(New York Ranger writer Rob Luker recently took a look a Blake Comeau’s season. Being a Rags fan, he didn’t have anywhere to publish his findings, so he kindly sent his article over to us at FlamesNation and NHLNumbers.)
By: Rob Luker
Blake Comeau scored his first point(s) of the season against the Columbus Blue Jackets on December 1st, 2011 with a goal and an assist in a 4-3 shootout loss. Ironically, these points were not registered in a New York Islanders jersey, the team that he had been with regularly since 2007; but with the Calgary Flames, whom had claimed Comeau the day after Thanksgiving 2011. He signed a one year deal worth $2.5 Million with the Islanders last summer, and although his future with the Islanders was uncertain after 2012, I don’t think anyone could have predicted Comeau only scoring 15 points in 74 games.
Comeau had a career high 24 goals and 22 assists in 2010-11 while shooting 13.2%. Somewhat high, yes, but in 168 NHL games prior to the fall of 2010, his career average Shot% had been around 11.2%, which suggests Comeau didn’t enjoy extreme luck in cracking the 20-goal barrier. Furthermore, he upped his personal shot rate slightly while also seeing a decrease in his 5v5 on-ice shooting% in 2010-11, so there was really no reason to expect him to come crashing down to earth in 2011-12.
Given all that, it seemed a safe bet Comeau would hover around his 0.6 PPG clip he had produced for two previous seasons in 2011-12, and VUKOTA didn’t see any drop off either. He’s slated to be an RFA this summer, and although none of us truly know if Calgary will attempt to retain him, I’d be surprised if didn’t end up as an UFA on July 1.
So did the middle-six forward, who has a respectable juniors translation ceiling, really just lose most of his offensive ability during the offseason of 2011? Only time will truly tell, but I’d be willing to bet the team who takes a (small) risk on him for the fall of 2012 won’t regret it (aka I’m hoping someone points him out to NYR/Sather).
Good Fundamentals, Bad Luck
Let’s start with why I think Comeau can bounce back: his Corsi numbers. Although he played against the worst quality of competition (QoC) in his career (by a measly 0.05), his relative corsi (Corsi Rel) shot up to 8.4 (from 2.8 and previously 2.7) which was good for 4th on the Flames and in the top half of the league amongst forwards (both min. 20 GP). His Corsi Rel QoC saw a slight bump up seeing that he dipped in overall Quality of Competition, but the key takeaway here is that it all seems to check out. Blake Comeau still moved the puck north despite his horrible output.
Outside of his decent possession metrics, the rest comes down to everything involved with shooting the puck when Comeau was on the ice. He managed a 3.6% personal shooting percentage this season, when his prior career average was approximately 11.7%. Sure, that is probably part regression from the 2010-11 career high 13.2%, but I’m going with mostly bad luck.
One thing Comeau will have to improve in order to ensure a rebound is his shot rate. Part of the reason for his 2010-11 career year was that managed a personal rate of 2.4/game, while last year he dipped down to ~1.85. Sure, sounds small, but that’s good for nearly 50 more shots in a season difference of only 3 games.
One final reason Comeau should be able to bounce back: his on-ice teammates shooting, which only changed by a +0.03 margin from his career year to last season. Meanwhile, his on-ice shooting% dropped almost by half as I mentioned above. The only conclusion that I can come to is that Comeau, outside of shooting 27% less than his career year of 2010-11, had just a brutal year when it came to variance (which his PDO of 97.9 reflects).
To put this all into “fun”, more taditional narratives: Blake Comeau couldn’t buy a goal if he wanted, his inconsistent play finally caught up with him, and he is definitely a candidate for the most enigmatic Canadian of the 2011-12 NHL season.
Or he just had sh*t luck.
Note: All stats discussed are at 5v5. Also, here are the Flames scoring chance summary (at 5v5) for the season from Rob Vollman at FlamesNation. It wasn’t pretty, but Comeau wasn’t inept either. Still stand by my luck theory.