Today the focus shifts back to the defense with a final review of Andy Sutton.
Have to give credit to the Islanders staff when due here because when they seemed to overpay to sign Andy Sutton who's been a defender who struggled with confidence and turnovers and played his way off of Bob Hartley's top four late last season I was very skeptical he would prove reliable. I wrote constantly about Dany Markov for those who read this blog at the time.
After a very shaky couple of weeks early, struggling with Marc-Andre Bergeron and Bryan Berard I saw nothing that made me feel differently and wondered if the club made a mistake giving this inconsistent defender who was always getting injured a three year contract? I saw a lot of bad turnovers, a player who did not look confident and a player who took some poor penalties. I liked the big hits early but if they are penalties they do not help.
Having written that after those early problems he settled in and shocked me with a level of solid play and consistent defense to where he seemed like a bargain and made the team defense stronger. He did an excellent job protecting the goaltender and looked like a great fit in the Isles defensive system and looked good with whoever he was paired with while Gervais-Campoli/Martinek-Witt were kept together.
He took the tough job as the new defender and got more out of less, he looked good with Freddy Meyer and also with Rob Davison. He looked good with whoever he was paired and it was obvious it was more important to the club for him to stay on the ice and eat up minutes with strong defensive plan than engage in fights. Offensively the system did not help him but he did have a big goal against the Devils, he seemed to pick his spots better to step up and hit but did it in a way where he did not cause a turnover or force a penalty to be taken.
When Brendan Witt went down he stepped up even more and did not miss a beat. His defense was a big part of the club's winning streak before his season ending injury against San Jose. He looked like a stopper on the backline and you could see the opposition try and get him off the ice.
He's signed for the next two years and what he brings to this defense is lacking in terms of physical play and steady defenseman is this league are always a commodity.
Problem is his career resume in terms of injury does not lie and plays on a group of defenders with the same problem. If the right offer comes along for Andy Sutton who's stock should be at a high right now given his defensive play last season that improves the club how do you say no?
Of course with Brendan Witt as a pending UFA how do you move him when he seems the closest fit to Witt's game on the roster? I think we saw this player at this best and it was impressive.
He did the heavy lifting as a new player with a lot of the fringe defenders and his play only got better as the season moved forward regardless of who he was paired with. For a player who was not in great demand who did not finish well in Atlanta he proved a lot of folks wrong with his consistency.
Andy Sutton gets a very solid B.