Throwing darts: Evaluating Jets Head Scout Marcel Comeau Part 2


Marcel Comeau has been the Head Scout of the Atlanta Thrashers and now Winnipeg Jets since 2003. This season will mark his 11th draft with the organization, and as Cheveldayoff continues to preach patience and hope, we will have a look at the man in charge of delivering a hockey team from a list of teenagers. 

Part 1 of our evaluation looked at where Comeau and the scouting team draw talent from, finding a pattern of selecting players from outside the top development programs of the world. Further, Comeau has a known preference for players with grit and notably desires player character. He was quoted as saying his preference is for players "you’d like to share a foxhole with at some point in time."

In Part 2, we’ll begin our evaluation in earnest. Knowing how he sees the game a little better, what is Comeau’s record of success at drafting? There are many ways to measure this, but Part 2 will focus on what was delivered against what can be reasonably expected by round. We’ll use drafts years 2003 to 2010 (8 drafts in total) to ask the following – given the average rate of finding NHL players in a given round, has Marcel Comeau graduated enough quality players to indicate success?

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Games Played

The question that haunts us, of course, is what can we reasonably expect from a given round of drafting? Many people have tried to pin this down, and we’re going to use an amalgam of their work. Jonathan Willis did a round up of studies on the value of draft picks back in 2011. The inter-blog standard is to use Games Played in an NHL uniform. It’s not perfect, since it relies on us believing in the decisions of Coaches who select the roster, and General Managers who provide the options. Thomas Hickey made the Islanders. Robert Nilsson made the Oilers. Boris Valabik made the Thrashers. On better teams with more options for the coaches, those guys never broke camp with an NHL locker. But we are trusting that a cup of coffee in the majors doesn’t turn into a regular assignment without being able to play the game. Different cut-offs are used, but for our purposes, we’re going to use 200 games played – 2-1/2 seasons of NHL games.

I think we can agree that this gives us a sense of who was/is an NHL quality player, but we still don’t have any sense of their relative talent. We’ll deal with that in Part 4. For now, let’s keep it simply and see how many players Comeau was able to graduate to an NHL roster.

Comeau’s Legacy

The table below are the picks Comeau has overseen from 2003 to 2010 (8 drafts).

By Round # of Picks AV GP # w/ 1GP # w/ 100GP #w/ 200GP
1 8 213 6 5 4
Top 5 2 273.5 2 2 2
6 to 15 4 289.25 4 3 2
16 to 30 2 0 0 0 0
2 7 35.14286 4 1 1
3 5 5.2 2 0 0
4 9 3 2 0 0
5 7 4.285714 1 0 0
6 10 0.4 1 0 0
7 10 5.4 3 0 0
8 2 201.5 1 1 1
9 2 0 0 0 0

Let’s break it down.

  • Comeau’s top 5 picks have been Bogosian and Kane. Despite their youth and Bogo’s early career struggles at the game’s hardest position, they are among the best players on the Jets. Full marks.
  • From picks 6 to 15, Comeau has taken Little (400 career GP at 25 years old), Brayden Coburn (established top 4 defenceman), Burmistrov (who barely misses the 200 GP cut-off simply by being young), and Valabik (cup of coffee on a bad team). Three out of Four.
  • Alex Bourret (16th, 2005) and Daultan Leveille (29th, 2008) round out his 8 first-round picks, and both have spent the majority of their pro careers at leagues below the AHL in quality. Two clear and wide misses.
  • After Round 1, Comeau has taken 52 picks in these 8 drafts and landed Pavelec (41st, 2005) and Enstrom (239th, 2003) as established NHL players (it’s hard to say that after watching Pavelec in Montreal last night, but he has >200 GP). That’s a 4% graduation rate with his picks outside the first round. Massive fail.

I can’t sugar coat that. That’s not good. In 60 picks overseen, Comeau and his staff graduated Coburn, Enstrom, Pavelec, Little, Bogosian, Kane, and Burmistrov. Seven players. That’s a whimpering 12%. With picks after 12th overall, Comeau has seen 3.7% of his draft picks reach the NHL. In whole numbers, that’s 2. Two players with 54 darts thrown.

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Drafts are moving targets, and I accept Kulda (200th, 2006) , Postma (205th, 2007), and Redmond (184th, 2008) as ‘in process’ despite their age (all 24) because of their late round status and the challenge of their position. But they are specialists and depth players on a bad team, and those players rarely establish themselves in threes. The verbal around Jeremy Morin (45th, 2009, now in Chicago’s system) and Carl Klingberg (34th, 2009) suggest they’re poised to find some NHL games soon, and of couse we can’t give up on Telegin (101st, 2010) or Melchiori (87th, 2010) just yet. History and common sense tell us that not all seven of those players will establish themselves and deliver 200 games, and that someone will surprise us. But we’re still three graduated players short of a 1 in 6 (16%) success rate, and we don’t have a strong reason beyond hope to think we’ll get there.

Reasonable Expectations

There’s nothing worse than your boss expecting the impossible and waiting with criticism when it doesn’t happen. So let’s put Comeau’s success in perspective.

Jason Gregor over at Oilers Nation looked at the drafts from 1996 to 2005 (found here). He measured success with 4 categories – Bust (less than 100 GP), Short Lived (100-300GP), Decent (300+) and Dominant (considered elite). We’ll use his ‘Decent’ and ‘Dominant’ categories as one category I called ‘Total Graduated’ in the table below. The fact that his bar is set a little higher than ours should be a benefit to Comeau – his players have to reach 200GP to make the table, everyone else’s have to make 300GP. I’ve even included Burmistrov as a Graduated Player.

