Islanders Place Blake Comeau on Waivers; Al Montoya Activated

And Happy Thanksgiving to you, too. In a somewhat shocking move -- unless you read Chris' post here last week -- the New York Islanders have placed winger Blake Comeau on waivers. Separately, goaltender Anders Nilsson has been sent back to AHL Bridgeport as Al Montoya has come off Injured Reserve.

A notoriously slow starter -- some fans dub him "March Blake Comeau" -- Comeau has zero goals this season and has been enigmatic throughout much of his young career, but he's also coming off a 24-goal season and has not had many prime offensive opportunities to shake his funk this season.

[Updated 1:30 p.m., with additional context below] After being scratched for two games earlier this season, his ice time has been 12th among Islanders forwards -- just 13:04 per game, with just a nominal amount of powerplay time (0:20 per game average) and PK time (0:26 per game average).

Last year Comeau received the third-most PK ice time among Isles forwards (2:15 per game) and a decent amount of PP time too (2:30). This year, virtually nothing.

Comeau is a frustrating player and I've long suspected his hockey sense is what undermines his visible talents. The right-handed shot's preference to play left wing -- even when he's on the right side he drifts to the left -- creates strange situations that you'd think would be fixable. He has undeniable talents that you would think a better team would figure out how to leverage, but those are tempered by tendencies, including occasional defensive brain farts, that drive many observers nuts.

Not that these traits make him unique among young Islanders.

Nonetheles, this is a risky and quite bold statement about a rights-controlled forward (Comeau would be a RFA again this year) by a team that is carrying Devils castoffs Jay Pandolfo and Brian Rolston in what is likely the final years of their careers.

In microstats, Comeau's relative Corsi has been higher than Pandolfo and Pandolfo's frequent linemate Marty Reasoner, but those two also face tougher lines and Comeau's faced the easiest competition on the team. (All of these figures are through just 16 games for Comeau and at most 19 for the others, though, so we tread here with caution.)

Essentially, this frustrating but talented forward has been deemed surplus in favor of veterans like those two, as well as fellow struggler Josh Bailey, 22, who is a center now but one day just might end up on a wing vacated by Comeau. While the two ex-Devils veterans might fulfill roles better right now, is there any question who will be the more valuable forward a year or two from now?

And therein may lie the other factor in this move: The Islanders have more young forwards pushing from below -- Nino Niederreiter and David Ullstrom are up with the team now -- so if Comeau represents diminishing returns right now, the team may have had enough waiting for him to break his funk.

Though it could be just a risky "message" sent from club to player by trying to sneak him through waivers over the holiday, they're making a bold declaration of dissatisfaction about a player who has played key roles over the years -- but one of the few who predates Garth Snow's tenure as GM. (The 25-year-old was drafted 47th overall in 2004.)

According to Darren Dreger the Islanders first shopped Comeau for picks, with no takers, but exposing him to waivers for free is another matter. Given his usage this season, another team could easily read 15-20 goals and PK work as a more likely reflection of his work. But his $2.5 million salary could be too much for another team to gamble on unless they're hurting for wingers.

Is the Comeau Experiment over? Are we entering the next churning period of the rebuild, where yesterday's promising young players are discarded for other young players they hope will prove even better? And is that churn worth casting away a 20-goal scorer? We'll know the former by Friday afternoon, and the latter by next year at this time.

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