Why Mike Komisarek belongs in the all-star game

During NHL All-Star Game Weekend at Bell Centre, Montreal Canadiens defenseman Mike Komisarek hoped he'd be able to use his own stall in the locker room. Unless, like his uniform number, it was destined for someone else to use.

Komisarek wears No. 8 for the Canadiens, but when you're on the same all-star squad with Alexander Ovechkin of the Washington Capitals then you're giving up that number.

"Maybe he'll buy me a beer or take me out to dinner somewhere down the line," said Komisarek, who literally split the difference to wear No. 44 (a safe number, with Roman Hamrlik nowhere in sight).

So Komisarek won't be wearing his number and may not have his own locker.

But that pales in comparison with what was said about the bruising sixth-year defenseman from West Islip, Long Island when he was voted by the fans into the all-star game: That he didn't deserve it.

His "worthiness" as an all-start starter has been debated on message boards, called "a crime" by our own Sean Leahy and by slammed columnists like Slam Media's Ted Wyman:

Then there's Habs stay-at-home defenceman Mike Komisarek, who was voted to the starting lineup despite having just a goal and two assists this season and a less-than-spectacular plus-3 rating. Hardly all-star material.

How in the name of Rory FitzPatrick did it come to this?

We can hardly blame the fans. They simply were using the power given to them by the NHL to pick the team they want to see at the all-star game and since the game is in Montreal, the players the ticket-buyers want to see are either Canadien or French-Canadian.

The whole system is just another of Gary Bettman's blunders that make the NHL a laughingstock on so many occasions.

Stats aside, Komisarek is a bit of a rarity for an all-star: a defensive defenseman, and one of the best in hockey. And he knows it's a rarity: "You don't usually see guys like myself here," he said, before smiling and adding "maybe it will pave the path for the future."

Defenseman Jay Bouwmeester of the Florida Panthers -- the poor bastard who was peppered this afternoon with about 300 questions about free-agency and trades to every one about the all-star game -- said that it's time fans and the League reward more defensive defensemen with slots in the mid-season classic.

"Why not? Just because you don't score a lot of goals or score a lot of points ... there are a lot of different ways you can be effective out there," said Bouwmeester. "As a defenseman, your stats don't always show it. There are a lot of good, solid guys who don't get the recognition they deserve, and the teams with those guys are usually really good."

Then again, the all-star game is usually a place for offensive flash and flourish. While Komisarek will take part in the hardest-shot skills competition -- he said he "definitely" has to beat the 97 MPH he had in the AHL skills competition years ago -- he understands that his best skill won't be on display in Sunday's All-Star Game: laying people out.

Somone pointed out that Ilya Kovalchuk and Ed Jovanovski were the only players to throw checks in last year's all-star game. Komisarek said not to expect any booming hits from him this weekend.

"I don't think you want to come to one of these games and start laying people out. I don't think it's in the right taste," he said. "I don't know if they send out a memo or we get a briefing about the proper etiquette of all-star hitting, but I don't think I'll be looking to lay someone out."

Too bad. Perhaps then the critics will have a reason to invite him back.

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