A causal fan of the Toronto Maple Leafs can be forgiven for discounting the return of Leo Komarov.
After all, Komarov only spent one season in Toronto, amassing a paltry nine points (4 goals, 5 assists) across 42 games during the shortened 2012-2013 season. For the casual fan, this is really the only metric that matters and it doesn’t bode well for his importance to the team.
A true fan, on the other hand, has likely been incapacitated with joy since the return of Komarov on Tuesday. I’ve only just recovered myself, taking the time now to express my happiness. It’s good to know the team didn’t completely blow the free agency period.
What makes Komarov so special?
For a team in desperate need of establishing its physical presence, Komarov brings the kind of high-flying, high-impact energy that David Clarkson and Dave Bolland failed to supply last season. In looking for toughness, the Leafs failed to appreciate what they already had on the team and almost lost Komarov for good to the Moscow Dynamo of the KHL as a result.
How tough is Komarov?
During the 2012-2013 season, he ranked fifth overall in the NHL for hits at 167. Clarkson was tied for 107th overall at 84 hits while Bolland was tied for 306th overall at 43 hits.
Komarov also spent less time in the penalty box (18 penalty minutes in 42 games) than Clarkson (78 penalty minutes in 48 games) and Bolland (22 penalty minutes in 35 games) that season, getting under the skin of his opponents without hurting his own team in the process.
In time, the casual fan will come to fully appreciate Komarov as he speeds across the ice like a streaking comet and delivers the same impact as one on contact. He’s one of the few “character” players to wear the Leafs jersey since the days of Tie Domi and Darcy Tucker, which is another bonus.
I always thought it was a mistake when the Leafs originally let Komarov leave for the KHL at the end of the 2012-2013 season, but I’m glad the little Cosmonaut has returned.
The Bolland experiment never really worked out in Toronto and now that he’s gone, Komarov is the perfect guy to supply the toughness that the Leafs so desperately needed but never really got from him.