If there’s one player the Toronto Maple Leafs should target this offseason it should be trying to bring back the gritty forward known as Leo Komarov.
Although Komarov isn’t the flashiest player in the world and he might have only played one season in Toronto, there’s no denying his absence was noticeable this past year compared to what he brought to the table two seasons ago.
One of the reoccurring themes for the 2013-14 Maple Leafs season was that the team was easier to play against than they were in the 2012-13 season. Part of the reason was they were able to sneak up on teams in 2012-13 as teams took them more seriously in 2013-14. Another reason was the opposition refused to enter the slugfest Toronto tried to produce on a nightly basis as players were told not to engage the Maple Leafs in fights. However, another overlooked factor was the pesky Komarov was no longer around to agitate the opposition and routinely get under their skin, and the team failed to find somebody who could fill that role.
Komarov is a unique player who toes the line between aggressive and dirty better than the majority of those who play hockey. Anybody who watched Team Finland at the Olympics saw just how valuable Komarov could be as he’s able to put the opposition’s focus on himself and distract opposing players into forgetting about Komarov’s talented teammates. When opponents were trying to avenge a big hit Komarov had delivered earlier in the game, Teemu Selanne suddenly found more room on the ice to produce the magic fans are used to from the legendary winger.
This past season the Maple Leafs were missing Komarov’s sandpaper on their fourth line. His unique skillset provided Toronto with momentum whether it be with a big hit or annoying opponents to the point where they’d take a retaliation penalty against him. His offensive abilities might be limited, but just like Jay McClement, Komarov is responsible in his own zone and can play quality minutes on the penalty kill, which makes him the ideal fourth-liner for any team while being able to step into a third-line role if necessary.
The Maple Leafs will only sign Komarov if the price is right, but given how Toronto is used to overpaying wingers who bring little to the table, it might not be a bad idea to give a player who can actually bring something to the team a little extra.