped beyond belief for these stats. But though many of his hits are good, he often makes the hit at the expense of defense. And, no matter what people say, I haven't seen a team afraid of forechecking against us.

What's more, according to people who watch these things, many of his hits are not actually hits (Hockeyanalysis):

"The NHL keeps track of what they call RTSS stats which include hits, giveaways, takeaways, blocked shots, etc. While these are nice stats to take a look at they are relatively useless as presented by the NHL. The problem is that game monitors in different arenas have different ideas of what is a hit or a giveaway or a takeaway, etc. Some cities are really stingy in giving players credits for these stats while others are quite generous in crediting players. So what I have done is to attempt to remove these biases by adjusting the stats to reduce the number of stats awarded in 'generous' cities and boosting the number of stats awarded in stingy cities. So far I have done this for hits, giveaways and takeaways for both teams and players. I have also taken a look at how many giveaways have led to shots on goal and goals against but in doing so instead of using adjusted stats I only looked at road stats which would eliminate a significant portion of the bias in the RTSS stats. It's not perfect but it is better than nothing."

Montreal is a crazy generous stat-town, as evidenced by the invisible hits that always add up to 7 or so for Mike after a period in Mtl.

I agree with you that he is grossly overrated. He is sometimes the fourth best defender on the team, sometimes the fifth. Rarely these days does he outperform Markov or Hamrlik.

Would you think a trade is in order then? With his value high enough to fetch something. Perhaps one UFA D for another. Trouble is, how will we know we're not getting an inflated stats Komi in return?

J.T. said...

No, I don't think he should be traded. I think he should be signed, and quickly, before there's an unrealistic bidding war for his services. I think he doesn't deserve the hype he gets, but I think he *does* bring a lot of intangibles and decent defence and would be hard to replace...witness the paucity of defenders we see in Montreal this season. For a nice, 3.5-4 million per, he's well worth keeping. I'd hesitate very much at the five-plus pundits are hyping for him. That said, I think, in the end, Gainey will do what it takes to keep him. I just hope he doesn't venture into overpayment territory, especially when Komo's style is perfectly suited to recurring injuries.

mr. gillis said...

Bob, sign him ASAP.

It's not only that I want his physicality on the team, it's that I have the feeling that if he ever leaves, he will haunt the Canadiens forever.

I think that if he test free agency, he won't be coming back to Montreal.

One second, I just thought of something. What about Higgins? Isn't this the last year of his contract. Maybe if one stays, the other will. I dunno.

Topham said...

Fears of haunting could be just as valid should we sign him ... a la Brisebois.

Komisarek is exactly the type of player you should think about trading – a player whose value is perceived to be great, but where people who watch and know him know it to be lower.

I wouldn't flinch at trading Komisarek if I found the GM that overvalues him. As I said, a big fear could be the danger of overvaluing the player to bring back in return. But there are many sure things around, as well as players someone or other on our staff will know more intimately – which expands safe possibilities.

Don't get me wrong, I like Komi a lot. But overvaluation of this kind is an opportunity that only comes along once in a while, I think.

leafh8r said...

The biggest thing to remember is that he's still young and improving, as solid as he is defensively, he's only going to improve offensively