Replacing Mark Streit's Offense Will Not Be Easy For The Isles
Mark Streit was a very serviceable captain of this New York Islanders squad for the past two years, but his defensive prowess was fading just like his time spent with the team.
His -27 and -14 rating over the past two respective seasons might not be missed on the Isles blue line, but his ability to quarterback the power play has certainly left a void.
Of his 27 points last season, 11 of them were scored with the man advantage. The previous season, Streit scored 47 points as the Isles top defenseman with 23 of them coming on the power play.
Despite struggling in his own end, Streit was very smart with the puck in the offensive zone. He had an excellent slap shot and was known for finding his teammates stick blades with a slick "slap-pass" in the slot for a quick redirection.
Judging from the way things went at last week's preseason game at the Barclays Center, the Isles special teams will have some extra work to do in his absence.
Early indications were coming from the Isles brass that Matt Donovan will have the best chance of taking over this role with the Islanders. With the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, Donovan had 48 points (14 goals and 34 assists) in 75 games played last season, which also led the AHL. The previous year saw him score 43 points the previous year in 72 games played, which was good enough for the fourth best defenseman in the AHL.
It's clear that Donovan does not have much left to prove in the minor leagues and has earned a look at the NHL level.
But is a 23-year old rookie really capable of replacing the offensive weaponry that was Mark Streit?
The real pressure is going to fall on Lubomir Visnovsky, a 37-year old veteran who tallied 68 points from the blue line in 2011 for the Anaheim Ducks.
However, Viz's numbers have dropped since then, but there is still reason to believe that he is capable of putting up somewhere around 40 points or so with most of them coming on the Isles' special teams unit. And without Streit, he will have to find a way to anchor their power play.
Travis Hamonic, who was recently locked up to a seven-year contract extension, may also be looked upon to expand his role beyond the stay-at-home d-man. Although that is his "bread and butter," he also carries a heavy shot that can be effective when fired on net.
Thomas Hickey, who was also re-signed to an extension by the Isles, has been encouraged to continue joining the rush when the Isles enter the attacking zone. But Hickey lacks a great deal of size and only scored four points in 39 games played in the abbreviated 2013 season.
Donovan may eventually be given additional special teams responsibility, but it would be unfair and unrealistic to assume that he will immediately fill Streit's shoes.
The real burden falls on Visnovsky and Hamonic; the experienced power play specialist and the future anchor of the Islanders blue line.
Scoring goals with the extra man has always made a difference for all teams when it comes to earning wins, and every win will matter that much more with a consistently dominant team like the Detroit Red Wings looking to take a playoff spot in the East.
And, of course, the Isles will not only continue to battle with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Philadelphia Flyers, New York Rangers and New Jersey Devils for a playoff spot in their division, but they will also have the company of the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes and the Columbus Blue Jackets in the new Metropolitan Division.
Mark Streit would not have guaranteed a playoff spot in 2014, but the Islanders will have to find a way to get by on offense without him.
(Above Photo Credit: Dan4th/Flickr)