The FAN 960 Flames Zone

Over the next little while, we’re going to preview all of Calgary’s pending unrestricted and restricted free agent players.  We’ll start with the restricted players who remain Flames property even if they don’t sign by July 1st.  Blake Comeau just finished his first season with Calgary and poses one of the more interesting off season questions for the team.

As this is the first of the profiles we’ll be doing, each will follow a set template where we go through the pros and cons of each player in recent times with the Flames.  We’ll finish with my “verdict” or opinion on whether Calgary should think about bringing the player back, or if they’d be best served moving on.  I’d love your comments if you agree or disagree.

Blake Comeau, 26, 6’1. 205 pounds, claimed off waivers November 25th, 2011 from New York Islanders
2011/2012 totals: 74 GP, 5 G, 10 A, 15 PTS, 24 PIM, -11
2011/2012 cap hit: $2.5 million

Pros

I do believe Comeau is a good possession player and can fill a role as a depth forward on any NHL team, and his underlying possession numbers speak to that.  The Flames were what we call a negative possession team last season, in that they spent far more time in their own zone than they did in the offensive zone over an 82 game schedule.  By taking a plus/minus value of all the shots directed at the net (shots on goal, blocked shots, missed shots) for and against, it gives us a good sketch of how much time a player spends inside the opposing blueline.

In Comeau’s case, his -0.55 possession number (or Corsi number, named for Jim Corsi, the Sabres coach who created the value) was one of the better ones on the team.  In fact, only four regular players on the Flames last season finished with a number in the plus with Comeau falling on the minus side only slightly.  Taking into account how little Calgary had the puck last season, Comeau was actually a fairly effective player on the cycle and helped keep the play in the offensive end.  He was also good at moving the puck north (driving possession), as he started just as many shifts defensively as he did offensively.  Starting 49.1% of the time in the offensive zone, this means Comeau did a decent job of getting the puck to the right end of the ice even when deployed defensively if his shot rate is basically even.  Let’s keep in mind he did this against similar third and fourth line opposition.

Comeau brings a good deal of speed to his game which made him an effective penalty killer, as all of the work outlined above took into account even strength play only.  Blake is one of Calgary’s most physical forwards and used that hard nosed ability to affect a strong forecheck.  Comeau did a nice job of starting cycles by creating a loose puck off a solid bodycheck on the boards, and was able to continue the cycle nicely once he helped his linemates gain possession offensively.

Cons

First and foremost, his contract.  As a restricted free agent, Comeau would be due a $2.5 million qualifying offer for his rights to be retained.  Now, Calgary could easily sign him to a contract in the next while and make the QO irrelevant, but there’s no telling what his agent might push for in this scenario.  If a qualifying offer was hoped for by the player, the Flames would not be in a position to guarantee that cap hit to a player who scored just five times last season.  If Comeau were to stay in Calgary, he would have to take a fairly significant annual pay cut.

While Comeau scored 24 times with the Islanders during the 2010/2011 season, I wasn’t huge on his offensive instincts during his 58 games with the Flames.  As outlined earlier, he did a good job of getting the puck to the offensive zone and keeping it there, but once at the right end of the ice, he seemed to struggle in translating that time to quality opportunities.  Much of that could very well have been a confidence thing, as this past season was a trying one for the Meadow Lake, Saskatchewan product.  But far too often I saw Comeau drive the puck wide on the rush instead of trying to take it to the tough areas of the ice between the circles, sort of like what we saw for a number of seasons with Matthew Lombardi.  He has decent size, so he should be doing this more often.  Again, confidence could have played a large role in this and his first training camp with the Flames might go a long way in boosting that confidence for the coming season.

Verdict

Comeau isn’t a player you can utilize against true top six forwards on the other side, as he’d be outmatched far more often than not.  He’s got decent speed and can work a cycle, but against more skilled players he just wouldn’t be able to be as effective in his role.  Comeau has value in a certain role, and the Flames could use an effective player in that role at an affordable price.

Affordable is the key word.  If you can bring Comeau back on a relatively short term contract (two years) with an affordable cap hit (no more than $1.5 million), than I’d be in favor of the Flames retaining his services.  Anything more than that and I feel the team should be looking at other options to fill his role.  There’s no way the team can qualify him, and they have the luxury of letting him walk if his demands are too high.  Players like Comeau have value, but they can also be found via free agency or even waivers as Calgary found when they acquired him.

22 Responses to “RFA Profile: Blake Comeau”
  1. 1.

    He’s the type of player I think you need to avoid moving forward. Flames historically seem to attract far too many “he was good once, for a different team” sort of players. He might find his scoring touch again, he might not. Call me a pessimist, but I have a feeling it won’t be here. And if it’s between him and Stempniak, I’d pick Stempniak 10 times out of 10.

    - Eric
  2. 2.

    @Eric

    For me, Comeau is younger and cheaper. You’re not looking for Comeau to score necessarily, you’re looking for him to play decent minutes on the third or fourth line. I think he’s a guy who can give you 10 to 15, penalty kill, and keep the puck in the right end of the ice, setting up the higher lines for offensive zone starts.

    - Pat Steinberg
  3. 3.

