In less than a month, Mark Streit will take the ice for the first Islanders practice of 2011. He, more than any other Islander, has to be looking forward to that day, after being forced to miss the entire 2010-11 season with a shoulder injury. There has been a lot of speculation in the LHH comments this offseason as to whether Streit will come back and be the Streit of old or if the injury will somehow have brought his game down a notch.
Obviously only time will tell, but to just assume he will or not is about as baseless as a major league hitter in the middle of an 0 for 50 slump (see what I did there!). I know that all players are different but it could help to compare Streit's situation to a very similar situation in Edmonton in 2009-10, to star winger Alex Hemsky.
25 games into the 09-10 season, Ales Hemsky pulled the plug on his season to have surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder. Hemsky missed the final 57 games of the season, but was back and ready to start the 2010-11 season at full strength. Hemsky was just as electric as he had been pre-surgery, scoring 14 goals and posting 42 points in 47 games before he went down with a right shoulder injury, ending his season. Hemsky played so well that he was named to play in the 10-11 All-Star game (I realize he's on the Oilers but an All-Star is an All-Star).
I know there are some differences, mainly position and the fact that Streit is a left-handed shot coming off left shoulder surgery while Hemsky is a right-handed shot, but this still should be a positive sign for Streit and the Islanders. While people have pointed to Streit's age, it should be pointed out that he came to North America very late in his career and had been playing 44 game seasons in Europe. The fact that Streit was playing half seasons for a good portion of his career makes Mark Streit's body a lot younger than other 33 year olds in the NHL. If Hemsky, who is made of fine china, can come back showing no ill effects of major shoulder surgery, there's little doubt that Mark Streit can as well.
Reports have Streit looking good this offseason skating in Switzerland. Let's hope these reports are correct because Garth Snow did absolutely nothing (although he did try) to sure up the blueline for the Islanders in 2011-12. In my opinion, besides goaltending, Mark Streit and a return to form is the most important factor in determining if we will see the Islanders playing hockey come the second week in April next year.