First things first, my sincerest condolences go out to Derek Boogaard's family, friends and fans.
On the heels of the huge news that the Islanders may actually have a plan for a new arena and the signing of Michael Grabner to a five-year contract, may I present part four in a five-part series of why the Islanders will make the playoffs in 2011-2012.
For this part we will examine the Islanders defense corps.
The Islanders were decimated by injury last season. We all know this. Their defense in particular was hit the hardest.
There are six defense positions on any NHL team for use in a game. Everyone knows that.
The Islanders had 13 different defensemen on their roster this season, counting Mark Streit, who did not play one game because of major shoulder surgery.
This fact in of itself could wind up being the reason the Islanders discovered what could be a defense pairing that will play together and grow as a unit for many years to come.
Andy MacDonald and Travis Hamonic have bright futures in the NHL. They consistently played as the Islanders number one defense tandem this season and played against the best the rest of the NHL had to offer and they did very well for themselves.
The two young defenseman also showed poise on the offensive side of the game also, scoring 27 points (MacDonald) and 26 points (Hamonic.)
Most impressive is that they were the only Islanders defensemen to finish the season with plus ratings that played over 20 games. Doing that and playing against the NHL's best definitely proves that they are ready for the full time load of playing in the NHL and should start the year as the Islanders number two pair next season.
Returning Islanders veteran defenseman Mark Streit will be back at next season. Hopefully he can return to form and lead the Islanders power play and not show any ill effects from missing an entire season from such a major operation.
If he returns to form he will bring what the Islanders most sorely lacked this year and that is a power play puck moving offensive threat.
The Islanders power play sorely missed him as he provides the presence on the offensive side of the game that a team needs to have a successful power play.
Also returning from injury are a trio of steady veteran defensemen in Mark Eaton, Mike Mottau and Milan Jurcina.
On the young side, Ty Wishart also played well in his 20 games this season after being acquired for goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
On a side note, if the Tampa Bay Lightning should win the Stanley Cup this season Garth Snow should get a Stanley Cup ring as former Islanders Roloson and Sean Bergenheim are absolutely lighting it up for the Bolts.
Back to the subject at hand the Islanders also have young prospect Calvin de Haan who will challenge for a spot on the team straight out of camp and will probably make the team out of camp unless he takes a step back in his development.
Could Aaron Ness also make a case for a roster spot? What happens with Bruno Gervais, who is a restricted free agent?
Having too many NHL-capable defensemen is a great problem to have as this past season showed people get hurt and it pays to have people that can just step in and have the team not miss a beat.
The Islanders defense corps has it all. Size, veteran leadership, solid defense, speed and young players looking to crack the lineup. It boasts a solid base for the Islanders to build on this season knowing that the goaltending will not have to stand on its head every game to keep the Islanders in games because the defense will be solid.
The Islanders core of defenseman is a more than capable unit that will only grow better with time and it has Islander fans excited to see the next step of their development.
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