The New York Islanders’ roster features a trio of robust defensemen, but are they lacking the stud blueliner necessary to hoist Lord Stanley’s Cup?The prime reason why the New York Islanders haven’t advanced to the later rounds of the postseason in a few decades is their lack of a number-one defenseman — or a blueliner that even resembles one.
Nearly every Stanley Cup winner in the last decennary has swanked a stud blueliner. With the increased physicality, shortened benches and high-end offensive talent remaining, the responsibilities of a luminary d-man are never more sumptuous.
What are the common traits of a premier blueliner?
According to Alex Prewitt of Sports Illustrated, these players boast:
- Efficient skating capacity
- Strong outlet passing ability
- The competitive desire for voluntary exhaustion
- Tremendous value to team
In addition to these attributes, do-it-all defensemen tend to “lead the rush, stymie star scorers, quarterback power plays, kill penalties and eat minutes with ease,” Prewitt writes.
Let’s break down the Isles’ trustworthy trio of blueliners:
- Nick Leddy, 25, is a tremendous skater who can lead the rush and initiate contact in the defensive zone. He ranked sixth in average time on ice during the playoffs, and proved invaluable courtesy of his great vision and passing skills. Despite being a presence on the man advantage, he didn’t man the point on the PP or kill penalties.
- Johnny Boychuk, 32, was a force to be reckoned with on the penalty kill and is a quality teammate and leader. Despite these attributes, he graded out at fifty-one in terms of ATOI during the playoffs, and didn’t spend a considerable amount of time on the man advantage (despite having the heavy point shot to do so).
- Travis Hamonic, 25, is capable of logging big minutes and can be used in a shutdown role. In addition, he’s a mainstay on the penalty kill and of tremendous value to his team. He’s not an asset on the power player or a strong outlet passer, though.
With this in mind: do the Isles have a number-one defenseman? And if they don’t (and have their eyes set on the Stanley Cup), what can they do — if anything — to rectify this flaw?