Report: NHL changes league rules for Leafs’ Komarov

Wow… the NHL actually working WITH the Leafs for a change?

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According to a report from Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman, the NHL has made a special rule exemption for Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov. Stick with us here, it’s a little confusing but will make sense in the end.

First, go back in time. All the way back to the start of the 2017-18 season. Back to the preseason in fact, where Komarov was assessed a two minute minor for “illegal equipment” due to the way he wears his visor on his helmet.

Check it out:

Remember that? Well… clearly things have changed, as Komarov continues to wear his visor up high, yet hasn’t been called for the infraction again. 

Hey, at least Uncle Leo has a sense of humour about things:

Back to the matter at hand, though. Friedman reported today in his weekly 31 Thoughts column that Komarov, along with Detroit Red Wings defenceman Niklas Kronwall and Arizona Coyotes defenceman Niklas Hjalmarsson have all been granted league exemptions given that they joined the NHL prior the the mandatory visor rule for players following 2013-14 season.

Here’s the official word from Friedman, himself:

One of the oddest stories of the year was the early-season visor crackdown and what happened to it. Toronto’s Leo Komarov was practically incarcerated. Things changed when Detroit’s Niklas Kronwall returned from injury a week into the season, and, suddenly realizing what was up, objected. Rather than battling a grievance, the league gave exemptions to Komarov, Kronwall and Arizona’s Niklas Hjalmarsson. (All three could have refused to wear one, since they were in the NHL prior to 2013–14.)

Interesting. So, because he’s grandfathered in, Komarov can wear his visor however he darn well pleases. Good to know. For what it’s worth, Komarov experimented with going visor-less but felt he wasn’t as protected as well as he was previously. While it may not make any sense, any hockey player will tell you that the best piece of equipment is the equipment that you’re most comfortable performing in. Kudos to the NHL for recognizing this and allowing Komarov to continue as he has his entire career. After all, he’s not hurting anyone aside from himself. 

Komarov back tonight against the Panthers?

According to The Athletic’s Jonas Siegel, injured Toronto Maple Leafs forward Leo Komarov will not make his return to the team’s lineup tonight as they take on the surging Florida Panthers.

Komarov has been out of the Leafs’ lineup since suffering a lower body injury in a game against the Buffalo Sabres earlier this month. He has missed the Leafs’ lineup for the past five games, while the team has gone 3-2 in his absence. Once he’s deemed healthy, Babcock made it clear that he’ll be back in the lineup, no question about it. “I can tell you Leo is going in for sure, we need a heavy body and a penalty killer,” said the Leafs’ bench boss before adding, “he’s a man”.

So, with Komarov coming back, the Leafs starting lineup becomes a numbers game once again and it looks like rookie Andreas Johnsson will pay the price with his roster spot. When asked how he’ll find minutes for Johnsson once Komarov returns, Babcock was blunt with his answer saying, “Maybe I don’t… that’s just the way it is, but I think Johnny has been real good.”

Despite seemingly having no room for Johnsson, Babcock has been quick to praise the Swedish youngster, who has one goal in six games since being called up on March 13th. What impresses Babcock the most is Johnsson’s straight ahead speed. “I always knew he was quick when I watched him with the Marlies,” said Babcock. “I didn’t know if he had speed. He does.”

Babcock also seems to like his line fourth line and is reluctant to pull them apart, despite having Komarov as an option, “I thought they were really good,” said Babcock about the Johnsson, Tomas Plekanec and Kasperi Kapanen trio following the team’s 3-2 loss to the Sabres. “I thought two games in a row they dominated and played well, played hard and were effective. That’s a good sign for us moving ahead.”

But, again it’s a numbers game. When Komarov finally gets medical clearance expect Johnsson to watch from the press box. For how long though, remains to be seen. As the team’s 13th forward, all you can do is watch, learn and wait for your opportunity. In Johnsson’s case, the kid is taking advantage of any chance that comes his way.