ANN ARBOR, Mich. — It’s been said that championships are won in the offseason. If Michigan teammates Mike Cammalleri and Mike Komisarek decide to stay on campus this summer, the Wolverines could prove that next April.
While the Los Angeles Kings, who drafted Cammalleri in the second round of last June’s NHL Entry Draft, are content to leave the big decision up to him, the Montreal Canadiens do not seem to be giving Komisarek similar latitude.
The Montreal Gazette reported on June 22 that Komisarek, the Canadiens’ No. 1 selection (seventh overall) in 2001, will forgo his final two seasons of eligibility and turn professional. The Canadian Press reported the same day that Montreal general manager Andre Savard said there was “a good chance” Komisarek would turn pro before the upcoming season.
But Michigan assistant coach Billy Powers told The Michigan Daily that he suspected the Montreal press reports were used by the Canadiens to try to pressure Komisarek into leaving Michigan.
Komisarek’s mother, Kathy, said Sunday that the Canadiens have not spoken with her family about the situation. Until they do, she said nothing will change.
“As far as we know, he’s coming back to school,” she said, adding that she wasn’t aware of reports in the Montreal media to the contrary. “He likes his coaches and his teammates and he’s planning on coming back to school.”
Komisarek’s coaches in Ann Arbor have the same impression.
— Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson on Mike Cammalleri
“I think at this point he does want to come back,” Michigan associate head coach Mel Pearson said of Komisarek. “The last we talked was a week and a half ago, and at that point everything was structured that he was coming back.
“It’s a long summer and things could change,” Pearson continued. “But at this point things are heading in the direction that he will be back.”
The Daily reported last month that Komisarek would decide whether or not to turn professional after the University’s spring academic term, which ended June 21. That seems to suggest that a decision may come sooner rather than later, though Komisarek did not return phone calls earlier this week.
Largely due to the Kings’ stance on the issue, there has been considerably less talk surrounding Cammalleri. There’s no mistaking, though, that the front office in Los Angeles has high hopes for him.
“We’ve liked him since the day we drafted him,” said a Kings spokesperson. “We saw some serious potential as a pro hockey player. We’ve always felt that. We’ve been very impressed with his play, but this is his decision to make.”
The Kings said that they have no comment beyond that, out of respect for Cammalleri’s collegiate eligibility and academic pursuits.
Cammalleri could not be reached for comment this week, but he told The Daily in June that he was still planning to play for Michigan this season.
Cammalleri led Michigan in goal-scoring (23) and was second in points (44) last season, despite the fact that he missed 15 games due to the IIHF World Junior Championships and a case of mononucleosis. His average of 1.52 points per game would have placed him fifth in the national rankings if he had played the minimum number of games.
And while the Wolverines demonstrated tremendous depth during his extended absence, there’s little doubt that Cammalleri takes his team to another level.
“Cammalleri is one guy on our team who is very dynamic,” Pearson said. “He’s in a class by himself on our team. In my mind, he’s the best player in our league, if not all of college hockey. If he were to leave, that’s just a loss you can’t replace.”
Ferris State coach Bob Daniels agreed.
“Cammalleri was the difference in the game we played against Michigan up here, when they beat us 5-4,” Daniels said. “He singlehandedly dictated the outcome of the game. That would be a tough loss for Michigan if he decides to go.”
Pearson said that Cammalleri’s youth — he just turned 20 years old last month – could play a factor.
“Cammalleri is young, and there aren’t many kids in the NHL at 20 who find a lot of success,” Pearson said.
Pearson also pointed out that Kings general manager Dave Taylor and director of player personnel Bill O’Flaherty are both former college hockey players themselves who “understand and appreciate the value of an education.”
Neither Cammalleri nor Komisarek has a timetable set for his decision, Pearson said.
“You can’t really put a date on this, because you might get offered one thing one day, and a month later may have something different,” he said. “We’re not going to pressure them with a timetable.”
The University begins classes Sept. 3, and Pearson said practice will begin about a week later.
Pearson, however, expects Cammalleri and Komisarek to reach decisions “well before” then.
“They’re both good kids,” Pearson said. “They’ll be up front with us, and they’ll make a decision as soon as they can for themselves, too, so they can get things settled and know where they want to be.”
Pearson emphasized that meetings between the coaching staff and each player were “very positive.”
“They’re both very happy here, and they both feel they can still develop here,” Pearson said. “They both feel that they still have challenges ahead, which is our big thing. We have to ask them if they can still develop here. If they can’t, then they should move on. But both of them have said they have challenges here.
“At this point they haven’t made concrete decisions, but as of now they’re looking forward to starting the season.”
Reach Jon Paul Morosi at firstname.lastname@example.org.