Today, the hockey world saw Brian Lee, the Ottawa Senators defenseman placed on waivers. Debate on hfboards and throughout the Isles Nation seems to be mixed as to if Brian Lee would make a good waiver wire pick up for the patch-work Islanders. I have little doubt that it is frustrating to most fans — including this one — that we have to look at Waiver Wire “castoffs” for any semblance of help. In a year where the Islanders were supposed to be improving, the season has once again fallen apart. But there is little doubt to me, that Lee would make a solid addition in the short term for the Islanders.
Lee was taken 9th overall in the 2005 draft by the Sens. At 23 years old, he is 6’3″, 208lbs. His skating is rated as solid, and he has excellent hockey sense. He is not a power play quarterback, but can log some power play time. He is good with the puck and has strong gap control. He is a right handed shot.
He is not on waivers as a highly rated player — this is not Denis Potvin coming to save the Islanders season. Lee has the upside to project as a #3-4 defenseman.
There is also much debate about how Lee became a Senator. Many Senator fans seem to want to see Lee eliminated from the franchise. There seems to be some bitterness because when Lee was drafted in 2005 there were several players still on the board and passed over by then GM John Muckler. While it has only been 5 years — it is true that players like Anze Kopitar (taken 11th), Marc Staal (taken 12th) were still on the board and more recognizable “names” that Sens fans could wrap their arms around.
What is clear is the Islanders blueline has been decimated by injury, plus, outside of Travis Hamonic and Calvin De Haan, there are questions about the future defenders the Islanders have to offer. There is further no guarantee that De Haan and Hamonic develop into reliable NHL defenseman. As of now they are highly rated prospects I would not want to see traded. But they are also a year or two away from making a serious run at the team. Rushing defenseman is typically not smart.
In Lee, the Islanders would add a big defenseman who is inexpensive, and likely still learning the game. He is also someone that may very well need a fresh start. Many of these kids come in with high expectations and have trouble managing. Some research I found had Muckler declaring “he’d better be NHL ready in 2 years.” That is not unlike Mike Milbury declaring Todd Bertuzzi the next Clark Gillies. In many cases, these are young kids. Some can take that kind of pressure, others can’t. Many times, a change in scenery will help give a young player a fresh start.
Two Islander waiver wire pick-ups in the past two years have had the opportunity to play. Rob Schremp has had his ups and downs this season much of which has to do with injury, but through 52 games with the Isles, Schremp has generated 28 points. While it would be nice to see more from Schremp, it is a start considering his limited NHL experience. In Michael Grabner, the Islanders picked up a young wing with excellent speed and good hands. In 20 games with Cannucks, Grabner had 11 points — and a career high of 5 goals. He already has 5 goals and 8 points for the Islanders through 18 games. He is on pace for 21 goals, 34 points.
The Patchwork Blueline for the New York Islanders (injured players in ital)
Mark Striet — Out in reality for the season. He may return in March, but by then what kind of impact could he possibly have?
James Wisniewski — Has been solid and on pace for a career year in points. Would like to see him play a more physical game and hopefully signed to an extension.
Mark Eaton — Has done his job, but nothing spectacular.
Radek Martinek — Has done what we expect him to do, but is always a sneeze away from an injury.
Milan Jurcina — Added much needed size and a nice touch in his handful of games. Proving to be missed, he is out another 6 weeks.
Bruno Gervais — He’s a nice guy and he tries, but he is small, and unable to really compete at a steady NHL level. A depth defenseman at best. Day-to-day with cheekbone.
Dylan Reese — Like Bruno, he is a depth defenseman.
Travis Hamonic — He possesses all the tools, and could be a top player at some point, but he is likely in over his head. He should be sent back to Bridgeport where he can develop properly.
Mike Mottau — Plays a solid overall game but nothing flashy. He is a good #5-6 defender. He is out another 6 weeks at best.
Jack Hillen — His stint thus far this year seems to have been a step back. Likely a good depth defender with some power-play upside. Could be back this week.
Andrew MacDonald — Underrated and solid. A viable #4 defender, possibly more as he matures. He looks to be back in the line-up this week.
If we were to add Brian Lee to this mix above, it allows the Islanders to do a number of things.
1) It allows the Islanders to send Hamonic back to Bridgeport which I feel is required for Hamonics long-term welfare as an NHLer.
2) It gives the Islanders another 1st round pick who could simply need some more playing time (much like Grabner and Schremp) to hone his skill.
3) It gives the Islanders desperate need for size. With Jurcina out, the Islanders only have Joensuu as the “big body.” Gervais and Hillen are small and getting thrown around like rag-dolls.
Lee is signed this season and next at a very friendly $875,00. He will become a RFA after the 2011-12 season. It is a one-way contract.
Lee reminds me of where Eric Brewer was when Milbury traded him. Brewer was a young player with minimal NHL experience when he was traded. He was given some time and learned the game, becoming a solid NHL defenseman. Lee could very well be in need of that fresh start. I would like to see Snow put in the claim.I believe Lee is an upgrade over Gervais, Reese and Hillen. He is still young, and could have more upside.
If the Islanders add Lee, there top 6 as of right now would be Wisniewski, Martinek, Lee, Eaton, Reese, Hamonic — I am counting Gervais, Hillen MacDonald all still out. Assuming that for Thursday’s game against the Rangers, the Islanders have cleared Hillen, MacDonald and Gervais to play, it would allow the team to send Hamonic and Reese back to Bridgeport, and sit Gervais who has the broken cheekbone. This gives the team 6 solid with Wisniewski, Martinek, Eaton, MacDonald, Lee and Hillen.
At worst, he can be waived again or traded perhaps as part of a package at the deadline.
At best, he can become a solid contributor to the team for the next few seasons at which time the team can make a broader determination.
What are your thoughts? Think the Isles should put in a claim?
Filed Under: New York Islanders
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