Throughout the next month plus, we’ll be reviewing the season that was and over-analyzing the various players that contributed to it. That’s what the offseason is for, after all. This post is part of a series. Read them all here.
0-4-4 in 19 games
Most often seen: with a gnarly playoff beard (pictured, right)
Contract status: signed through 2015-16, $605k salary in 2012-13 ($605k cap hit)
Obligatory YouTube video of: scoring in Game Four against his former team
Thoughts on 2012-13: Defender Brian Strait was one of a multitude of waiver claims by the Islanders at the start of the season in January. Strait had been a defender in the Penguins systems for a few years and was sent through waivers to Wilkes-Barre as the team’s seventh or eighth option but never made it before the Islanders pounced. Pittsburgh might have ended up missing him, as they later turned to signing Islanders cast-off Mark Eaton, who played a top-six role for them in the playoffs.
Strait played 15 games for the Islanders in January and February, which was enough to get signed to a three-year extension at the end of January. It might seem hasty but it also gives the team depth at defense, something they didn’t have the past few years when scraping for defenders during training camp (see: Eaton, Steve Staios).
In mid-February, he suffered a broken ankle going feet-first into the boards. At that point it looked like he would miss the remainder of the season, but Strait returned with four games left in the regular season. He would play every game of the series against Pittsburgh, being the culprit/victim of the game-deciding penalty in Game 3 when he took down Sidney Crosby/Sidney Crosby dove. Strait would get some redemption in Game 4 when he scored against his old team and the Islanders won 6-4.
Strait is an interesting case. He’s not a flashy defender and doesn’t contribute a ton offensively — five points in 25 games this season. And while he only had ten penalty minutes in the regular season, for some reason he had 12 in the six games against Pittsburgh. Maybe that’s just a function of a lack of foot speed against Pittsburgh’s high-octane offense? It’s hard to say.
But while he’s not flashy he has gotten the job done in the small sample that we have of him playing for the Islanders. His corsi relative is only a 2, nothing amazing, but it looks a hell of a lot better when you consider that his quality of competition was third toughest on the team.
At this point, Strait looks like a nice third pair option that is an upgrade from what the Islanders have had in that position on defense during the last few seasons. It’s hard to say for sure though, since we really only have a 25 game sample. For me, the jury is still out.
Add your thoughts and post-season grades in the comments.