Islanders Blueline: Adventures in babysitting

Dylan Reese: 2 goals, +6 in 15 GP spent mostly with Freddy Meyer. Andy Sutton, left, can't bear to look.

Remember when Mark Streit was the designated Babysitter-in-Chief for any new young pups thrown into an already inexperienced Islanders blueline? If a guy was getting his first NHL exposure in 10 minutes or less, chances are he'd get some protected shifts with Streit, a veteran babysitter whose mobility covers up a lot of oopsies.

But you don't have that luxury when half your blueline is newbies, as has been the case for the past few months with Radek Martinek out, Brendan Witt demoted, Andy Sutton traded, and the suddenly "experienced" Jack Hillen and Andrew MacDonald doing month-long turns on IR. Now sophomore Hillen -- who spent time carrying Joe Callahan and Thomas Pock last year -- becomes a babysitter (for Dustin Kohn and Mark Flood), and Freddy Meyer does a turn in a thus-far successful pairing with deadline depth pickup Dylan Reese.

Kohn (age 22), Reese (25) and Flood (25) all made their NHL debuts in emergency situations with the Islanders this year (as did Anton Klementyev, now 20, in a double-emergency situation that got him a very protected 6:20 over eight shifts versus Columbus).

Overall at even strength, who's been playing with whom? Pretty chart-like substance after the jump:

Note: This info is from Dobber Hockey, a fun site for toying with all sorts of stats and line combos. For instance, did you know that Jack Hillen's most frequent even-strength partner -- 20.02% of his shifts -- in 2008-09 was Thomas freaking Pock? Dobber Hockey pulls the data from NHL play-by-play sheets like this one from the Ottawa game.

The way to read this: Player's in the left column have spent X percent of their total even-strength ice time this season with the players listed across the top row. So Flood has played 59.82% of his time with Hillen, 17.48% with Streit. And top-downward, Hillen has been the partner for 42% of Kohn's NHL shifts, nearly 60% of Flood's, 7% of Reese's, etc.

I did not include every partner -- and I left out Witt and Martinek from early in the year. Left to right, I included only the top two or three partners for each guy, with the exception of Freddy Meyer, who's truly been the all-purpose partner as a theoretical 7th defenseman.

Even Strength with: Kohn Flood Reese MacDonald Hillen Meyer Streit Sutton Gervais
Kohn (22 GP)
        42.18% 39.74%      
Flood (5 GP)
        59.82%   17.48%    
Reese (15 GP)
        7.14% 82.14% 7.79%    
MacDonald (42 GP)
            54.32% 22.63%  
Hillen (65 GP)
9.84%         11.65% 8.90% 45.89%  
Meyer (60 GP)
11.16%   18.61%   14.03%     11.82% 12.36%
Streit (78 GP)
      25.62% 6.58%       45.80%
Gervais (68 GP)
          9.71% 58.61%  

Now the next step would be to ask: How are these babysitter arrangements going? Is it time to call in a nanny, or toss the babies out with the bathwater? (Wait...what?) But I'm not going to go there -- at least not via numbers that can be misleading in such brief samples. But feel free to relay your own interpretation.

From observation alone though, I will opine this: Streit-MacDonald is a successful, complementary pairing; Meyer-Reese has been surprisingly effective (Reese: +6 in 15 games, Meyer: +4 in that time), in no small thanks to Meyer's reign of Sutton-like bone-crushing along the boards; and Jack Hillen has been a saint the past two years for making do with every Pock-come-lately partner under the Sun.

The unspoken word here is "Bruno Gervais," out the past few games with a groin strain. The inconsistent Bruno generally has had his best nights when partnered with Streit -- but again, Streit can make any defenseman look good, and I'm not sure anyone would suggest that Streit-Gervais is preferable to Streit MacDonald. (But if you would, speak up.)

Flood is likely the odd man out when Gervais returns; how will that affect the pairings? What does this all mean for next year? We have months and months to chew it over.

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