Monday begins the preview of the Islander defenders with Brendan Witt and Radek Martinek.
1. Brendan Witt:
Brendan Witt's statistical season in 2007-08 would suggest not much happened given the numbers but we all know Witt is a player who is not about his stats but how he contains the opposition from getting their stats with physical play, strong positioning and shot blocking with the occasional big hit that can change a game.
Along with the goaltender he sets the defensive tone for the club and did an excellent job. His second half was marked by injury and shutting it down early to avoid further problems but this is a trend that has marked his career we did not see as much in 2006-07 as Witt has altered his game since the lockout and adapted to the new NHL.
Brendan Witt last season did his job so well there was a lot of talk he should have represented the Islanders at the all-star game which is virtually unheard of for a defender without offensive numbers.
Make no mistake Witt will continue to be one of the leaders on the club with his physical play, shot blocking and leadership. Islander management made a very savy signing this summer locking in Witt to a three year contract at what many would consider below market value. It will be interesting to see how he reacts to the youth movement and a new coach as more young players enters this clubs mix.
2. Radek Martinek:
New York again not only got a solid season out of Radek Martinek a year ago at a time they needed him to step into a number one pairing but for the most part he was healthy. Overall we saw his usual locked in strong defensive play and ability to take away the puck from the opposition and skate it out of dangerous areas but we saw him have some very memorable battles with Evgeni Malkin and Alexander Ovechkin where he gave as good as he got and as those games went on he wore down those players down leveling Malkin and Ovechkin with checks as he kept in position and won the puck late in the game or overtime.
That was a highlight for me last season and I expect to see more of the same as he only seems to be getting better in his own end of the ice.
For a small framed man Martinek has this ability to play very big with his skating ability and defensive instincts, you can see the confidence when he is on his game, playing well.
On offense Martinek is still very tenative to step into a play or use his shot but maybe coming in at full strength can improve his offensive game.
Islanders need another huge year our of Martinek who is one of the longest tenured players here and with a contract extension should not be going anywhere. Plus minus would not properly tell his story because like Witt, Martinek is out of these players who wins games with things that you do not see on the stat sheet.
He will never receive any hype on this club with the limited media around it but Radek Martinek is a top defensive defender in the NHL.