Is Commodore’s Injury a Mystery?

Something both odd and surreal is occurring within the Columbus Blue Jacket organization and it deals with the status of defenseman Mike Commodore. Is Commodore truly out indefinitely with an injury, or is it something more provocative, something carrying a deeper meaning?

Let’s begin with a chronology of events:

October 15 – Commodore is declared a healthy scratch for the Blue Jackets home opener.  The usually garrulous Commodore is obviously displeased with Head Coach Scott Arniel’s decision and utters the following:  “If you are going to ask, don’t bother because I have nothing to say.”

The reason for Commodore’s benching is not the result of poor conditioning, something that plagued Commodore during the 2009-10 season, but for what Arniel described as “mobility reasons.”

October 16 – Commodore is now reported to have suffered a chipped fracture on his left thumb, the X-Rays for which were taken the previous afternoon. Commodore admitted that he’d hurt his thumb in the first game in Stockholm, Sweden, on October 8, but that it wasn’t a result of a fight he engaged in with San Jose Sharks forward Ryane Clowe. There is deemed no timetable for Commodore’s return.

October 19 – Commodore is placed on Injured Reserve. Commodore is considered day-to-day; however, there’s no timetable set for his return.

October 20 – It’s now being reported that Commodore has a strained left thumb and that the fracture that showed up on the October 15 X-Rays were the result of a previously existing fracture. Commodore continues to be placed on IR with no timetable for his return.  However, Commodore continued to practice with the team and remained on the ice for extra conditioning. It’s further reported that the sprain affects Commodore’s ability to push and shove the puck in corners or in front of the net.

October 24 – Commodore states that he does not have a timetable for his return.

Is it me, or does something seem fishy?

Commodore goes from a “mobility issues” healthy scratch to a fractured thumb with a day-to-day status for his return to a sprained thumb – and that the fracture is an old injury – and now not only is he placed on IR but there is no timetable for his return.

I would buy that story but it seems there’s more to the situation.

It was no secret that Commodore’s lost 2009-10 season was the result of conditioning issues; however, I don’t buy and never will buy the notion that it was due to his conditioning program over the summer. Commodore was merely out of shape and it was one of a myriad of factors in a disastrous 2009-10 campaign.  To Commodore’s credit, he did come into this season’s camp in far better condition.

So, if it’s not a lack of conditioning, then what, besides what’s being reported, is the issue?  Here are a few reasons one might consider:

- Commodore, a strapping, classic stay-at-home defenseman, is not considered the type of defenseman who can thrive, much less function, in Arniel’s up-tempo system, a system in which defensemen are often asked to lead the rush on the offensive end. Therefore, Commodore is not a good fit in the new system.

- Do the conditioning issues still remain? After all, Commodore continues to practice with the team and remains on the ice, after practice for extra conditioning.

- Is this a sign of things to come, given that Commodore was considered to be a frequent healthy scratch had mobile defenseman Kris Russell (injured groin) been healthy enough to play?  Additionally, with the rise of defenseman now being developed in the Blue Jackets system – Nick Holden, Cody Goloubef, John Moore, David Savard and Grant Clitsome, just to name a few – is Commodore soon to be rendered a regular member of the “Black Aces?”

- Is Commodore being held out as he’s “in play” – meaning, he’s being held out as a means to trade him to another team?

So if it’s indeed for reasons to trade Commodore, let’s look at a few possible scenarios:

- Edmonton:  Commodore is from Alberta and his mother still lives there.  Also, the Edmonton Oilers don’t appear to have any salary cap issues. The Oilers also have a disgruntled defenseman in Sheldon Souray, who’s currently on loan to the Washington Capitals AHL affiliate in Hershey.  What may have made this possibly moot is Souray recently sustaining an injury in a fight with the Bears. It was also speculated that Blue Jackets GM Scott Howson may have held off a trade with Edmonton as he may have wanted to include forward Chris Clark in the deal, since Clark has been struggling since late last season after he was traded by the Capitals to Columbus. However, Clark has been performing very well as of late and a recent injury to Blue Jackets forward Ethan Moreau has possibly put the kibosh on this scenario.

- Ottawa: Senators GM Brian Murray has been quite discrete in proclaiming that he’s considering adding a veteran defenseman to help young defensemen like Erik Karlsson and Brian Lee. However, Commodore would be an unlikely consideration for the Sens. His performance with the Sens late in the 2007-08 season left a lot to be desired, as Commodore registered only two assists in 26 games and had a plus/minus rating of -9.  But it was Commodore’s less than flattering comments about his time in Canada’s Capital city which may ultimately prevent him from ever returning to the Senators.

- Carolina:  Commodore was a member of the Hurricanes 2005-06 Cup winning team and played for the team until he was traded to Ottawa in a NHL late in the 2007-08 season. A return to the ‘Canes could make some sense as they appear to have some room under their salary cap. However, Hurricanes’ GM Jim Rutherford has instituted a youth movement which would probably make him less interested in a veteran like Commodore.

- Anaheim:  This team has defensive woes after losing both Chris Pronger (trade) and Scott Niedermayer (retirement) over the past two offseasons.  The Ducks play a gritty, physical style, they have room under the salary cap and they also have a head coach in Randy Carlisle and a GM in Bob Murray who are on the “hot seat.”  This may make it more likely that the Ducks could try to salvage their season by bringing in a veteran.

- Toronto:  Commodore’s physical style would seem to be a perfect fit for GM Brian Burke’s philosophy.  Toronto also appears to have some salary cap room and has a defenseman in Luke Schenn who has struggled since being the fifth pick in the 2008 Draft. However, Burke will not consider such a deal without asking for quite a bit in return, namely one of Scott Howson’s premier young forwards like Nikita Filatov. Filatov is a speedy forward in the mold of Phil Kessel, who Burke acquired from the Boston Bruins before the 2009-10 season. So, as they say, “Buyer Beware.”

One other thing to consider is the possibility of placing Commodore on waivers or possibly re-entry waivers, should no team claim him during the initial waiver period.  However, if Commodore was placed on waivers, given his salary, it’s doubtful a team would claim him and if he were claimed via re-entry waivers.

So, while the uncertainty and possible drama of Commodore’s situation continue to unfold, keep in mind these scenarios. It should make for interesting times for both Commodore and the Blue Jackets.

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