    With Comeau it really comes down to price. I would offer him a two year deal at 850k per. I don’t think he gets much more than that on an open market. He is a decent player and effective on the 3rd and 4th line. He creates energy and if he would drive the net he would generate some quality chances, if nothing else. If he doesnt like the offer, then Flames need to let him walk, as the position could be filled through free agency or maybe even the farm.

    - spencer
  4. 4.

    Word on the street is that Comeau really REALLY wants to stay in Calgary and would be willing to sign long term. I’m not sure there’s any interest in that from the Flames side but we may be able to leverage that with a 1 year “Try-out” type deal. i agree with your dollar value, 1.5 max.

    - Wes
  5. 5.

    I agree with the last paragraph pretty much bang on, but I think stemps and comeau fill different roles on the team.

    - justin azevedo
  6. 6.

    @spencer

    I think you’re bang on that he’s not going to get a ton of interest on the open market. A guy who is coming off a five goal, 15 point season isn’t going to demand a great number of suitors. I think you can go a little higher than 850k, but I agree almost completely with you.

    - Pat Steinberg
  7. 7.

    @Wes

    I don’t think Comeau is in a spot to want a longterm deal, because as you say, there’s still a lot of proving to do. A one year test drive deal would be just fine from a Flames perspective, and if Comeau is looking at a long term deal, that may be his only ticket to getting it.

    - Pat Steinberg
  8. 8.

    @justin azevedo

    Agreed that Stempniak and Comeau fill different roles. Stempniak doesn’t fall quite as far down the depth chart for me, as he can do a much more effective job playing against top six players on the other side. A third line role is the best for Comeau, Stempniak can play a little higher up.

    - Pat Steinberg
  9. 9.

    I agree with you Pat. I would resign Comeau for no more then 1.5, could be a great fit on the third or fourth line with Bouma & Jackman.

    - Mark
  10. 10.

    @Mark

    And players like Bouma or the type of guys that make Comeau somewhat expendable if his camp takes a hard line on a higher dollar figure. But yeah, I’m for signing him for a certain price.

    - Pat Steinberg
  11. 11.

    Take him or leave him … Flames don’t need to spend a whole lot of time on this one. Short term deal for 1.5 mil/year or let him go.

    - Justin Whitney
  12. 12.

    @Justin Whitney

    Absolutely. No need spending a ton of time wringing your hands on this decision. Offer him the contract, tell him to take it or leave it, and then go from there. If he takes it, great. If he doesn’t, no big deal.

    - Pat Steinberg
  13. 13.

    part of the change means dumping the non winners. This guy must be frustrating to coach; he has talent but is not a closer, and he seems to make the safe play way too often. Not much creativity. Gotta let him go. He doesnt have the presence of a Morrision, doesnt have the winner resume of a Tanguay, and doesnt have the upside of the Heat up and comers. Will look good in Italy next year!

    - doug
  14. 14.

    he is a good Moss replacer. Should be offered 1.3m and no more

    - steve
  15. 15.

    @doug

    Fair enough Doug. I think I have a little more of a positive outlook on Comeau than you do, but I understand the desire for change.

    - Pat Steinberg
  16. 16.

    @steve

    I think he can fill a similar role to Moss, sure. I’m a big Moss fan so I wouldn’t mind him being back (as we’ll get to) on a short term deal, but yeah, Comeau is a good possession player like Moss and younger.

    - Pat Steinberg
  17. 17.

    There are a few mitigating factors with Comeau for me. Most importantly of which are: how will he fare with our new head coach & what will our training camp do for him?

    As such I would call this next year exactly what it should be: a tryout year. Offer him a $1M/1 year contract with the understanding that we’re going to watch him very closely this year, which could lead to a nice big contract in the future.

    - Jerry
  18. 18.

    Hey Pat, I think I wouldn’t sign Blake Comeau, 2.5 million hit is way too much when we can bring one of the younger kids up there. It sure is exciting seeing Abbotsford doing well and the young kids doing good. On a side note. With The NHL still owning the Coyotes. If they win the cup, Does Gary Bettman get a Stanley Cup ring.

    - Frank
  19. 19.

    Personally I would bring up Blair Jones or Paul Byron to fill that 3rd/4th line role. Otherwise it’s 1 year 1Mil 2way and drive the net.

    - Cary
  20. 20.

    @Jerry

    I agree with you man, make it a tryout year and see if he can earn a long term contract. It was something brought up earlier by a commenter and it’s something I absolutely agree with.

    - Pat Steinberg
  21. 21.

    @Frank

    One thing to consider is that the Flames don’t HAVE to sign Comeau at $2.5 million, but if they were to give him a qualifying offer, that’s what it would have to be. They can sign him to a much more reasonable contract prior to his QO date, which is the only circumstance I’d be all right them giving him a new deal.

    - Pat Steinberg
  22. 22.

    @Cary

    Byron isn’t fulltime NHL ready by any stretch from what we saw of him in the regular season, so I would say Comeau is a better candidate right now. Jones is a center and the subject of our next profile, and I would keep him as well. With Jones and Comeau, I think it’s possible both could be back.

    - Pat Steinberg
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