A year ago Brian Burke published a book titled “Burke’s Law: A Life in Hockey”, but recently I saw an exert from it about how to build a blueline from pairs one through three. So looking at that philosophy on how to build a blueline, how does the New York Islanders stack up?
Keep in mind, the Islanders defensive group is one of the strongest and perhaps the strongest in the NHL. They have the lowest goals-against since 2018-19. So the way the Isles are set up is a good way to put Burke’s philosophy to the test (so to speak).
How the New York Islanders blueline stacks up to Brian Burke’s philosophy
So here’s the part of the book that recently came across my TweetDeck about the proper way to build a blue line, at least according to current Pittsburgh Penguins President of Hockey Ops Brian Burke:
Pair 1: Adam Pelech – Ryan Pulock
Neither fit Burke’s setup. Neither has “top-end foot speed” and neither is what you’d call “puck luggers”. Try to fit Pelech in either archetype and it doesn’t work. He might fit the RHD role best, but he doesn’t have a “hard shot” either.
But we’re used to seeing Pelech and Pulock not fitting the mold. They are easily one of the best D-pairs in the NHL but are rarely talked about it as such outside of the analytics community or Islanders group chats.
Pair 2: Nick Leddy – Scott Mayfield
We don’t know what this year’s second pair will look like, but we know last year’s second pair.
Again, the Isles pair doesn’t fit their archetypes well. Both roles call for penalty-killing responsibilities and while Scott Mayfield was a top PK’er for the Isles, Nick Leddy received 19 minutes on the PK in 20-21.
You could certainly mix-and-match the skills to get close to make a Leddy-Mayfield pair, but again the duo doesn’t get close to what they “should be” according to Burke.
Pair 3: Andy Greene – Noah Dobson
Both players are supposed to fight at some point. I don’t think I have to say how that isn’t happening with this pair. Both are also supposed to be penalty killers. That holds true for Andy Greene that doesn’t hold for Noah Dobson and his four minutes on the PK last year.
I also wouldn’t say that Dobson was “hard to play against” last year. He isn’t one of those hard-hitting, in-your-face defenders. When he eventually hits his prime I can see him fit Burke’s 1LD or 2LD. But he doesn’t fit the 3 LD or RD role here.
Minus the fighting Andy Greene fits perfectly. He’s perhaps the only player that fits well into Burke’s system.
The Isles don’t fit Burke’s optimal defensive system. Not that Lou Lamoriello or Barry Trotz care at all. They’re still one of, if not the best defensive group in the league.