In an attempt to bring a bit of clarity to my personal opinion of Mike Commodore, and an overall disinterest on my part to feel any sort of empathy for the guy, I am going to lay out my thoughts on his situation in Columbus, rather than saying little to nothing in 140 twitter segments. This whole idea came about when I got a friendly direct message from Dark Blue Jacket noting some of his thoughts, who I believe to be one of the stronger Blue Jackets bloggers and advocates out there. I seriously recommend bookmarking the blog, found here (and in the CTF blog roll).
To begin, I have always had a bit of a notion that Commodore was a bit sluggish to be considered a top 4 defensemen. He showed excellent promise in Carolina, but during his time in Ottawa (a team I often watched growing up) he struggled to keep pace, and was often on the wrong end of plays. In fact, I claimed a number of warnings when Columbus took a chance on him, and happily ate a giant load of crow during his first year with the team, as he and Jan Hejda made a very clear case as the teams number one pairing.
Fast forward to year two of his five year contract, which runs the Blue Jackets at a cap hit of $3,750,000 annually. Early season struggles by the team showed some major gaps in a number of team areas, none more glaring than the defense. Commodore only saw 57 games in that season, after deeming himself unfit to play at the pace and rigors of the NHL, and that is where he lost me.
—- Now, I wish I could put a spoiler in here so those un-interested in my own personal history could skip forward, but I do feel it is necessary, especially after the discussion that lead to this post. Like most average people, I am not what you would deem a ‘skilled’ hockey player, however, I do have a lot of playing experience. That said, my talents (and bank account) found competitive inline hockey to be the most feasible for my lifestyle, and I enjoyed two years of high school inline hockey (won the league MVP my senior year), two years of Division 1 competitive inline hockey traveling up and down the East coast with the Cincinnati Storm (our best finish was 4th place at USA u17 nationals hosted by “the Cooler” in Alpharetta GA), and Cincinnati Fighting Hellfish, as well as 3 years of Division 1 inline hockey with Miami University (of Ohio), one of the years which found our team finishing 14th place in the Country, Nationals being hosted by the beautiful city of Boulder Colorado. In my experiences playing inline hockey, I was consistently a second or third line player (outside of high school), rarely having the teams success fall directly on my shoulder. In each tryout, I would have to fight for a roster spot, and have a very distinct understanding of the feeling that those who unsuccessfully fight for NHL roster spots feel. The major difference of course being that I paid to play, while they get paid to play. —-
The relevance there, is my complete lack of sympathy for Commodore’s poor conditioning, which I believe to be one of the major contributors to his lack of success with Columbus over the last couple seasons. I am well aware of the rigors of conditioning, the level of commitment it takes to be in peak physical shape, and the ridiculous hours of time that are put in by those who take it seriously. For me, I simply can not respect or understand the lack of commitment made by Commodore, who literally took himself out of the lineup, – one that he was paid millions of dollars to perform in – to get himself back into shape, which I do not believe ever happened.
The one unspoken comment is that I do feel bad for him as a person for taking the heat he has over the last two years. It can not be an easy thing to deal with the level of scrutiny he has been subjected to, but I am a firm believer in people being able to chose their own path, and short of giving the money back, he does owe the franchise his best effort, which I do not personally believe he has given.
Another major complaint with his overall appearance of someone who does not care, is the negative role model he becomes for some of the other players in the locker room, especially considering he was at one point in time deemed a team leader. Matt Wagner had a very good piece on Voracek over at The Cannon, where he went into detail noting that Mike Commodore had become a major off-ice mentor of the budding winger. While I do feel like Voracek has largely benefited from the experience, it was noted that his conditioning was possibly hindered by the Commodore weight training regimen. It certainly remains to be seen whether that will be a hinderance on Voracek as he continues to grow, the concern for a player to slack on conditioning in favour of weight training or another aspect of the game is certainly a cause for concern.
Finally, I am a firm believer in comebacks and second chances. If Mike wants to go out of his way to try to bring himself back to form, I will strongly support it. I would love nothing more than to see him earn every cent of his contract and entrench himself back in the top two defensive pairings, but at this time, it is awfully hard to give the guy the benefit of the doubt. Until that time, all I see is another guy who is making his millions, not respecting the value of being an NHL player, and letting down the Columbus fans and players.
(..and for the record, I would absolutely love rebuttals to this, so please share your thoughts!! I’ll be happy to share links if you opt to share on your own blogs)