Islanders Mid-Season Report Cards: The Defense

Mar 7, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov (20) makes a save in front of defenseman Travis Hamonic (3) and defenseman Andrew MacDonald (47) and New York Rangers left wing Carl Hagelin (62) and left wing Rick Nash (61) during the first period of an NHL game at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

Nearly halfway through the 2013-14 season, our beloved New York Islanders are not nearly playing at the level we had hoped for. They’ve struggled mightily, and quite frankly, they’ve been pretty bad at times.

If there is one single unit that the blame would fall mostly on, it definitely would be the defense for this team. While injuries have certainly affected the defensive corps, their play has not been very good this season, and it has cost them games on numerous occasions.

Looking at the situation positively, the defense has improved greatly from where they were as a squad just several weeks ago in that dreaded month of November. The blue line group was struggling in their own zone in November, and the Islanders’ loss column will show you that nicely.

The defense as a whole may be struggling, but there are individuals who have played well with this team. So with that said, here are your mid-season report cards for the New York Islanders’ 2013-14 defenseman.


In Case You Missed It: Vol. 1, Islanders Forwards Mid-Season Report Cards

Notable drop-outs: Aaron Ness

47-Andrew MacDonald40 GP: 3-12-15

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In his contract year, Andrew MacDonald has noticeably regressed. His staple of blocking shots is still there, as he leads the league in that category,  MacDonald has become vilified for the turnovers he’s committed. It’s been an inconvenience for him and the entire team, as some of his turnovers and poor judgement have resulted in some bad goals.

MacDonald has been victim of overplaying amidst injuries to key defenseman, which can partially be the reason his season hasn’t been great. His average time on ice has risen a few minutes from last season to now, as his TOI has gone up from 23:31 a game to 25:59.

Grade: C-, If you told me MacDonald would be a questionable resigning at the end of this season in October, I would’ve laughed in your face. However, looking at the situation now, it wouldn’t shock me if the Islanders decided to let him go and make room for one of their young prospects.

3- Travis Hamonic– 40 GP- 1-6-7

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Travis Hamonic, similarly to the aforementioned Andrew MacDonald, has had his share of struggles this season. After the best year of his career in the truncated 2012-13 season, he signed a 7 year contract extension with the Islanders, making him a member of this team for the foreseeable future. Hamonic had earned his contract as well, playing as the best shut-down defenseman the Islanders had.

Halfway through the 2013-14 season, Hamonic has struggled himself. He’s made some careless blunders this season, as his new style of jumping up in the offensive rush has backfired at times this season. Hamonic’s shut-down defensive style is how he plays best, and when he differs from that play, his game regresses.

Grade: C-, It seems fitting that the two struggling former defensive pair would receive the same individual game, as they’ve both taken steps backwards this season.

14-Thomas Hickey 40 GP: 2-7-9

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Thomas Hickey, the young waiver-claimed experiment from last season, proved to General Manager Garth Snow that he was worth a further evaluation.

At this point in the 2013-14 season, Hickey hasn’t  been great this season, but he hasn’t been terrible. His play is basically on par with where it’s been last season. Hickey has played his role well, and unlike most of the defense, hasn’t taken serious steps backwards.

Grade: C, Not to say Hickey is better than either MacDonald or Hamonic, but he’s performed right where he should be, and the same can’t be said about the aforementioned defenseman.

37- Brian Strait– 18 GP: 1-3-4

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Brian Strait seemed to have an exact repeat of last season, getting off to a decent start and then suffering an injury and being placed on the IR List. Strait missed most of October and a portion of November with an injury.

While Strait has been playing, he’s been one of the better defensive defenseman. His play in the defensive zone has been progressed, and he’s been decent for the Islanders this season. His offense isn’t terrific, but that’s not a big part of Strait’s game. He’s fit his role, and has proved more useful than what some initially thought.

Grade: C, It’s a reoccurring grade here for the defense, but it’s accurate. Strait’s been more than what we thought, but still hasn’t been great.

7- Matt Carkner30 GP: 0-3-3

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The picture to your left pretty much sums up what Matt Carkner was brought here to do. He’s here for one reason, and that’s to be physical.

Carkner isn’t great at his position of defense, but he’s a big body who can hit hard. Again, that’s why he’s here, and that’s what he offers.

Grade: D+, Carkner’s defense isn’t all that good, and if it weren’t for his physicality, he would not be up on Long Island.

44- Calvin de Haan15 GP: 0-0-0

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Calvin de Haan’s arrival to the Islanders came as a surprise, as he was called up from the AHL on Thanksgiving Day, and Matt Donovan was sent down to Bridgeport.

De Haan has been advertised as a solid two-way defenseman with a great first pass and strong vision of the ice. While the offense hasn’t been present in de Haan’s play, he’s arguably been the best defensive defenseman on the team since his call-up. His defense is better than what most anticipated from him, and he’s been a valuable member to the Islanders.

Grade: B-, If de Haan’s offense was a bit more present, he’d have himslef a strong grade.

46- Matt Donovan22 GP: 1-4-5

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I was reluctant to grade Matt Donovan, given his current status as an AHL’er. However, since he was a significant player and probably will be back in the NHL soon, I figured I’d give him a grade.

Donovan, while he was up playing with the Islanders, looked strong in both ends. He was getting power play time, and he scored his first career NHL goal on the power play.

Donovan was playing well, and it seemed like he was here to stay for a while. However, the sudden loaning to Bridgeport on Thanksgiving did serve as a surprise to him and to many others. He has been playing well since being sent down, recording 3 goals and 11 assists in 17 games played.

Grade: B, The offensive defenseman looked strong while he was with the big club, and his play only has him nearing a call-up.

11- Lubomir Visnovsky8 GP: 1-2-3

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Lubomir Visnovsky proved he was the most valuable defenseman on the team, and he hasn’t played a game since October. Visnovsky suffered a concussion early in the season against the Carolina Hurricanes, and he hasn’t played since then.

Amidst Visnovsky’s absence, the defense went from mediocre to just plain bad. The defense for majority of the season has cost the Islanders multiple games, and is arguably a majority of the reason why the team is where they are now. Visnovksy’s absence has only made the team worse, as his valuable two-way game apparently was greatly needed.

Grade: INC,  There’s not nearly enough to give Visnovsky an accurate grade, but throw the grade aside, the Islanders need him back.

4- Radek Martinek– 10 GP: 0-3-3

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Radek Martinek was picked up to help fill the gaping hole left by Lubomir Visnovsky. However, early into his play, he suffered an injury and was placed on the IR.

Martinek’s brief time spent with the team was mediocre, as age appears to be catching up with him. His defensive play was okay, nothing great. He has been reactivated and taken off Injured Reserve just a hew hours ago, but won’t be playing tonight.

Grade: INC, We’ve hardly seen anything from Martinek, but we may start seeing him more again now that he’s healthy.