Blake Comeau is quintessential to the Dallas Stars’ checking line because of his physical presence. Comeau is not the type of player that leads a team in scoring, nor comes in the clutch in dire moments, but plays a large piece in what separates a contending team from one that can win a championship – a solid fourth line. Comeau was missed during the 2020 Stanley Cup Final after he was injured in Game 2. His injury in the series tremendously handicapped the Stars’ penalty kill against a top-tier Tampa Bay Lightning power play. As an alternate captain, Comeau brings a veteran presence – he isn’t afraid to lay the body on opposing players and, while he plays a physical game, rarely misses time due to injury.
With the Stars not making the playoffs this season, it can be easy to dish out lower grades to players with high expectations. Comeau is an anomaly in these ratings because his role doesn’t consist of goals and assists. His value is defined by his time on the penalty kill and the number of hits he produces.
2020-21 Season Stats
Comeau scored 4 goals and tallied 14 assists over 51 games with the Stars this past season. His scoring is almost identical to the 2019-20 season, where he scored 16 total points in 55 games. His shooting percentage (S%) has fallen drastically, but Comeau was never consistent in his career in that stat category. This season he spent some time on the third line but couldn’t do much with an expanded role. This is why he is strictly considered a checking-line forward.
Comeau led all forwards on the Stars in hits this season with 106, ranking 38th among all forwards in the NHL. He had more hits this season than Tom Wilson and a few less than Blake Coleman, two players regarded as elite, physical players. If Comeau played 82 games this season, he was on pace to match his career-high of 208 hits, set during his first year in Dallas during the 2018-19 campaign.
Stars general manager Jim Nill boasted about Comeau’s ability to play a physical game. “We’re excited to be able to bring Blake back for another season,” Nill said. “Blake’s approach to the game, coupled with his determination and physical presence on the ice, has been a tremendous asset for us over the past three seasons. His vast experience has allowed him to become a strong leader in the dressing room, and we’re thrilled he’ll be returning next season.”
On the penalty kill, Comeau was decent. Statistically, the Stars’ penalty kill percentage (PK%) was in the bottom third of the league, but for argument’s sake, Comeau is not necessarily to blame for that. He is good at wrestling players along the boards, getting into scrums with the puck, and was even frequently used on the faceoff in his own zone. Plus, his hits could hinder an opponent’s rush. His play, however, will only be as strong as the rest of the penalty kill around him. His physical presence and skill in breaking up rushes doesn’t make a difference in the number of power plays the Stars can fend off.
The Stars’ killed off penalties at a rate of 79% and were the 19th ranked team in 2020-21 in this area. The Stars had a virtually similar PK% in 2019-20 but were in the top ten in the number of penalties killed. This means the Stars have reduced the number of penalties taken over the past year.
Comeau, at age 35, is returning to the Stars next year because of his ability to hit opponents and set the tone. Nill credits Comeau as a leader in the locker room who is respected by his players on and off the ice. His scoring ability is most likely gone, as the 2020-21 season marked the third straight season he had less than 10 goals.
Comeau is as good as the team around him. He doesn’t have enough skill to exceed his current role, even if key players around him are injured. He is needed to lay a body on an opponent, which he does at an elite level. Comeau will be in the lineup next year on the fourth line and, with the return of Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov, will look to make a run for the Stanley Cup Final.
Overall Yearly Grade: B-
Dallas Stars writer at ‘The Hockey Writers’. I’ve previously covered college sports at the University at Albany. I secretly love to analyze trades from the past and observe the impact on a team’s future.