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[Archive] 2011 Interview with Blake Comeau

August 10, 2014 Leave a comment

This article was posted on The Score’s Backhand Shelf blog on December 28, 2011. I interviewed Blake Comeau, then of the Calgary Flames, fresh off a trade from the New York Islanders, hoping to make a fresh start after his time on Long Island had gone sour. After only 91 games, 9 goals, 13 assists, and 22 points over two seasons with Calgary, Comeau has since moved onto the Columbus Blue Jackets (2012-14: 70 GP, 7 G, 14 A, 21 PTS) and the Pittsburgh Penguins.

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Blake Comeau is finding his stride in Calgary, and pleased to be on a playoff contender

Typically when you have a hockey player who improves his point production every season, and is coming off a year of career highs, he’d continue to receive incre

ased levels of playing time, and should subsequently churn out progressively higher point totals with each passing season. However, “typical” is not word that would accurately describe Blake Comeau’s current NHL campaign.

“I was excited with the direction my game was going after last season,” said Comeau, Calgary Flames’ left-winger. “I wanted to build off it this year. I hit a little bump in the road.”

After being healthy scratched by the New York Islanders on October 15th, 20th, and November 21st, the un-injured Comeau knew his days in an Islander uniform were numbered.

He appeared in his last game for New York on November 23rd, where he saw only 6:45 of time on the ice, and was only used for eight shifts. Those numbers were nearly half of his typical game engagement this season –up until then, he was averaging 16 shifts and just under 14 minutes on the ice per game. But even those numbers were in stark contrast to last season, which often saw him play around 22 minutes and get up to 30 shifts some games.

This all translated into Comeau not registering a single point through 16 games with New York, and posting a dismal -11 rating.

”I didn’t feel like anyone was really scoring to start the year off in New York,” Comeau explained. “We were struggling offensively. Honestly I’m still in the dark, and I don’t think I’ll ever know why I was healthy scratched. I asked questions and tried to figure out what I could do to stay in the lineup, and nothing was ever answered. I knew my production was going to go down there, as my opportunities were being cut in half. I wasn’t getting as much ice time as I was in the previous years. It’s on me as well though – I wasn’t producing like I wanted to.”

It was a mind-boggling move by New York, who had re-signed Comeau to a one- year, $2.5 million dollar contract for the 2011-12 season. The Islanders are third lowest in contract spending this year, and have $13 million dollars of salary cap space available, so benching their eighth highest paid player didn’t make any financial sense either.

I’m not really sure what happened over the summer,” said Comeau. “Obviously something changed during that time, and I wasn’t in their plans anymore. I wish I could pinpoint what it was. There wasn’t any communication with me at the start of the year. I didn’t know why I was sitting out, and I didn’t know why anything was going the way it was. I asked questions and there was never really anyone to answer them. To me it didn’t make sense.”

At only 25 years of age, and with improved statistical returns every season, the Islanders decision to delete Comeau from their long-term plans was definitely a head-scratcher.  He was placed on waivers by the Islanders on November 24th, and promptly picked up by the Calgary Flames the following day.

“I was pretty excited when I was picked up by Calgary off waivers,” Comeau said. “I look at it as everything happening for a reason. There are no hard feelings [with the New York Islanders]—I made a lot of good friends in New York. It’s part of the business sometimes – you have to move on, and go to a new team. For me, moving was the best situation. It was a really good time for me to get a change of scenery, and I’m really excited to be in Calgary. The fresh start here has given me a spark.”

Statistically speaking, the scenery change has indeed sparked Comeau  – in his first sixteen games as a member of the Calgary Flames, he’s recorded 2 goals and 3 assists for 5 points, and sits at a much improved  -1 rating.

“I’ve gotten better the more I’ve played, and the more comfortable I’ve gotten,” Comeau explained. “There’s still a ways to go—it’d be nice to contribute offensively a little more. But I’m bringing other things to the game when I’m not scoring too, with physical play, on the penalty kill, and things like that. If I can keep doing the things that made me successful last year, more often than not I’m going to be able to get on the score sheet. To me, it doesn’t really matter if I’m scoring, as long as we’re winning.”

Winning is not something Comeau was not able to do very often with the Islanders, who currently sit 28th out of 30 teams in NHL standings, and have failed to qualify for the playoffs the previous four seasons. The Flames have missed the playoffs the last two seasons, but currently sit in a tie for eighth with plenty of hockey to be played in the 2011-12 NHL season.  Comeau is ecstatic to be part of a team in the playoff hunt.

