It has been a while since my season review of management and the goalies — just lots to review and think about with the next report — for the defenseman and part 4 is still to be finished — my thoughts on the forwards! Like the goalie situation, there are a number of defenseman who played in blue and orange this season. 13 defenders played if you count the one game played by Shane Sims, and the traded James Wisniewski. There were some positives, some question marks and a boat load of injuries. Without further adieu….
Radek Martinek: B
Staggering as this may seem, Martinek played more games (64) on the Islander blue line then any other player except for Jack Hillen (Hillen also had 64). I think it is safe to say Martinek is a good all-around defender who can chip in the odd goal, and add some assists, but overall he is not a spectacular offensive player. Where he is gifted is his ability to play a reliable game. He will not hurt the team unless he is out of the line up. He is a UFA come July 1, and it is quite possible he is done as an Islander. The defense is deep with younger players who are hopefully less injury prone then Martinek has unfortunately been. Still, he has been a good player for the Isles.
Jack Hillen: C+
Ironic, but I think Hillen with all of his skating ability had a hard time finding his game under Scott Gordon. But with Gordon gone, Hillen seemed to regain his confidence and had a better second half. Early in the season Hillen looked lost. He seemed as if he did not know where he was at times. But by seasons end he was his old self. The Islanders may want to extend him a deal for one year to see if he can put it all together as an Islander.
Travis Hamonic: B+
With 62 games, this was Hamonic’s rookie season. It came and went without too much fan fare outside of Long Island. Those in the Islander “know” were not surprised to see Hamonic play well — but perhaps it was surprising to see him do as well as he did with such limited experience. The numbers show that the Islanders found a potentially very good second round gem. Hamonic put up 26 points in 62 games and was looking better and better with each game. Equally impressive — he was a +4. He made some typical rookie errors, and while there may be some growing pains yet to come, he is showing that could develop into a top 4 defenseman.
Andrew MacDonald: A-
Talk about a late round Gem — A-Mac proved that last season was no fluke. When he was out with injury, the NYI struggled to fill the void. A-Mac has been outstanding, and is only getting better. Could this 6th round 160th overall pick be a top pairing defender? Right now, it looks very possible. He knotched 27 points through 60 games and was a +9. Certainly no small task. He and Hamonic could be a real force for the Isles for years to come.
Bruno Gervais: D+
A very likable guy, Bruno has really struggled the last few seasons. He has not been able to play a consistent game, and led the defensive corps with a minus 14 this season. He is not finding the offensive flare that many had hoped and with his contract expired, and young potential blue line help on the cusp, Gervais’ time as Islander is likely over.
Milan Jurcina: B
Many felt that the big blueliner was not that much of an important signing, but Jurcina brought some stability and solid play to the back end. Much like Martinek, Jurcina goes about his game quietly — and does it well. The team did far better with Jurcina’s big frame in the line-up. He deserved the contract extension, and it might prove to be smart to see him on the ice with a maturing defensive corps and Mark Streit.
Mark Eaton: C+
Getting hurt early in the year did not help, and I am curious to see what he brings with Jack Capuano behind the bench before passing real judgment on Eaton. He is a good bottom paring defender, and should be used as such. Earlier in the year, Gordon relied on Eaton for too much.
Mike Mottau: C-
With Striet going down, Mottau was signed to a good 2 year deal, which was smart. But like Eaton, he is likely better suited as a bottom pair defender. Depending on free agency and training camp, one of Eaton or Mottau could be waived or traded as part of a package.
Ty Wishart: B-/C+
Trading your “best” player for a guy like Wishart can’t be too easy on Wishart. Fans may seem to want Wishart to be a top pair guy. What is clear is Wishart is no bum. He has some work to do but he should become an NHL defender with a roll to play. But will it remain with the Isles? Lots of depth on the blueline could see Wishart as the odd man out.
Dylan Reese: C-
Reese has proven that he can be a reasonable depth defenseman, but he is hardly the solution to the Islanders blueline.
Mark Katic: C
Katic was the first pick the Isles had in 2007. He was only here for 11 games, and I liked what I saw of his skating, but he is still a project. Like Reese and Wishart — will there be room for him “long-term?”
James Wisniewski: B+
The Wiz played well while here. He certainly put up offensive numbers. Defensively — I wonder what he may have looked like paired with Striet? We will never know — unless the Islanders find a way to sign him on July 1…. His big minus number — -18 with the Isles is a concern. His +/- did not change wildly during his time with a better Canadiens squad (he went +4 with the Habs).
Overall the Islanders missed Mark Streit — in my opinion the next captain of the Islanders. While some feel it should go to Okposo, I would rather let the young Okposo just have to worry about his own game and not the captaincy at this stage in his career. A healthy Mark Streit will anchor the blue line – likely with Andrew MacDonald — forming a very good top pair for the Isles. Following that up with most likely Milan Jurcina and Travis Hamonic, the Isles have a reasonable top 4. Certainly a free agent addition to stabilize the mostly young group would not hurt. Any one of Bryan McCabe, Scott Hannan, Hal Gill or even a return of James Wisniewski would offer an improvement and provide a little more time and space for players like Wishart, Ness, and others who are still too young and not quite ready.
Hope to finish my forward review next week — but I would tease with this — the Islanders have a potentially potent offensive force moving ahead…
Filed Under: New York Islanders
About the Author: A graphic designer who loves the game....and knows that age has slowed him down — but the passion is there. Islanders fan since the 70s, Dad, Husband and Coach of the Flying Tiger's Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: http://twitter.com/FilamentDesigns