What Has Come To Pass
Back over the summer I warned on what plans the Isles had with one Blake Comeau. In fact, if you follow me on twitter, I’ve been saying it since the end of last season. Despite the 24 goals and 46 points within last season’s chaos, the Isles saw him as a bottom 6 player, to play the 3rd line to be exact. In fact, some wondered if he was only one of those players that could only be a difference-maker within complete chaos and bad teams. With kids coming up and development of prospects, his fate was sealed.
Lo and behold on the third line he was placed, not helped by his training camp play. Comeau has had start issues before with the Isles, landing in Scott Gordon’s doghouse as well.
The Isles original plan was to have three offensive lines. His linemates was Josh Bailey, and to play on the other wing was to be P.A. Parenteau. This changed when Niño went down to injury, and PA found himself back in the first line plans. PA ended up having incentive to play his ass off and is sticking to that first line. See, sometimes competition is a good thing.
But more on that later…
What turned out in the third line was a complete stunt of play and effectiveness that the isles offensive plans turned to mush. The Isles turned instead to a one-line team that could be focused on and contained. So it is small wonder that they have fallen into a tailspin. In fact, it was my number issue I cited for the offense in my preseason primer. Where would the scoring come?
While other player outages have also gone along with Blake Comeau’s, those others like Bailey, Okposo, Nielsen and on defense: Andy MacDonald (takes a while to get to 100% from last years injury) and Hamonic have found at least glimmers. Comeau instead went into freefall.
The “Imminent” Deal That Never Happened…
Back during last summer, Comeau was almost dealt, likely in the “deal that never happened”. You might recall the alluded to deal that others made after Hunter for Rolston happened. Well, once August 1st failed vote in Nassau County, whatever deal that was to be also went kaput… Likely due to the $$$ that also would have came back. Charles was not going to eat more loss over and above maintaining the bottom cap floor level when he felt fans failed to be the job done in Nassau County.
Why was Comeau almost dealt? Well, in his contract negotiations he and his agent were far apart with the Islanders. Snow wanted a #2 or 3 defenseman, having been unable to sign Ehrhoff. In the end, Comeau signed. Any deal to be struck via trade was long dead despite the terms of “imminent” or “next” still touted around. Garth was hamstrung thanks to Charles, and then had to change gears.
So we instead had this long sordid seasonal tale of Blake Comeau’s stats, 4th line drop, not even a shot in his last game for the Isles. Meanwhile a crowd of forwards had developed. If the vets were not going to carry the team forth, the vision and mission was still in player development. Comeau was never considered a piece of the Isles system or rebuild. He was, like others deemed expendable like Nilsson and O’Mara who were shopped until they paid for a Ryan Smyth rental years before, predated the 2006 system and method installation that the Isles use still.
Comeau was shopped, but his stats and contract were detriments that continued to hang like an albatross on his value.
A Little Trade Reality, Folks…
The art of trades, which nobody seems to understand when writing, reading or commenting about hockey, is that beggars are not choosers. If you have a guy sucking, nobody is going to pay anything. Trades and negotiation are about positioning. It is not EA’s NHL 2012.
Someone calling others about trading a player is not in a solid footing in negotiation. It is a shame that this is again and again failed to be understood as people, even the mainstream press, fail to get this key element into their head.
In short, Garth had NO trade footing with Comeau. He set a price, and probably did not get even anything near it or acceptable below that value. To not be shown as weak, and to be able to have footing on future deals, the Isles stick to their price set or at least within their reason. He did not fold so that he can make sure that he has sway for future, probably more important deals of the future than some guy who is washing out of being a forward in one of the weakest teams and biggest opportunities in the league. I mean, let’s get real here. Had Comeau played his ass off, he could have been back on the 2nd line. The Isles have stuck with the hot hands.
So as that meeting with Capuano and Garth happened, large decisions were made. They chose to break this fragile egg and stuck group. Examples would be made. Room created. Comeau was waived with the intent of knowing he would be likely claimed. This will not be the end of such moves, especially if Rolston does not do more in the next few. You might see him go next via waivers, where call-ups and kids keep the Isles still above cap floor, and more room made.
The odd element to all this is that 99.99% of Islander fans have been screaming for Blake Comeau to be off this team for weeks now. Waived, traded for scraps, whatever…just get him gone – was the mantra. Yet suddenly, when waived, an about-face came screaming about trade value: How could be let go for nothing?
Why Players Sit
While Isles fans seem to now take a microscope game-to-game, screaming about others sitting, facts are that there has been a competition for roles. Organizations SHOULD have competition for roles. Competition for playing time. Those are elements that create growth and development. I think Isles fans have been lulled by the years the Isles had none and roles just given away to the dreck of the league.
Before we fans forget about Andy Hilbert and more, let us recall the times when the Isles had ZERO competition for roles. Sure, I can agree the stats and standing weren’t much better, but fact is the Isles have a lot of kids in development now vying for roles, and can we agree for argument’s sake that they are not fully developed yet?
So Nino sits, and there is a bang the gong of conspiracy. There are no conspiracy or money issues weighing here. He is not being sat to avoid bonuses. They did not have him do training camp and preseason on the top line to have him sit. But fact remains his camp was stunted due to injury and has a crowd at RW on the NHL team. So if he has to sit a few games as the Isles try to sort out those forwards and get others going, so be it.
Everyone wants the Isles to sort out the offensive issues and get players going, then they complain when they actually sit someone.
We are far from a turned corner, let’s be honest here. But there seems to be some distance from the listless and “fragile”, as cited by assistant Scott Allen during one of the Isles worst games in recent memory when Sidney Crosby returned to walk all over the team. The Islanders feel they moved one fragile element off the team and into the Western Conference. The braintrust considers that something of value… whether Comeau wakes up or not. Meantime, Okposo, sat for a while, has turned on the jets like careers and seasons are at stake. Hmm, I guess the Isles knew what they were doing there.
I bet when Nino finally reaches the ice and plays like a rabid dog is nipping at his heels, maybe the will be a method seen within the fan and peanut gallery madness?
We shall see. Just as we will see what shakes out at forwards.
When Nino does return to the ice, expect to see on a line with Ullstrom (up for now), and Josh Bailey (playing better, have you noticed?). Potentially, this “kid” line could be the very thing the Isles need for that 3rd line to finally make some sort of difference.
IF YOU MISSED IT: My piece wondering if the Isles are just a bunch of heartless tin men! Read it here!
IF YOU MISSED IT: My talk with a goalie scout about the Isles goalies and prospects! Read it here!
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About the Author: B.D. Gallof is a published writer and hockey blogger. He writes about Hockey, NY Islanders & the NY Islanders venue situation for CBS New York. BD has been written up in Sports Illustrated, TSN.ca, the NY Times Slapshots blog, Yahoo's Sports and SportsBusiness Journal. He has been a featured blogger for The Huffington Post, as well as owner, lead writer, and managing editor at HockeyIndependent.com.