Friday we continue with our preview of the Islanders defense with Pt II on Andy Sutton, Freddy Meyer, Marc Andre Bergeron and Aaron Johnson. Comments on Berard, Aaron Johnson, Drew Fata and Dustin Kohn are included.
Part one on Brendan Witt, Radek Martinek, Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais can be referenced here.
Not much I can give you on Andy Sutton's season last year in Atlanta other then he saw less minutes in the second half and the club decided to walk away from him on a club who's problem seems to be team defense in front of the goaltender. Islanders did take a risk here because he is a player who is injury prone with a new three year contract.
What Sutton brings to the table for the Islanders is physical play, size and some intimidation. His lateral movement, mobility are not good and he does struggle with his consistency at times which is seemingly why Bob Hartley reduced his role. The most consistent element to his game is his shot blocking which is very impressive and something the club needed in replacing Shawn Hill who also stood out in this department. At times he does a solid job controlling the puck to where he can be used for extended minutes and he has shown some past offensive ability at times.
It's going to be interesting to see how Sutton reacts to a new coach and a new situation after being in Atlanta for four and a half years. If Bob Hartley lost confidence in him will things be different under Ted Nolan? Islanders have made a big commitment here and Sutton is at a point in his career where his best game is to be expected. Can he stay durable with the game he plays after so many years with injuries? Who will he pair with given his skating ? Some may say he was brought in to replace Hill and some say he was brought in to replace Poti. Seems like from my perspective he has to do a little of both.
Marc Andre Bergeron:
This was a player who needed to get out of Edmonton as fast as Tom Poti. He had more than his struggles on defense his final season (on a terrible Oiler club) after some strong results earlier in his Edmonton career. As an Islander he seemed to play with a lot more confidence and took advantage of a new opportunity. He solved the problems the club was having on the point in terms of offense (especially on the power play) and even though he provides some scary moments in his own end at times overall for the most part he was solid and settled down here. His goal in game two of the playoffs won the Islanders their only post-season game.
Bergeron brings strong skating, an intimidating shot and as an Islander he did not seem shy to use it. For the most part his defensive lapses were few and far between but at times you could see him struggle with his confidence while at other times he looked as steady as Radek Martinek moving the puck. He also clearly is a gifted offensive defenseman with skills that no one at this time on this defense has.
Islanders need more of the same from Bergeron on offense this season. He needs to improve his defense and play with the puck in his own end but otherwise Ted Nolan should have something to work with here that can help the power play but if he's reduced to a pp specialist because he's struggles on defense it's not going to work out for Bergeron with the Islanders.
Last year was a tough year for Freddy Meyer. He struggled on a terrible Flyer team before his trade here for Alexei Zhitnik. He came here with lingering back problems that took him a while to get past. After playing for most of the second half he broke a finger which he played through until he had to be shut down by the club for the year.
Meyer is interesting in that he had the same rookie year statistically that Chris Campoli had here in 05-06 but on a much better Flyers team. When he was reasonably healthy as an Islander he played the kind of game that you did not notice which is to say he did not make mistakes. No doubt he has some offensive skills and a little size. His speed seems suspect and did have a few problems in his own end at times but he's also still a relatively young player and losing the time he did to injury was a huge factor.
Meyer is signed for this year at a low contract and would likely not clear waivers if they tried to demote him. Considering the Islander roster he's going to have to make an early impression on Ted Nolan or he could wind up a sixth defender, in the stands or on another club in a trade. He's also going to have to stay healthy on a roster with a lot of potential injury problems on defense to stay on the roster. One thing Meyer does have going for him is Garth Snow traded for him. This was someone the gm decided he wanted and he saw something in this player he felt could help the team. Snow likely wants to see him get a chance before any final decisions are made, but he is fighting a numbers game.
To do anymore on Johnson than note he played sixty one games on the Blue Jackets last year at age twenty three, has been mostly an AHL journeyman and was a player Doug McLean liked as gm but new gm Scott Howson decided to let go (but credited his talent) is really all I can contribute on this player at this time. To do more would be guessing and that's not fair to folks reading this. Comments here would be helpful from others.
A lot has been written on Berard already here. He's invited to camp, both sides talked about this now so we'll see what happens.
Fata showed a little confidence in his call ups. In his three games he provided steady play for the most part but the final game he had to take Hill's place on no notice and he did not work well with Chris Campoli and was a -2 where the communication on defense led to the goals against. He scored his first NHL goal in the final seconds of a terrible team effort at Ottawa. He's signed and booked for a show with the Sound Tigers and under the right circumstances could see another call up. With the AHL depth veterans signed this summer that will not be easy.
Kohn is expected to begin his pro career with the Sound Tigers next season and should get a longer look in camp then he has had in previous years where he did play some preseason games in the NHL. Considering his progression and the fact he's a talented second round pick if he shows signs in camp that he's outplaying other defenders he would leave the Islanders with a very interesting and good problem to have if they decided to create a spot for him now.
Islander goaltending with Rick DiPietro, Wade Dubielewicz and Andrew MacDonald.