It's time for the New York Islanders to think long-term on defense 3
Dec 1, 2016; Washington, DC, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Travis Hamonic (3) checks Washington Capitals center Lars Eller (20) while battling for the puck in the first period at Verizon Center. Mandatory Credit: Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

It’s time that Garth Snow and the New York Islanders start looking long-term solution for many years along the blueline.

As the season continues for the New York Islanders, the focus of the team shifts from 2016-17 to 2017-18. As the trade deadline draws closer and closer for GM Garth Snow, decisions for the team’s future need to be made sooner rather than later.

Shuffled O and Same D

The Islanders defense has not looked the same since the 2014-15 season. In that first season of competitiveness, the Isles established themselves with the following pairings:

Nick LeddyJohnny Boychuk
Calvin de HaanTravis Hamonic
Thomas HickeyLubomir Visnovsky

It is no secret that the Islanders were largely unable to replicate the same effort from their D corps a year ago.

The problem is rooted in who is playing and sitting. The dominance of the Leddy-Boychuk pairing is no more and the two have yet to be reunited because Capuano likes the Hickey-Boychuk pairing too much.

On top of the overall product being just par, there’s nothing too special about the pairing touted by Capuano. Plus-minus wise, Hickey and Boychuk stand at a +1 and a -1, respectively. Nothing too special at all.

Additionally, why have they not explored the Seidenberg-Boychuk pairing that was so notable for the Bruins in the 2011 playoffs? In the game against the Bruins, the pair combined for a +4 while the usual suspects in the Leddy-Hamonic pairing were a -2.

But on top of the roster currently being iced, Islanders management must begin building according to the expansion draft this June.

Who Stays, Who Goes?

The two most frequent names that come up when discussing the “odd men out” are Hickey and de Haan.

These two defensemen have done an admirable job filling the gaps in the Islanders defense and have grown as players during their tenure here. But their time with the organization is, no doubt, coming to an end. In an ideal world, the Islanders would find a suitor for the rapidly aging Boychuk.

Despite playing some of the best defense of his career in 2014-15, he has slowed down so much so quickly that it’s now obvious he’s ideally suited as a third line pairing.

The addition of Dennis Seidenberg this past offseason was a great move for the team, but he was brought in as a depth defenseman — someone who plays 30-40 games a year in place of a defender who may need a rest or is injured. Despite his performance being favorable, he’s frequenting a roster spot better suited for either rookie Adam Pelech or Scott Mayfield.

How do the Islanders expect their defense to grow if their playing time is being cut into by a 35-year-old? No matter how well he may play, that’s not a recipe for long-term success.

Deadline Day

May 8, 2016; Tampa, FL, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Ryan Pulock (6) in game five of the second round of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Amalie Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Being that the Islanders are now nearing a point where playoffs are becoming a statistical pipe-dream, the focus of Garth Snow has to be to prepare this team for the 2017-18 season.

There are several playoff-bound teams that would relish the opportunity to have a solid insurance defenseman heading into the playoffs and the Islanders could do well in unloading one of their likely expansion-draft-bound candidates.

The return wouldn’t be anything stellar. The Isles can’t expect to receive anything more than a second or third round draft pick at best for these players. These moves are geared towards alleviating the Islanders pressure to protect certain players and risking losing rookies like Ryan Pulock, who is draft eligible.

Whatever Garth Snow (or the hopefully new Islanders GM) ends up doing, it should be with nothing but the future in mind.

Grew up a diehard Islanders and Mets fan based out of Northern New Jersey. Concluding my Broadcast Communications degree at William Paterson University. WP Sportsdesk member, Stan Fischler correspondent, music buff and total Star Wars freak. Follow my social media handles to learn more. Matt Di Giacomo is a Staff Writer for the Islanders on Elite Sports NY. He encourages team discussion. Tweet him @mdigiacESNY and check out his reviews on YouTube.