Christian Arnold, Islanders Point Blank:The Islanders defensemen will have the largest magnifying glass on them when training camp opens in September.
Relatively unchanged, Isles Head Coach Jack Capuano will rely on a young defensive core in 2014-15. Travis Hamonic and Lubomir Visnovsky will likely lead the Isles blue line this season, with Calvin de Haan continuing to have a prominent role. Also throw into the mix Griffin Reinhart, who is expected to make the roster out of training camp, and Thomas Hickey, who was a solid defender last season for the Islanders.
The Isles will also have a healthy Brian Strait back for the upcoming season. He appeared in only 47 games last season due to injury.
As many pundits have pointed out, the Islanders blue line has gotten better by default with the departure of Andrew MacDonald. The 27-year-old defenseman struggled massively after Capuano overused him. MacDonald was a shot blocker, but his possession numbers were terrible and he finished the regular season a minus-22.
But how much better the Isles defense has gotten is still up for debate.
For one, the Islanders will have to hope that the injury bug doesn’t strike too often this season. Visnovsky will return to camp healthy after missing all but 24 games last season due to injury, but there is concern over how susceptible he will be to injuries next year and what happens if he has to miss time due to one. They would also have to hope that injury does not strike their other top defenseman, Hamonic.
General Manager Garth Snow could not persuade Dan Boyle to sign, so the Isles still could use another top-4 defenseman. The Islanders certainly have the pieces to execute a deal, but it is unclear if or when such will take place.
For now, the Islanders will rely on the defenseman they have. That’s not to say it is the worst predicament in the world, but it could make things tougher on the Islanders’ plans to make it back into the postseason.