As 2009-10 training camp nears, we're getting to the final group of player eval's for 2008-09. (Sticking to regulars here, so Andy Sutton gets an incomplete, while Thomas Pock is mercifully allowed to move on without us parsing through the ashes of his stint here.)
Next up is Mark Streit: A+, 100%, blue star, big smiley face, perfect 10. The end. (Man, that was easy.)
Okay, not so fast. While it's pretty much impossible to say Mark Streit fell short of your expectations last season -- if he did, I trust you have a
hair-brained thorough explanation -- it's still worth discussing just how good he is, whether he can repeat 2008-09, and whether he might even improve per his stated intentions.
No matter what, even years from now, signing the unshakable Streit for 5 years at reasonable term could go down as Garth Snow's best move. Whenever Snow is feeling overworked and wants a day off, I picture him saying, "You know what? I got them Mark Streit. I deserve a day to sit back and watch videos of my prime" (By the way, is there a better announcer for when a game erupts into a brawl than Rick Jeanneret?) Like the Penguins' Maxime Talbot, the grinder who scored two Game 7, Stanley Cup-clinching goals and will never have to buy a drink in Pittsburgh again, Snow could hang his hat on the Streit signing for quite a while.
All Streit did was lead the team in scoring (while scoring 6 fewer points than the year before), and ... well let's just say if last season was a rough nightmare with Streit in the lineup, it would have been downright apocalyptic without him.
#2 / Defenseman / New York Islanders
Dec 11, 1977
Contract: $4.1 million through 2012-13
Sweet! Finally a PP QB who's not a flake or injury-prone.
|2008 - 09 Mark Streit
The Islanders scored 54 power play goals last season; Streit was on the ice for 36 of the 5-on-4 conversions. He had points on 29 of them -- 10 of which he scored himself. As PP QB alongside Doug Weight, it stands to reason that he would have a hand in many of their PP goals. But to me the telling thing was how much weaker the 5-on-4 unit looked when he wasn't there moving the puck and posing the threat of his shot from the point. (I looked for PP data on the games Streit missed, and it's mixed -- in part due to the changing personnel during his two stints on the shelf.)
At 16.9%, the unit as a whole ranked just 23rd in the league. Should we have expected more? Should Streit lead them higher? I suspect this season with a regular dose of Josh Bailey (who's PP figures got better as he grew more comfortable), Kyle Okposo and John Tavares, the Islanders can expect to have a more lethal man advantage. (Aside: You know which Islanders had at least 1:00 of PP TOI per game and were on for the most 5-on-4 goals per 60 minutes of man-advantage time? Jon Sim and Blake Comeau. Hmmm...)
Last year Streit proved himself far more than a power play specialist. In fact, of all defensemen who played a minimum 40 games last season, he ranked first in the NHL by Behind the Net's 5-on-5 relative +/- rating. Part of that is simply because he was a good defenseman on a bad team. But it's significant that while chaos and injuries surrounded him, he kept a steady hand and put up points all season long, logging major minutes in all three phases.
The Isles PK unit ranked 22nd, at 79.8%. Shorthanded is where Streit is least heralded, but he's no slouch there. It's just that his load of minutes at ES and on the PP means there are others who get the nod more often, like Brendan Witt, Radek Martinek and Bruno Gervais. But of the four, only Gervais was on for fewer 4-on-5 goals against per 60 minutes. And guess who was most likely to be on when the Islanders scored a shorthanded goal? Yep, Streit, who was on for 5 Islanders shorthanded goals. We've waded into small sample sizes here, but for what it's worth, Streit's 4-on-5 quality of competition faced was also greater than the other three chief PK blueliners.
With Martinek (theoretically) healthy for a full season and Freddy Meyer and Andy Sutton (theoretically) healthy too, it's possible Streit's PK minutes don't increase -- and might even decrease. In limited action last season, Sutton was used frequently on the PK to relatively good effect.
Mark Streit, our best-kept secret
Like some Swiss bank account
Keeper of our stolen assets
It's fine if no one else finds out
We lifted him from Montreal
Who thought he's just Marc-Andre Bergeron
But Garth Snow, he knew better
Habs ain't the same since Streit been gone
Just one year into the deal
Already all the fans praise his name
If he keeps this up we'll be contenders
He'll be among the best in the game
If by Year Five we're Cup winners
Well, we'll all think that's pretty sick
And Bob Gainey will be wonderin'
Why instead he signed Roman Hamrlik
The Grade: So this is the "grade relative to your preseason expectations" game. Last July, I thought he was a great signing, but I thought we paid market rate and I'd no idea he'd be logging 25 minutes a game. Remembering him play key minutes for Team Switzerland, I knew he'd help the power play and be a solid all-around defenseman. But a legit #1, a bargain, and the envy of many teams? Serious bonus.
What were your expectations? And give what you saw last year, can he keep improving at age 31? Might the presence of someone like Sutton free him up to log even more offense-focused minutes? Beyond that, dare we say the captain of Team Switzerland should hold the same post with the Isles? Somehow I don't think Streit, who sounds simply driven to be the best he can be, would turn down the honor.