31 July 2010
With yesterday's acquisition of defensemen James Wisniewski the Islanders are presented now with a dilemma before training camp even opens; who should they suit up come opening night? As of today the Islander website has Mark Eaton, Bruno Gervais, Jack Hillen, Milan Jurcina, Andrew MacDonald, Radek Martinek, and Mark Striet listed as the team's defensemen. Add Wisniewski to the mix and you have two D-men who will be sitting in the press box come opening night verse Dallas.
So who makes the line up and who doesn't? Let's break it down. First theirs Mark Eaton, the former Penguins defensemen, who Garth Snow signed to add more veteran presence on the blue line. The 33 year old may not be a scoring machine, but he is a player who adds size and can play a lot of minutes over a game (averaged 18:01 last season), as well as block shots. Eaton was second on the penguins in block shots, blocking 135. Eaton is very much a lock to make the team out of training camp.
Then comes Mark Streit and Radek Martinek, two players who are also locks to make the team out of camp. While Streit has been one of, if not, the best defensemen on the team, Martinek is more the concern down the road. Martinek has suffered injury set backed seasons the past several years, including last year where he only played in 16 games. In those 16 he scored 2 goals and an assist for 3 points and can be dangerous player when healthy.
Then Comes the Young defensemen Jack Hillen and Andrew MacDonald. Hillen put up 3 goals, 18 assist and 21 points in 69 games last year while averaging 16:40 minutes on the ice per game. Also playing a role on the special teams unit, averaging 1:46 on the power play. MacDonald, who received a four year contract extension, recorded a goal, 6 assists and 7 points in 46 games while averaging 17:06 last season. Both were invited to play for team USA in the world Championships and both were bright spots on a very lackluster Islanders blue line last season. Expect both to be playing on the island come season start.
Now comes Milian Jurcina, the former Blue Jacket/Capital. He may have been Olympian in Vancouver; I don't see Jurcina suiting up for the Islanders early on. Jurcina put up the same numbers as MacDonald (1, 6, 7) he has not been as much of a stand out player as A-Mac or Hillen has been. As well, Jurcina has also been plagued by injuries this past season. While Jurcina does add size, I do not see him ousting Hillen or A-Mac out of a playing roster spot. However should Martinek or any other defensemen go down with an injury expect Jurcina to be the first one called in.
Finally there is the curious case of Bruno Gervais, the 25 year old defensemen whose play is spottier than a firehouse Dalmatian. While Gervais has played a prominent role on the Islanders defense for the past three years, his play has yet to truly improve finishing the past two seasons a -15. He does average time both on the power play and penalty kill as well as 16:30 a game and has his moments when he seems he could finally be turning into the player the organization hoped he would be. But he has yet to truly turn into an everyday NHLer. He will not be playing anytime soon for the Isles and will either be traded, enjoying the view from the coliseum press box or be back with the Sound Tigers in Bridgeport. Either way, the Gervais experiment most likely is nearing its end on Long Island.
So looking forward here is what the opening night defensive pairings might look like;