Last season the Islanders had two first rounders entering the final year of their contracts. Both of them were entering their fifth year of on-and-off NHL stints. Both were around 160 career games. Each showed an ability to score in the AHL. At the end of the season, Jeff Tambellini and Sean Bergenheim had played their last games for the Islanders.
This year Blake Comeau is entering the final year of his contract. Entering his fifth season as an Islander he has a total of 168 career games. Comeau has been tantalizing Islander fans with his offensive explosions in March and April the last two years. It's easy to see how this might be Comeau's last chance to secure a lasting spot with the Islanders.
If Comeau starts out slow again, how long do the Islanders give him to turn it around? With the addition of P.A. Parenteau, the eventual additions of Nino Niederreiter, Jesse Joensuu, Matt Martin, Kirill Petrov and Kirill Kabanov, there is bound to be a lot of competition on both wings the next few seasons.
The positive for Comeau is that despite his early season struggles he has continued to improve season to season. While Tambellini and Bergenheim both had their NHL production level off, Comeau has gone from 15 points to 25 points and 35 points last season. If he can continue that progress he'll definitely be around and hopefully be a part of an Islanders offense that is older, wiser and more productive.
For Comeau it's not going to hinge specifically on his production. Last season only Richard Park and Nate Thompson (both gone) averaged more ice time among forwards on the Penalty Kill. It looks like he might be getting more responsibility on the PK. It's not just on the PK that Comeau will be seeing more responsibility. Until March last season Comeau was getting almost non-existent ice time on the Power Play. From March on he saw PP time more often but finished the season with only 1 PP point. Even if Comeau gets less even strength time next year it looks as though he will be seeing more time with special teams.
Blake Comeau looks like he is going to be given every chance to succeed next season. Even if his production falters he can still show he deserves a spot by helping to improve the Penalty Kill. If he does produce, and can score on the PP while helping the PK, Comeau will definitely be back for many years to come on the Island.
The next two to three years are going to involve tough decisions. With players like Comeau, Bergenheim and Tambellini you have to figure out the ceiling on their potential compared to the youngsters making their way up the system. When you have been close to the bottom of the league for three straight seasons, almost no one's job is safe.