Comeau regaining confidence, beginning to find old Islanders form
Flames forward’s hard work starting to pay off on the scoresheet
Go ahead and complain about Blake Comeau’s offensive numbers. Bemoan the fact the Calgary Flames right winger scored 24 goals for the New York Islanders in 2010-11 and only seven in the 98 subsequent contests.
But try to fault the 27-year-old for not giving enough to the cause, for not mustering enough try through times of struggle, frustration and bewilderment.
“He’s been working unbelievably hard in practice,” says head coach Bob Hartley. “He’s been one of our most intense players in games. And the results are showing.”
Results, for Comeau, have been fleeting in recent times. So fleeting, in fact, the second-round pick (47th overall) in the 2004 draft found himself on the fourth line for much of this season. Heck, Hartley even parked him in the press box on Jan. 31 as a healthy scratch.
Talk about tough to digest for a guy with proven scoring ability in a “what have you done for me lately” kind of business.
“I don’t think I’m a different player than I was a couple years ago in New York,” says Comeau, determined to not be labelled as an NHL one-hit-wonder. “I just think maybe the confidence got lost a little along the way.
“But it’s slowly starting to come back. I just have to keep rolling with it.”
More than two years have passed since the Flames plucked Comeau off waivers, and the Kelowna Rockets product remains somewhat of an enigma. At six-foot, 195 pounds, he is blessed with size, speed and an NHL-calibre shot that by rights should cement his spot in the top-six.
But having the tools is one thing. Bringing them together on a consistent basis is quite another for a player who let doubt creep into his game over a drought that dragged on and on.
“He’s on a good streak right now,” Hartley says of Comeau, who has scored both the last two games. “Blake is a great skater; it’s just to believe in his abilities
“Again, that’s confidence. The red light goes on, and suddenly your game changes, and that’s for many players around this business.”
As a kid, Comeau grew up around the nomadic world of the pulp and paper business.
“My dad’s (job) was a projects accountant, so he would do the cost control, the budget, for building the mill,” Comeau said. “So he would go from site to site.
“We lived in Whitecourt and then Meadow Lake. I was born in Vancouver. My sister was born in New Brunswick. So we’ve basically been all over the place.”
George and Lynn Comeau opted to settle in Meadow Lake when Blake was five and his older sister Lindsay was eight.
“There was a lot of farming,” Comeau says of what he considers his hometown. “There was a pulp mill, a sawmill, so it was definitely a blue-collar type of atmosphere. I grew up with some great friends. Got to meet some great people along the way.
“I’m definitely happy that’s where my roots are.”
Happy, even if the average low temperatures in the depth of winter hovered around a bone-chilling minus-24 C.
“We had an outdoor rink in front of the school I grew up going to,” Comeau says. “We would walk over after school with our skates and play outdoors all the time. They had a little hut for us to go in and tie our skates and keep warm.
“Definitely some good childhood memories there. It was a good start and a big part of the reason I was able to make it to the NHL.”
Making it to the NHL as a goal scorer is one thing. Staying there, especially in that role, is quite another.
“When I was on the fourth line, I had a penalty-kill role, and I was taking pride in that,” says Comeau, who is playing primarily with Backlund and Jiri Hudler. “I did have a role on the team. I just think now it’s expanding a little bit. I’m getting more responsibility.
“It’s nice to have the coaches put me out there in offensive situations as well, and they’ve been going in for me.”
It’s been a long time since he could say that, but Comeau counts himself lucky for all the family support through the turbulence.
His sister works in Edmonton as a nurse, and his parents moved to Calgary a year or so before the Flames claimed him off waivers. They’re all regulars at Flames home games, as is Comeau’s wife Lacey.
“Those are the people you turn to in the tough times,” he says. “To get scratched early in the season was a frustrating thing. It definitely gives you anxiety and stressful thoughts.
“But things have been looking up for me here. I just want to enjoy it and keep going with it.”
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