If there were doubts, at least in fans eyes, they were erased Saturday night. Somewhere in a horrific loss to Atlanta, a beacon on light turned on upon a youth who more fits the Isles plans than the young man who went to Bridgeport for a conditioning stint.
There is not a doubt in my mind that Jeff Tambellini simply does not fit the Isles needs whether he blooms or not. There is not a doubt that Blake Comeau showed in one game that he is and will fit more to the Isles longterm vision with hits, shots and positioning.
I wish all the luck to Tambs. But at this juncture, I simply do not see the potential of development to a NHL level top two line player that his skill-set fits. Playing professional is a tough business, and it needs to be said. Tambs ain't what we need. He did, however, in his first Bridgeport game notch the shootout game winner.
With Frans Nielsen and Okposo out for stints, and nobody quite filling the development gap besides Josh Bailey, the Isles need to really ground themselves in the reality of several things. This years top priority was the development of key youth. Right now, that development has come from odd places:
Joey MacDonald (solid #1 play and clearly a backup answer)
Tim Jackman (agitator and sparkplug)
Josh Bailey (work in progress)
The development of Sean Bergenheim, Kyle Okposo and even the continuing work for Bruno Gervais have not exactly been on-point. All three has glimmers. Bergie has played well then at times been dreadful with penalties and out of position. Okposo has been in position and in plays yet unable to tally points. Kyle could have used a full season in the AHL, building into a confident scorer. Bruno came out strong and then disappeared into the same issue has last season.
Meanwhile, thge team has lacked that true hunger and straight desire, besides Tim Jackman and Joey Mac's stellar work in the pinch. True grit and fire to stay in the show. Maybe this was the cardinal sin by management where all those who were given carte blanche for this season. That one way contracts and expectations led to inclusion without necessarily being and fighting at the level they need to be.
Blake Comeau played on Saturday with that hunger. With that moxy and punch. With that extra edge to remain in the big show. Fans appreciated the effort and rooted for him amid a horrendous loss to the Thrashers.
Whatever Blake's issues in the preseason seems to be erased for at least one game. However, despite words in Greg Logan's Newsday article that said that Gordo didn't exactly like what he saw in preseason, it was this line in Logan's piece that really struck me:
Gordon said Comeau had difficulty catching on to his forechecking system and indulged habits that weren't productive, and he couldn't recall one good hit by Comeau in training camp or six preseason games.
Sounds like a very unimpressed coach who clearly was not happy with something in particular at preseason. The "indulged habits" line I just cannot shake and wonder if this is masking something in particular that went on that he was sent down for that is more than just play on the ice. I had always felt that Comeau was sent with impunity down to Bridgeport as some sort of punishment, and not exactly for his play.
After all, in the preseason, despite not notching points, he was one of the shot leaders with 11 shots. So, one has to wonder where the truth really lies here. He had one less point that Okposo (who had only one) and one less shot.
So let's get real here because Tambellini didn't exactly set the world ablaze with 0 points in the preseason and only 8 shots.
See the picture?
No matter the story here, something went down and Blake paid some sort of penalty or price for Tambellini's one way contract. Now, in season, Tambellini unsurprisingly cannot score, and Blake Comeau comes up playing aces. My money is on Comeau sticking. The writing is on the wall.