Last week we looked at the Isles offense and asked if the makeup of the lines would lead to enough scoring to make playoffs hopes a reality. This week we look deep at the bigger and more porous issue of the last few years…The defense.
Late last season, I was told that the Islanders would be far more focused on defense than offense in the offseason. This came true as offensively, they only added to the 4th line with two upgrades. It was the defense that would become their focal point, feeling that bandaids added two summers back was just too little.
We saw this in the Isles move for the rights to Christian Ehrhoff. The Islanders had high hopes to make them their #2 guy, allowing those like Hamonic, de Haan, Ness and even MacDonald to gain their way developing at their pace to fill out an eventual to be their defense. Leaving room at the bottom, and sealing up the top with more than Streit is why they let Hillen and Martinek walk. They had bigger longterm plans and it was finally time to start making room.
Alas, in free agency, they were unable to seal up that spot. Frustrated, yet gung ho, Garth Snow, who never divulges plans, let Katie Strang know that he was planning to make a trade to to get that #2-3 guy that they needed.
As late July came around, the Isles moved Hunter for Rolston. It was then that rumors flew that another deal was about to happen, likely with the unsigned Blake Comeau. But when August 1st shattered Charles Wang’s feeling of Nassau County support, they changed tactics and whatever and whoever that would have attached extra cap was scrapped.
Since then, defense has held, even though they still feel that they’d like to improve that area, specially as de Haan develops in the minors. Thus, as Blake Comeau, signed at a very reasonable rate compared to his and his agents asking price this summer, is once again in a new Isles coaches doghouse, the rumors and feeling is that Comeau might again be shopped for some reasonable improvement in an area the Isles brass feel is paramount for any kind of playoff hope.
It remains to be seen if the Isles can even get anything more than picks and prospects, despite Comeau’s 20 goal consistency. I think that #2 dman is far fetched via trade when we know that the Isles are reticent to deal any rebuild pieces thus far. Nobody deals something for little unless trying to make cap room in a rush…and we are past that point, ladies and gents.
So we are stuck with the Usual Suspects, with Jurcina as the 7th man, replacing Bruno Gervais who had hit a ceiling almost 4 seasons ago. He comes with wingspan and size, even if the play is sometimes inconsistent. I dare think that nobody would disagree that this is a clear upgrade.
Eaton remains a smart mid-defender to have, but one has to think if ever Comeau is dealt to upgrade the D, Eaton might have to go along to be a stopgap IF the other team doesn’t have a crowded backline.
It is more Mottau that would be the expendable one here.
So, chances are this D is what we are left with unless Garth can pry an upgrade, which would allow them the room to keep Matt Martin up front if they did deal Comeau.
So don’t hold your breath for any changes unless Isles get desperate. And at only 6 games, the Isles are far from anything near that.
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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.