Taking a different approach than Mikhail Grabovski, former Maple Leafs defenceman Mike Komisarek had nothing negative to say about his former coaches or general managers, instead lamenting the difficult circumstances his contract created for him in what was a disappointing four years in Toronto.
Speaking with Bryan Hayes and Jeff O'Neill on Leafs Lunch on Tuesday on TSN 1050, Komisarek said he does not regret the decision to come to Toronto, but wished things would have played out differently.
"It was definitely a learning experience, but I think I'm better for it today – going through those challenges, those ups and downs the last couple of years," Komisarek said. "…And I'm looking to have a fresh start in Carolina and bouncing back."
The 31-year-old, who had the final year on his five-year, $22.5 million contract bought out by the Leafs on July 2, said that things seemed to snowball right from the outset of his time in Toronto and he was never able to get comfortable in his surroundings.
"I never got out on the right foot (winning just one of the first 13 games)…and it never caught on from there, then the media starts getting on you and the fans start getting on you," Komisarek said. "But looking back on that decision, this is the place where I wanted to come and turn things around and get into the playoffs and be a key part of it and it didn't work out."
Splitting time between the Leafs and Marlies during his final season in Toronto, Komisarek said his struggles were due in large part to how he tried to do too much and was victimized because of it.
"I think in one organization, you're a shut-down guy, you're a first pairing guy that's playing against the first lines night-in and night-out…And the the next year you sign the big ticket, your salary increases and everyone sees that and they expect more from the same guy, same player. And on top of that, as a player you sort of feel that and you try to do more and you get caught running around, you get caught out of position."
The Canadiens' seventh overall pick in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Komisarek also thought his early struggles put him in a hole with the media and that contributed to the lack of confidence the organization had in him.
"The media presence and what is said and what's written – coaches and people within the organization will never admit that they follow that and that it has an impact on the decisions and what they do, but they get all the clippings every day and they follow exactly what's going on and how guys are being perceived and what's being said."
He said he could "never say anything bad about 'Burkey' (Brian Burke) or 'Nony' (Dave Nonis)" because they treated him and his family so well throughout his four seasons and just wished circumstances would have been different.
"In a market like this, you get put in a box, you get a label on you and that doesn't really change unless you get those big minutes and you're playing and you get a chance to sort of break the mold and find your way again," Komisarek said.
Choosing to sign with Carolina on a one-year, $700,000 deal was solely based on what he thought was a great fit with coach Kirk Muller on a young team where he could provide a veretan presence in the locker room.
Komisarek said he welcomes the chance to go to a situation that is "a little bit quieter," where he wouldn't be under the microscope day-in and day-out.
"You come in with a big contract and big expectations and you want to turn things around with the team not making the playoffs in numerous years before. You want to turn things around right away, but that doesn't happen overnight," Komisarek said of his time in Toronto. "But whether you have the opportunities or not, you make the most of it. I came from a background where you don't complain, you don't whine, you don't make excuses…but it just didn't work out."
He said he holds no ill will towards any of his previous coaches or GM's and feels like the opportunity with the Hurricanes is a great situation for him at this stage in his career.