Offensive Defensemen

With head coach Scott Gordon teaching his overspeed technique and the Islanders being successful against Boston two nights ago – you wonder if we will see increased production from the back end. You know there are defensemen on the team who can pot some goals, but will we see production from unlikely sources?

Looking over the Islanders lineup, who are our clear cut offensive d-men?

Mark Streit: Signed to a five year deal in the offseason, Streit was the power play points leader last season with Montreal, clearly he is the front runner for offensive d-men on the Islanders this year.

Chris Campoli: Streit’s potential linemate (although they are both left handed shots), it has been said that Campoli is the up and coming young offensive d-man the Islanders are hoping he would be. Campoli’s confidence and point totals have grown significantly in his time with the Islanders – a positive indeed. Unfortunately, his season last year was cut short due to a shoulder injury and he has gone down with an unspecified injury in the first pre-season game. The outcome of this is important, because if Campoli is lost for a significant period – Snow will likely look to acquire the New York born and ex-Islander Mathieu Schneider who is clearly available from Anaheim.

Jack Hillen: Up for a pair of Rangers games at the end of last season, Hillen surprised many who didn’t know the type of game he possessed. He notched his first NHL point during his stint with the Isles and even had a savvy breakaway on Lundqvist that showcased his speed and offensive awareness. According to Greg Logan (and this goes back to our discussion at the draft and my subsequent agreement) that Hillen is making the case for an NHL roster spot out of camp. Of course, this downplays any real “need” to acquire Schneider – but you get a finished product with the latter.

Honorable mention – Bruno Gervais: Bruno seems to be somewhat of an odd-man out this year, based only on the fact that there are so many defensemen on one-way contracts while he is on a two-way. However, Gervais is a smooth skating and puck moving d-man who can certainly show offensive upside – so he deserves to be included.

Update 10:27 PM! Coincidentally Greg Logan speaks about Bruno Gervais and his ability to be an offensive player in tomorrow’s Newsday!

In the opening paragraph I mentioned seeing offense from the unlikeliest of places. Who, is likely the first question that comes to mind. Allow me to explain.

Greg Logan had some interesting quotes out of Gordon yesterday in his blog, Gordon was speaking about a specific defensemen joining the rush, the player; Brendan Witt. Witt’s goal scoring is predictable and somewhat inspiring – he scores what I have come to call “Witt’s annual goal”. Brendan Witt is the antithesis of an offensive defenseman, he is the shut down man – the guy who gets in your face and knocks you off your game.

Per Greg Logan’s Blog:

Gordon also expressed pleasure with how well the Islanders executed his high-tempo system first time out of the box. They outshot the Bruins, 38-19, and the defense did a good job of joining the rush and generating quality shots. Even Brendan Witt, who has 23 goals in 12 NHL seasons, jumped into the play once and drilled a shot that handcuffed Bruins goaltender Tuukka Rask and almost bounced in off his glove.

“Yeah, he joined at the right time,” Gordon said of Witt. “It wasn’t reckless; it was calculated. There was good coverage by the forward, and had Witt not joined, it’s a two-on-two, and we don’t get the shot.”

The above quoted text makes an interesting reference to Witt making a “Calculated” offensive decision – something our defense did not do enough under Ted Nolan. While one preseason game is not enough to really get an idea on how the team is working with Scott Gordon at the helm, it already appears to be on the rebound. Another game or two and we should really know where we stand, which I have to admit – this blogger likes what he is seeing.

If anything, I can make one bold prediction about this years season: the Islanders defense will likely DOUBLE their offensive output of the 2007/2008 campaign.

Michael Schuerlein

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.