Islanders Grades: Blake Comeau, COZO artist

As coiner of the tongue-in-cheek COZO (Comeau Offensive Zone Orbit) I often feel compelled to defend the player: Twenty-four goals overall and 33 even strength points from your third-line winger who logs a lot of PK time is not shabby. I'd venture it's even a sign the Isles are building toward a versatile group of 9-12 forwards.

While parts of Blake Comeau's game can be frustrating (like most young players) and consistency or confidence can be elusive (like most young players), I can't disregard his contributions just because of his occasional tendency to take the puck down the boards, behind the net, and out back up the opposite boards to the blueline (a full COZO).

He was fifth on the team in scoring, third among Isles forwards in ice time (with over two minutes each on the PP and PK), and fourth on the team in even strength points per 60 minutes of EV ice time (just behind Moulson, just ahead of Frans Nielsen). That's without fantastic nor consistent linemates, either. Just look at this mix:

10.59% EV 12 BAILEY,JOSH - 57 COMEAU,BLAKE - 44 SCHREMP,ROB
9.49% EV 57 COMEAU,BLAKE - 44 SCHREMP,ROB - 16 SIM,JONATHAN
7.45% EV 12 BAILEY,JOSH - 57 COMEAU,BLAKE - 58 JOENSUU,JESSE
5.87% EV 12 BAILEY,JOSH - 57 COMEAU,BLAKE - 17 MARTIN,MATT
4.37% EV 12 BAILEY,JOSH - 57 COMEAU,BLAKE - 15 PARENTEAU,PIERRE
3.58% EV 57 COMEAU,BLAKE - 26 MOULSON,MATT - 91 TAVARES,JOHN

Line combos via Frozen Pool

On the other side of the coin, Comeau's Corsi was in the lower end of regular forwards (but again, look at his random linemates), and Comeau's quality of competition at even strength was among the weakest on the team. If my John Tavares line is getting choice offensive zone starts but also drawing tighter checking, and my Nielsen line is taking on the opponents' best, I want my third liners to feast on weaker opposition. In theory, anyway. (The opposing team is obviously hoping the same.)


GP G A P +/- PIM PPG SHG GWG TOI PPtoi PKtoi SOG PCT
2010-11 - Blake Comeau 77 24 22 46 -17 43 5 1 3 18:41 2:30 2:15 182 13.2%

Now entering his age 25 season, there's still a lot of good things to work with there. Comeau's games played, goals and points have increased in each NHL season. If he found chemistry with some consistent linemates, he could be even more productive as he enters what should be his prime -- to say nothing of his value on the PK. His shooting percentage this year was just a few ticks better than last year (12.8%), so he didn't luck into 24 goals via a hot streak.

Further, about that minus-17: His "PDO" of 974 was second-lowest among Isles forwards, with Isles goalies save % just .892 with him on the ice -- which means his teammates had poorer success shooting and his goalies had poorer success stopping pucks while he was on the ice. You can interpret that as some bad luck for him, whether via bounces or teammates.

 

The Consistency Service Pack

Even great scorers go through dry stretches every season. It's the nature of the game. So it's not consistency in production that ever concerns me with Comeau, it's consistency in overall play -- the constant worry with most young players.

For me, with Comeau, the prescription to step forward is always about: 1) Driving the net more; 2) Shooting more; 3) Engaging physical. When all three are happening, the rest falls in place.

 

A Contract Beckons

Comeau's value is still evolving as he enters restricted free agency, which makes the next negotiation interesting: Go short, and he's a UFA in two years. Go long, and you're not sure what you've just signed up for. He's coming off a $800,000 salary on a two-year deal that carried a $650,000 cap hit. He's due a raise.

(These are different situations and I would cringe to hear either name brought up in a arbitration hearing, but it's interesting that Comeau's 2010-11 counting stats are in the vicinity of James van Riemsdyk (21-19-40 at age 21) and Scott Hartnell (24-25-49 at age 28). This is why going beyond counting stats matters. Hartnell's six-year deal has two years left at a $4.2 million annual cap hit.)

Maybe one day in the future, today's prospects will make Comeau surplus to needs -- or maybe he'll take another step next season and even his worst critics will take notice. But even if it ends up being as a bottom-six forward, there is definitely an opportunity for Comeau to carve out a long-term role.

Either way, he's had just two full NHL seasons, plus two more split between the Island and Bridgeport -- and, oh yeah, three different NHL coaches. And he's improved each year. Whatever you think of the warts in his game, I'm not tossing out a cost-controlled guy who just scored 24 goals at age 24.

The Poem/Lyric

Don't want him to go go, no no
Can't get enough COZO, COZO
Even when play's so so, or so
Can't stop the Comeau, Comeau

Strange time for zonal orbit
But no cause for career obit
There's more to Blake you know it
Next year he'll show it, show it

The Grade

For reference, Comeau's 2009-10 report card is here, where voters gave him an average of 6.98 -- in the upper half of (generous) team grades. This and the poll below is where we vote our grade for a player based on how well he met preseason expectations. If a guy rocked but you expected him to rock, you grade him harder than a bottom-six guy who showed you more than you expected (even if that showing was just a modest tally in the grand scheme).

So consider where you expected Comeau to be back in September, and measure that against how well he got there by April.

Discussion Topics

What do you do with his RFA status?

What role do you see him playing next year, and in three years?

If forward prospects press him for ice time, and he ends up being a good PKer and 3rd/4th-line guy in his late-20s, isn't that still a good thing?

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