Figured I'd balance out my positivity with an aspect of this team that I abhor; The Defense!!!!
Was watching the game last night and one thing stuck out to me. I don't know why this particular play in the game really stuck in my head like glue but I think I know now. Martinek executed a beautiful stretch pass and Howie and Bill jumped out of their seats. Why is it that this particular stretch pass sticks out to me?
They are rare with this defense. Extremely RARE!!!!
Yes!!! The defense is old, it is slow and is lacking in skill. Yes, it has Hillen and Gervaise both pretty young as well as Sutton who a mid career NHLer. It's two stay at home anchors are the aging Martinek and Witt. Sutton is not a big skill guy and Streit seems like has more of an affinity for carrying the puck through the neutral zone.
Stretch passes are rare and break out passes from the D even rarer. I've had many a games thus far watching a situation where we have numbers going the other way only to see the D turn the puck over on a poorly executed pass up the middle. That split second decision making that comes with younger skilled players is sorely lacking with our D corp.
So these are who I think should be part of the D corp moving forward, who should go and who should be relegated to depth players.
Brendan Witt; Starting with my most controversial choice. Yes, he's older, slower and does not fit Gordons system all the well. What he does have more than the others on the D corp is an in depth encyclopedia on every single player in this league. Having a guy like that mentor your younger Defensemen is invaluable and worth the sacrafice in ability for now.
Andy Sutton; Not a top four guy by any stretch but when he plays his game (Throwing the body and clearing the front of the net) he's effective. He disrupts flow in the neutral zone with bone jarring hits and his size is needed in the corners.
Mark Streit; No explanation needed. The best offensive Dman on the team and valuabl member of the PP.
Radek Martinek; Age is showing and always what I considered average. Reliable but average. Also injury prone and we've seen more than a fair sample of it over the years. If the return winds up a second/third rounder or B level prospect I'm satisfied. Replace next season with Hamonic.
Freddie Meyer; Can be a physical presence but is like Jon Sim with the puck. Probably has the worst hands of any defensemen I've seen on this team. Relegate to Depth status or allow to walk when the contract expires.
Bruno Gervais; Decent with puck but loses a lot of those physical battles in corner. Hell of a nice guy too. Feel bad placing him here but I think this guy is what he is and I doubt will get much better. Hold till better option comes along through the system or trade.
Jack Hillen; Again too small. Nice offensivly but still one of those guys better off as an injury replacement. Hold till a better option comes up through the system or younger D prospect available in a trade.
I imagine this will be debated for a long time to come this season. As I stated before the season started the overhaul of the D is going to be the hardest part of this process. My feeling is that with younger more talented players coming up through the system that should be more than enough to cover up for the short comings of Streit, Sutton and Witt. Especially with improvements with the forwards who should be able to sustain some offensive pressure with D not having to worry about getting Shallacked for 45 minutes a game.