Over the past few seasons, Islanders fans have suffered through a revolving door of soft defensemen whose play was not physical by any means. Bruno Gervais, Dylan Reese, Mark Eaton, Mike Mottau, and Jack Hillen were not exactly intimidating. Some of you may not have noticed, but the Islanders are revamping their defensive structure.
Islanders fans are all familiar with the team’s most recent draft. Garth selected 7 defensemen, most who play with a nasty side to their game. This off-season, the New York Islanders have also begun signing depth-players that fit that same mold.
Obviously, Islanders fans can expect to see Matt Carkner in the Islanders line-up for most nights, but the Islanders also reached out and signed another aggressive defenseman. Nathan McIver, formerly from the Boston Bruins farm system, signed a 1-year, 2-way deal with the New York Islanders in the middle of the week. Although Islanders fans may not see much of McIver, Nathan, along with Matt, represents the restructuring of a defense that should go over very well with Islanders fans.
Nathan McIver stands at 6’3, and weighs in at 205 pounds. The 27-year old is well-traveled, having appeared in the Vancouver, Anaheim, and Boston organizations. Nathan has spent the last two (of his eight) seasons in the Boston organization. He hasn’t made an NHL appearance since the 2008-09 season with Anaheim, and has only amassed 36 NHL games where he registered 1 assist and 95 penalty minutes.
The AHL is where Nathan has made a name for himself, though, and he has done so by throwing hits and fists at his opponents. In 345 minor league appearances, Nathan has scored 7 goals, 20 assists, and has registered 814 penalty minutes. He’s the Islanders’ Matt Carkner of Bridgeport, and will be expected to protect the Islanders prospects that will be expected to make an impact in the NHL within the next few years.
Protection: It’s a word that Islanders fans have not been allowed to get accustomed to. We have watched our guys go out and get beat up time-and-time again. Milan Jurcina was big, but he wasn’t a fighter that would stick up for John Tavares if Johnny fell victim to a cheap-shot. Dylan Reese took on Claude Giroux once, but there’s a first time for everything. The Brendan Witts and Andy Suttons of the organization have been long gone. I don’t remember seeing any big hits as opposing forwards crossed the blue-line. When was the last time Islanders goaltenders had a defenseman clearing the front of the net for them? It’s not an easy question to answer, but it seems as if the Islanders are trying to fix this for the long-term.
The recent draft was a start, as the Islanders added Griffin Reinhart, Adam Pelech, Loic Leduc, and Doyle Somerby to their past draft choices of Andrey Pedan and Scott Mayfield. These are all big guys with the capability to make a game very physical.
For now, these guys are still a few years a way. They cannot make an impact on the organization just yet, so the Islanders felt the need to amend this. Nathan McIver comes into Bridgeport to begin implementing the change of an Islanders soft defensive structure, as Matt Carkner takes the lead of the transition on the Island. McIver will be protecting Kirill Kabanov and Brock Nelson, among other prospects, while Carkner will play bodyguard to John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and all of the other Islanders forwards.
The Islanders defense is set to get tougher in the next few years, and the additions of Matt Carkner and Nathan McIver will begin paving the way for the New York Islanders defenders of the future. The blue-line is going to get mean, and the culture change starts now.
Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: www.IslandersOptimism.com E-Mail: ChristopherTriantafilis@gmail.com Twitter: @ChrisTriants