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Round Total Graduated % Comeau’s Graduated % # Graduated # Expected to Graduate
1 60% 50% 5 5
2 23% 14% 1 2
3 16% 0% 0 1
4 9% 0% 0 1
5 7% 0% 0 0
6 9% 0% 0 1
7 10% 0% 0 1
8 7% 50% 1 0
9 7% 0% 0 0
Total (-) (-) 7 11

I considered making a ‘Better or Worse’ column. It was unnecessary.

To some extent, we find is this table what we knew above – Comeau has delivered in the first round, and wandered after that. Still, it feels good to put a number to the deficiency. Comeau comes up 4 graduated players short of average (so far – I haven’t forgotten that we’re still waiting). That’s 36% shy, and more than half of his current graduated player total again. If we agree that we’re still waiting on the most recent drafts (2009 and 2010) and the trio of 24 year olds playing spot duty on a bad Jets team, I think there is fair reason to worry Comeau finds the median. 

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So what?

This Jets management team has been clear that they believe the lifeblood of a good NHL franchise is the draft, and that they intend to build from within. Cheveldayoff has collected 3 second round picks in a deep draft, and with last night’s defeat, the Jets are 95.5% likely to pick #14 overall (let’s call it ‘in Comeau’s strike zone’). To date, through the 8 drafts that we can reasonably begin to evaluate, his head scout has a poor record – more than 1/3 below average. Moreover, we know that Atlanta also attempted this same strategy for many years, hence delivering 6 of 8 1st rounders inside the top 12, and entered the playoffs just a single time in 11 years. The problem, of course, is that at the rate of finding 7 NHL players per 8 drafts the Jets will lose players to free agency (never mind injury and general decline) before they ever put a full roster together. The plan only works if the scouts can deliver. At the end of Part 2, I have serious doubts about whether this Head Scout can do that.


Looking forward to Part 3: In Part 3, we’ll look at the quality of Comeau’s according to how good the other players taken in 2003 to 2010 have been, still using Games Played. Who knows? Maybe it was a poor 8 years for drafting.  

  • I think the Jets would’ve made the playoffs if they would’ve put Jokinen and Enstrom in the minors when they were racking up minuses. Not too worried about being on the hook for 1/2 the contracts if someone claims them because there are good assets to be had on waivers (Grabner and lots of 23 yr old prospects).
    In the 2nd round last year, high CSB ranked players Bystrom, Collberg, and Frk could all be had. Also a trde for Maatta, who seems as good as the Dumba-Ceci draft D-glut, could’ve been traded for. When I watched Enstrom play the first Jets year, he turned it over and held onto it when challenged as the last player back. In retrospect of the Bouwmeester trade, his contract is okayy as an asset, but he is playing like a $3M player and lots of teams could use a D. It is okay being stuck with Jokinen as he had good offensive #’s a few years ago. But why play him when he is a big minus?? You get the Wellwood bargains so don’t be afraid to man up and eat the contract. Gotta resign Montoya.

  • Like Weber for the Norris over Subban. If Subban played the whole yr then yes. Subban only has 12 even strength pts and no game winning goals. Weber is leading an offensively weak team in scoring. Surprised the Leafs aren’t trying; I got Bruins as the favourite. Team Canada D and goaltending looks like crap. J.Jokinen is turning out to be a shrewed aquisition; why wouldn’t a bubble team take the shootout master? I’d be shocked not to see Tatar. I don’t want to get cynical about the Jets. Early ’90s, I said: screw it I’m a ‘Wing.

  • 90 shot blocks and 112 hits. It isn’t even close now to me. Coffey got to play with Gretz, Lemieux and Yzerman. Maybe he was better than Bourque, certainly a leader. They were both better than Lidstrom and Potvin maybe. Orr. Coffey, Bourque. Lidstrom, Potvin. Then Nierdermayer, Chelios and everyone else?

  • Trouba gets the Scouts a big pass. I like 20 yr old Sven from the QMJHL with the late 3rd round pick. At worst is mabe a Y.Perrault.
    You can win Cups like the Wing’s did drafting late round gems (NJ good too). But more likely you can avoid losing. Canucks were aved from rebuilding by plucking the Sedins and Edler. Russians still seem underrated. We didn’t draft Kasparaitus and did draft Bautin and pre shot-blocking Ulanov, but I still think the top rated Russian D-man in the 2nd round might be a gem.

  • Kevin McCartney

    Yeah, I agree about Olli Jokinen and Jussi Jokinen, Keystone. Olli gummed up the works and was being paid and played like a high-end player while having a very poor season. I would have liked to see the coach give him some different looks around the roster to see if Olli could recover. Meanwhile, Jussi was clearly better than a number of players on this roster and they let him slip.

    As for the draft – do you have a guy in mind as the 2nd round Russian dman? The risk (especially with non-stars) is that they don’t come over, or when they do, they look more like Grebeshkov than an NHL player (guys who have crazy talent, but are years behind their cohort in ‘small ice’ training).

    I like Subban for the Norris – Montreal wasn’t supposed to be as good as they’ve been. But also, Letang had the same number of points in fewer games, a slightly better +/- (I’m not a fan, but some in the voting circles are) and played 2 more minutes per game than PK. He doesn’t hit people, but he controls the game extremely well, and I’d love to see some Norris love thrown his way.