Defense Preview Pt II

New York Islander Fan Central | 9/17/2008 09:47:00 AM |
With camp starting Friday I have to pick up the pace on these previews so today lets complete the defense with a few words on the goaltending coming tomorrow or Friday.

1. Mark Streit:
Mark Streit comes to New York as one of the leading scorers on defense in the National Hockey league who played some forward in Montreal which led to him being somewhat outspoken of Bob Gainey but here joins a defense who's returning defenders are led by four goal scorer Chris Campoli with Berard and MA Bergeron's combined fourteen goals departing.

Streit's offense skills and production are essential to this clubs success at even strength and the powerplay, we will have to see how things go on defense because the game will come to him more with the Islanders than it was in Montreal where that club's team speed helped his game as they were on the attack which Scott Gordon has talked about but does not seem to have the players for that kind of game in effort.

In Montreal with the man advantage he produced seven goals and twenty seven assist which was just a little more than half his production so he can produce at even strength. Having written that it still does not replace Berard or Bergeron's combined goal production and pales in comparison to some stretches former Islander Adrian Aucoin had where he produced close to double-digit goals in a month which fair or not may be needed.

One thing folks will see is Streit's age and wonder if we have seen his best when in fact he has only been in the NHL for three seasons and improved all three years and is a player who in some ways who is still learning to play in this league.

Hard to say who Scott Gordon will pair him with at this time but with a combined sixty one goals plus leaving the roster of one the lowest scoring clubs in the NHL
last season Mark Streit has to score goals and produce offensive chances.

2. Chris Campoli:
For all the talk of Chris Campoli improving last season on offense based on two early season goals he only had four when his season was cut short by injury last January.

Fair or not he has to give this team more offense and is at a point in his NHL career where he should have the confidence to provide just that because he obviously has great natural instincts when to step in and create a chance and was a leading AHL scorer for a season in Bridgeport.

On defense his physical play improved along with his positioning. There is a fair question about his ability to stay healthy which has hindered him for the better part of two years. He won over Ted Nolan when he was healthy in 2006-07 and there is little doubt he will do the same with Scott Gordon who should remember Campoli from his time in Bridgeport. It will be interesting to see if he remains paired with Bruno Gervais or with Mark Streit.

3. Bruno Gervais:
Many folks will only remember Bruno Gervais was hurt for the last month or did not score a single goal but what did stand out most of the season was his strong defensive game and positioning where he not only kept his angles but won most battles for the puck in his end of the ice and reminded me a lot of Kenny Morrow which I wrote about at the twenty game mark.

Gervais only seems to be improving in this area which is partly reflected by being only a minus five on a club that was one of the worst in the league in the plus/minus stats which is this case is an accurate barometer of how steady he was.

Having written that his offensive game has not progressed with his first callup in 2005-06 where he produced three goals but nothing the last two seasons aside from a playoff goal against Buffalo and a few very impressive rushes at the Sabres goal in game five.

Gervais is a former AHL defensive scoring leader for a few stretches in Bridgeport he has to give New York more production and it is fair to speculate even with his new three year contract he is fighting for a spot in the top six.

Like Campoli there are durability questions with regard to Gervais and if he can play a full eighty two games, his concussion did linger the final month.

It will be very interesting to see where Scott Gordon places him.

4. Andy Sutton:
Andy Sutton came to New York with a three year contract and someone of a rap that he losses focus and does not play a consistent defensive game which a few articles suggesed out of Atlanta when he was not resigned there. When he came to New York he went for a few big hits early that were obvious penalties, the first month or so bad goals found him from deflections or screens and it was fair to say he was not comfortable or confident as he was the player paired with whoever was struggling less between Berard or Bergeron as they were hurt or benched and was running around too much in his end of the ice.

Funny thing happened at some point around mid-late November or early December.

Sutton settled down, got his confidence and not only played steady reliable defense for Ted Nolan but was a shut down defender who seemed to change his game like Brendan Witt did after the lockout and did an excellent job clearing the crease and what Peter Laviolette likes to call " the house."

This translated to whoever he was paired with to where he looked comfortable in any defensive role he was placed in as he helped carry the club on the backline during the six game winning streak by doing a lot of things that do not show on the scoresheet to win a hockey game along with his ability to block shots which has always been a strength to his game.

That streak also led to the other problem he brought with him from Atlanta and that's a history of being injured which ended Sutton's season in the final minutes of a game against San Jose.

Sutton's offensive game did not make it to New York, he had two eight goal seasons in Atlanta but declined his final season there which could have been the defensive system or his role here.

Sutton is signed for the next two seasons at three million, it's tough to speculate if Brendan Witt's extension changes his future here but like Witt is the only player that brings the size and physical factor, would not be easy to replace and what seemed to be the best version of his defensive game was a big asset for this club.

It would be for any team.

5: Freddy Meyer:
What can I write about the 2007-08 journey for Freddy Meyer that led him to two leagues, two teams, two waiver placements and two different conferences before New York finally got to see him play completely healthy where he earned a two year contract extension after only two weeks of playing regularly in December?

Meyer finally got his chance at full strength since his 2006 trade for Alexei Zhitnik, like Andy Sutton looked solid on defense and only kept getting better to where he was a plus six on a brutal plus minus squad, you could see the confidence he had him in himself as he played solid defense, blocked shots very well and was another very big reason New York cuts it's shots against by close to two hundred by the end of the season.

Having written all that you would think on paper he is a lock for the top six but this is a very deep defensive squad all signed to contracts of two year or more. He is injury prone but for now someone will have to sit and it could well be Meyer who has not been durable here or in Philadelphia but did show an offensive element that stood out for the Flyers in 2005-06 that could make a difference if he settles into a role here where he can produce.

He even had two game winning goals when it was all said and done.

6: Jack Hillen/Dustin Kohn:
Not much to write here, both are on the outside looking in. Hillen comes out of college with a two game trial in the NHL where he did not look out of place and produced his first NHL points and could earn a spot if he forces management with his play to move someone and has the offensive game to do just that. Dustin Kohn comes in off his first AHL season where he was spotted by Jack Capuano in Bridgeport and had some injuries but this is a second rounder the club has a lot invested in.

For those looking at Bridgeport the depth seems settled on paper.

Now that I did all this we'll see if Mathieu Schneider has been claimed by general manager Garth Snow.

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