“My first goal is to try to help the team make the playoffs. In New York, we never made the playoffs while I was there, and I haven’t played in them yet. It’d be a nice thing to have in my first year in Calgary. It’s nice to be in a playoff race now. Every game’s important. There were times in New York where we were out of the playoff race pretty early. Not taking anything away from New York – they’ve got a lot of good, young players, a young team, and a good future ahead of them I think – but  it’s a nice change of pace for me to be out here in a playoff race, and able to see how important every game is. It’ll be really nice if we can string some wins together here and get in the playoffs – that’s definitely our goal.”

Calgary’s current three-game winning streak, which boasts victories over top ranked Minnesota, Detroit, and Vancouver, makes the Flames’ playoff aspirations more tangible and realistic.

Comeau will face his old club for the first time later this month, when the Calgary Flames travel to Long Island to face the Islanders on December 29th.

 

The Crosby Show is Back On The Air After 11 Month Hiatus

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

[originally post for www.betonhockey.com on November 22/11]

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Crosby: "Hopefully everyone wasn’t reading lips at home.”

No games since January. First game back: 4 points on the Penguins’ 5 total goals scored. First goal of the game. Last goal of the game. Game winner. My. Mind. Blown. In the lip-read words of Sid Crosby himself after scoring his first goal in over 10 months, “F*** YA!!!”

In one game, he catapulted himself by hundreds of statistical spots at a time by each backhander that went in, and every pass that his teammates converted into goals. From 711th, to 605th, to 523rd, to 464th, and finally to 373rd in the NHL’s total points standings for this season, after one single game. Todd Bertuzzi, Scottie Upshall, Jordin Tootoo, Dustin Penner, Paul Bissonnette, George Parros, Blake Comeau,  and 330 other established NHL players got leapfrogged in points in one hour of play. And there’s now even talk of whether Crosby can beat league leader Phil Kessel in points this season, who has a 25 points and 20 games advantage. Bets are being taken on whether Crosby will win the Hart Trophy this season. And no one’s kidding or balking when they ask or hear about either possibility.

It reminded me a lot of Brett Bulmer, a former Minnesota Wild player who played 8 games with them this season, before being sent back to his major junior club, the Kelowna Rockets of the WHL. In his first game back, Bulmer dominated the game, and dictated the pace, also scoring 2 goals and 2 assists by the conclusion. Only difference was what Bulmer did was against junior hockey talent; what Crosby did was against NHL talent, aka the best hockey players in the world (clearly not the 29th place New York Islanders, but you get the point. By the way, Crosby annihilates the Islanders statistically nearly every time the Penguins play them). If you’re still calling Sidney Crosby overrated at this point, you’re, well, an idiot.

In a night where nothing else that happened that evening in the league really mattered or was even worth televising, it became pretty apparent that the NHL needs Sidney Crosby and the attention he brings to the game. While millions were tuning in to see a sold-out Pittsburgh audience chant Crosby’s name and shake signs emblazoned with his first name, other headlines from the night’s NHL action included “Red Balloon Gets Attention During Coyotes-Capitals Game” (seriously, here’s the link from NHL.com : http://www.nhl.com/ice/news.htm?id=602620), as a low-flying helium-filled balloon apparently caused quite a scene during the epic clash for 14th place in the league. Yes, the same Washington Capitals that Crosby’s nemesis, Alex Ovechkin still plays for. Ovie managed to contribute a secondary assist in the game.

Some question whether Crosby’s return is the antidote to awaken Ovechkin from his offensive amnesia, which currently has the former Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophy winner sitting at 57th overall in points. The two have seemingly been the yin to each other’s yang since they both entered the league – at this point though, I’d have to wager that Ovechkin needs Crosby a lot more than Crosby needs Ovechkin.

All in all, a successful return for Sidney Crosby. Keep in mind though, it was only one game, against a not very good team. I don’t question his ability to continue to perform at this level, but there are many more games to be played, and a lot more hits to be taken (let’s hope the Penguins are more akin than the Buffalo Sabres are to standing up for their superstar if someone takes a cheapshot on him). I’m excited to see what unfolds.

[update: at the time of this re-post, Crosby now has 2 goals and 9 assists for 11 total points, and sits at 176th in NHL overall points, having passed another 197 players in offensive production]

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