It's unfortunate, to say the least - that the Islanders will lose the services of their captain, Mark Streit. But is it something that we as fans should be losing sleep over? Well, truth be told - if you're losing sleep over professional sports, you should be writing this piece, or at the very least be following me on Twitter @Dmmarinas Now that the obligatory, shameless self-plug is out of the way, we can get back to the question at hand: Is the loss of Mark Streit as detrimental to the team as it initially seems?
To be blunt, no.
Thanks for reading.
"It's either he puts up 4 points against us, or gets injured!" "I know, right??" -Streit and Tavares on Sidney Crosby
How awful would this article be if it ended there? Well, it'd still be one of the better-written pieces of hockey literature, but let's not settle for second best, shall we? Of course losing the captain is going to sting for a while, that goes without saying - but let's look at this with our brain behind the wheel, and let's have the heart take the backseat. Who's riding shotgun? I don't know, but for the sake of flare and drama, let's say John Tavares.
The Islanders are weakest on the blue line. That's a fair assessment, and you know it! The popular consensus on Mark Streit's playstyle is that the Swiss captain is an offensive defenseman. His statistics over the last three years with the Islanders can affirm this. And while it is a legitimate niche that Streit fills, he's not what the Islanders need to succeed. They don't lose many games due to lack of scoring, they do lose most games due to being outscored by a small margin (1-2 goals).
Yes, an offensive defenseman is a boon to any team, (Ask Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Ottawa.) but the offensive capabilities that a Letang brings to the table cannot be nullified by his lack of defensive intuition. This isn't to say that Streit was devoid of all defensive talent, but he did finish the season with a -14 rating, while Visnovsky, his regular defensive pairing, finished the season +12. That makes me scratch my head a little, because a differential that prominent is very difficult to sweep under the rug. This is also overvaluing Streit's point production. He ended the season with 27 points total, though impressive, is not his primary function - if anything, it speaks volumes about how inattentive to his own end he can be.
What exactly did the Islanders lose? They've lost a defensive liability, some even-strength production, and a little firepower on an already potent power play. This isn't to say that the Islanders will lack production from the back-end, as Lubomir Visnovsky has shown that he is more than capable of quarterbacking a power play during his stay in Anaheim. This season, Visnovsky seemed to be relegated to playing a more defensive style of hockey - whether or not this was due to Mark Streit's defensive lapses remains unknown, but that's what it looked like to me. Case in point, though - Visnovsky is more than capable of filling Streit's offensive shoes.
Cheer up, man!
In a way, the Islanders may be better off by having Visnovsky shoulder the brunt of the offensive load. Having two offensively minded defencemen on the same pairing is going to take at least one of them out of their element - either that or you end up with five forwards on the ice. Pairing Visnovsky, who is arguably a better producer than Streit, with a good shut down defender should allow him to be more creative with the puck. One Erik Karlsson is good in all areas of the ice, because he has the speed and vision to get to where he is supposed to be, when he is supposed to be there, when and if he wasn't there already. Mark Streit is not afforded those same failsafes.
So what have the Islanders gained? Have you not been reading this article at all? They didn't gain anything! In fact, they lost Mark Streit…
All buffoonery aside, the Islanders have gained the opportunity to turn this loss into a blessing. As far as defensive prospects go, the Islanders have their options available to them. two options, to be precise - and both drafted in the first round. So, to abuse an old writing technique, let's reiterate what we just said, to really drive the point home! The Islanders have two first-round defencemen at their disposal, both very promising, along with the possibility of a third in Ryan Pulock, eligible to be drafted this year, and may be around at 15th. Do any of these young talents possess the offensive output that Mark Streit has? Probably not, (Save for Pulock, but he's a misnomer until drafted.) at least not now, and maybe they never will. Calvin De Haan, and Griffin Reinhart are both very solid stay-at-home defenders, the closer of the two to being NHL ready in my humble opinion being De Haan. It doesn't really matter where, or who they are paired up with, though - so long as any one of the more consistent, and stable stay-at-home defencemen (Hickey?) ends up on the top pair with Lubomir Visnovsky.
He comes with a C!
Streit will be missed. The Islanders will survive. And although most of this prose can be skewed to look like a smear campaign against him, that's not the intention. A lot of Streit's "defensive lapses" (meaning a minus.) is a burden not to be carried by Streit alone. The team as a whole is guilty of being inattentive of their own end of the ice, and goaltending at times has been questionable. But it was the responsibility of Streit alone to observe, and attend to his own shortcomings.
Heavy lay the C.