9:35 am: In what could be a sign of things to come, Scott Gordon and Dean Chynoweth cut their defensive alignment by one-third on Saturday while the Islanders successfully protected a 2-1 lead over the Devils. The coaches played Mark Eaton, Mike Mottau, Radek Martinek and James Wisniewski exclusively, holding Andrew MacDonald and Calvin de Haan to under ten minutes for the contest.
Gordon clarified that he limited the youngsters’ minutes because they had played the night before in New Jersey. Fair enough, but – especially if Martinek can stay healthy – the Islanders could do a lot worse than having him, Mottau, Eaton and Wisniewski eating minutes while trying to hold a lead. In fact, as anyone who has followed this team closely since the summer Kenny Jonsson, Adrian Aucoin and Roman Hamrlik left town knows, the franchise has done a lot worse.
So I put the question to Coach Gordon: even with Mark Streit out, is this the best corps of defensemen you’ve had since you got here?
Gordon looked me straight in the eye and said, “There’s no comparison.”
Then he elaborated.
“We went into the year with two defensemen who hadn’t played pretty much the whole previous year (Andy Sutton and Martinek) and a defenseman that is probably retired now (Brendan Witt). We had some defensemen that had to catch up when Marty got hurt (Freddy Meyer among them).
“Now we’re in a situation where the guys that are here, everybody’s played top-four minutes at some point. We haven’t had that in the entire time that I’ve been here.”
A year ago at this time, the Islanders started the season with a blueline of Streit, Sutton, Martinek, Meyer, Witt and Bruno Gervais. Jack Hillen was the prospect ready to go.
Despite Streit’s absence, Gordon and Chynoweth will have the option of playing any six of the following nine defensemen when the season opens on Saturday: Wisniewski, Mottau, Eaton, Martinek, MacDonald, Gervais, de Haan, Hillen and Milan Jurcina.
In mid-July, I disagreed that the Islanders improved their defense when the additions were only Eaton and Jurcina. Then came the brilliant stroke of acquiring Wisniewski for a conditional third round pick. Last week saw the low-cost signing of the high-calibre Mottau.
Yes, “best D corps” in these last three seasons is all relative. But bood health willing, Gordon has every reason to believe there’s no comparison.
Notes: For those of you without the MSG Networks or Centre Ice package, NHL Network is broadcasting the Islanders’ game at Anaheim on Nov. 10 at 10:00 pm ET. This is the only Islanders’ broadcast of the network’s schedule of 78 NHL games live and in HD.
More than a week after the Islanders sent Kirill Kabanov back to Moncton, the wing has yet to play in a Quebec League game. The latest holdup: the Wildcats are waiting for the International Ice Hockey Federation complete paperwork to clear Kabanov to play. He has yet to be added to the team’s roster, while Moncton (6-2-2) has already played ten games.
The authors of “Hockey Prospectus 2010-11” were kind enough to ask me to write the foreword of their book. The first of its kind and in the vein of the long-running Baseball Prospectus series, the book features projections for every team and more than 850 players. I found it very useful while preparing my season previews for FanHouse and when I made my return to fantasy hockey in Justin Bourne’s league after an absence of two decades. Pick up a copy of “Hockey Prospectus 2010-11” here.
Finally, save the date of Thursday, October 21. Looking at having a Point Blank season kickoff party at SOCIAL, across the street from the Coliseum. Free buffet by Top Chef’s Danny Gagnon, Islanders tickets giveaway, raffle and the Islanders vs the Tampa Bay Lightning at 7:30 pm on a few dozen TVs. Stay tuned for confirmation and details.
Comments on the new-look D and this post. More to come.