May 9, 2013; Pittsburgh, PA, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Brian Strait (37) passes the puck against the Pittsburgh Penguins during the second period in game five of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs at CONSOL Energy Center. The Pittsburgh Penguins won 4-0. Mandatory Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Islanders Summer Report Card: Brian Strait

 

NASSAU VETERANS MEMORIAL COLISEUM OF LEARNING

 

Student Report

  • Name: Brian Strait
  • Enrolled: 2012-13
  • Age: 25
  • Undergraduate: 2010
  • Days Absent: 29
  • Scholarship: 3 years / $2.325 million (expires after 2015-16 season)
  • Achievements: 19 GP, 0 G, 4 A, 4 PTS, +4 +/-, 10 PIM, 13 SOG, 17:09 TOI/G

Class List and Grade History

  • Skating: C
  • Shooting: D+
  • Passing: C+
  • Defense: B
  • Leadership: D

 

Professor’s Comments: Brian’s year was somewhat of a roller coaster, full of ups and downs, although the ‘downs’ were mostly out of his control. He started the season as an unknown commodity, but quickly proved his worth as a solid stay-at-home defenseman alongside former captain Mark Streit.

For the first month of the 2012-13 NHL season, it appeared that Isles GM Garth Snow had again struck gold on the waiver wire by bringing Strait on board.

Unfortunately for Strait and the Islanders, he suffered a fractured ankle in the Feb. 18 blowout loss to the Philadelphia Flyers that ended up sidelining him for two months. Without Strait in the lineup, the Isles were forced to shuffle their defensive pairings to cope with the loss of one of their more reliable defensemen.

Strait returned to action in time for the Isles’ final few regular-season games and their first-round playoff series against the Pittsburgh Penguins—his former team—but was unable to provide the type of lock-down defense the Isles needed to compete with the Penguins’ offensively loaded squad.

Accurately assessing the effectiveness of a player in an injury-shortened season is a difficult task, as the player’s shortcomings may have more to do with the injury than a lack of skill.

Regarding Strait’s performance, his early-season efforts were undoubtedly worthy of the gamble taken by Snow in signing him. Strait earned his ice time by pairing nicely with the offensive-minded Streit; Strait’s good defensive positioning and shot blocking offset Streit’s willingness to jump up on the play.

After the ankle injury, however, Strait may have pressed himself to make an impact upon returning to the lineup. He only recorded one point after rejoining the team and accumulated nearly half of his penalty minutes during that time.

 

Professor’s Recommendation: Brian is one of many defensemen in the Islanders’ system fighting for ice time. Because of the wealth of defensive prospects looking to crack the NHL lineup in the coming seasons, Strait is not necessarily guaranteed a spot on the roster past the end of his current contract. Snow did well to pick him up on waivers from the Pittsburgh Penguins to plug a hole on the blue line this year, but his time with the team may be limited.

Blue-chip prospects like Matt Donovan, Calvin de Haan, Griffin Reinhart, Andrey Pedan and Ville Pokka are all waiting in the wings, which puts pressure on Strait to perform well throughout the rest of his contract.

The faculty at the NVMCL is therefore hesitant to recommend that Strait be viewed as essential to the future success of the franchise. His current contract is a benefit to the Islanders with regards to the salary cap, which is set to decrease over the next two seasons.

Beyond a reasonable contract and a good-but-not-great season on which to project future performance, Strait is more of a face in the crowd than a standout player on a team loaded with defensive talent.

Look for him to bounce back from a disappointing 2012-13 season and provide the Islanders with a steady presence on the blue line, knowing full well that the prospects in line will give him a run for his money.

Training camp in September will be pressure-packed for Strait. If he can hold his own as expected, he will provide the Isles with a bridge to the future in terms of defensive growth.

With Strait on the blue line for at least another season, the kids will have one more year to develop until they are ready for the rigors of the NHL, at which point the clock on Strait’s tenure will truly start to tick.

-MW

 

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