CBJ Season in Review: Blake Comeau
As discussed in my previous post, Matt Calvert was a major reason I became a Jackets fan. But another reason was because of my interest in Blake Comeau. He’s not a dynamic offensive player, isn’t the greatest defensively – he’s just kind of a “guy”. But is there more to him than a simple fourth liner? The 2013/14 season proved to me that he is definitely more than meets the eye.
Blake’s not Blue Jackets product, having only played nine games for the club in the 2013 season after being acquired for a 5th round pick from Calgary. He was quietly re-signed to a one year deal in the off-season, and was really an afterthought on the depth chart.
The thing with Comeau is that he has always been able to outperform his counting numbers, in a variety of different ways. 2013/14 was another example of this, with a pedestrian stat line of five goals, 11 assists and 16 points in 61 games. However, his shooting percentage was an atrocious 4.7%, with a total on-ice shooting percentage of just 7.7%, way down in 14th of the 19 players who played 41 games or more for Columbus. This shows that perhaps he was a bit unlucky, as his career numbers aren’t much better, but the important thing is that they ARE better.
Despite the mediocre points totals, Comeau was a bit of a “Corsi Monster” during the season; he created a LOT of events singlehandedly – his individual Corsi-For per 60 of 16.2 was highest on the team, and 36th in the entire league. That puts him in an echelon with players like Patrick Kane [33rd], Justin Williams [32nd], and ahead of guys like Jason Spezza [42nd] and teammate Cam Atkinson [39th]. He was also a 53% Corsi player – second on the team, +4.7% relative to the rest of the squad. This is a bit more impressive when you factor in that Comeau only received a 46.1% zone start ratio, lower than the majority of the team, and 13th out of 19 qualified Jackets.
It’s notable that Comeau often shoots from long range, an average of 33 feet out. This will generate a lot of low-percentage chances, rebounds, and puck stoppages. This is not ideal, as closer shots obviously generate far more dangerous chances, but it allowed the Jackets time to gain full entry into the zone or, in the case of stoppages, a chance to regroup and generate an OZ face-off, which would be given to a more offensively potent forward line.
Comeau’s contributions extended beyond simple puck possession. In addition to being an above-average possession player, Comeau excelled physically, with 197 hits, good for fifth on the team, and was third on the team with a +123 hit differential. He was also a positive in GA/TA rate, with 22 takeaways compared to just 16 giveaways. Basically: when Comeau was on the ice, if the Jackets didn’t have the puck, Comeau was smashing bodies and getting the puck back.
And all of this for a tidy one million dollars.
Blake Comeau’s basic offensive production lends itself to being a replacement level fourth liner, but his ability to possess the puck and maintain that possession puts him well ahead of other similar players. He is a free agent this off-season and there has been almost zero talk of bringing him back. This may be due to his relative obscurity in the grand scheme of the Jackets, especially when factoring in that guys like Ryan Johansen are up for a contract. It’s a sad day if his time as a Jacket has come to an end, as Comeau is a better option that any other current Jackets fourth liner except Mark Letestu – who is widely regarded as one of the better fourth liners in the league. Why not have two of them?
Next up for me: Nick Foligno.
– Jeremy Crowe [who made it until now without using the phrase “Comeausexual“]
Follow me on twitter, @307x