I know I said we'd skip Andy Sutton's report card because of his incomplete, injury-abridged season. And I know many league-wide observers scoff at what he might offer at age 34, following multiple injuries, when his mobility was never Niedermayer-esque to begin with.
But in his 23 games last year he had some curious stats -- 10 points in 23 games for one, a +3 for another -- to say nothing of the great shape he reportedly brought to camp. So upon further review, it might be worth debating what it was we saw in him last year, and what we can expect in the coming season, his walk year. There may be a trick explanation, but we'll get to that later.
#25 / Defenseman / New York Islanders
Mar 10, 1975
1 more year at $3 million, then UFA
He's healthy and fit, this is gonna be gr...Damn.
This won't be the traditional report card: I didn't put a poll up, because it still feels like 23 games should just be an "incomplete," but you can leave a numeric grade (and your objections to being deprived of a poll) in comments along with any impressions you have of Sutton, v. 2009.
There is a cross-section of stats to consider -- and the obligatory Report Card Poem, of course. (Sorry, but it's hard to pass up the chance to rhyme with "Sutton." I mean, "cute as a button" or juicy as ... well, we won't call him mutton, but you get the idea.)
|2008 - 09 Andy Sutton
Despite coming to camp quite fit by all accounts in 2008, Sutton's season didn't begin until Oct. 30 thanks to a freak preseason hand injury. By the time he entered the lineup, the Islanders were already 2-6-0. Sutton played 23 of the next 24 games before taking a shot off the foot that ended his season. In his first 16 games, they went 8-6-2, one of their few decent stretches of the season (and also the period that won Joey MacDonald an honorable mention for being November's winningest goalie). In his final 7 games, the Isles went 0-6-1 as part of a 10-game winless streak. So in Sutton's 23 games, the Islanders were 8-12-3, with their best and worst streaks.
Which, if any, can Sutton take credit for?
He certainly put up points (10) -- without the benefit of power play time. He certainly blocked shots (60), thanks to ample penalty-killing time. He also averaged nearly a minor penalty per game (spread across 13 different games). His relative +/- rating was highest among Islanders blueliners at 3.23 -- but consider the sample size. In that same small sample, his quality of competition was on the low end, his Corsi rating was at the very low end (we're talking dark Brendan Witt territory, in just a third as many games), and his quality of teammates was at the absolute high end.
Wait just a minute ... quality of teammates.
That +3 can be a deceptive stat in any case but is nonetheless a flattering one relative to the rest of his teammates not named Mark Streit. ... Mark ... Streit. Guess who Andy Sutton's even-strength partner was 52.45% of the time, three times more than any other partner?
Yep, Mark Streit. The Swiss dream who makes any partner look good. (By the way, he's still single, ladies.)
So with the caveat of a 23-game sample, I'm still thinking what I thought all summer about the Islanders defense: Whoever is paired with Mark Streit -- usually Bruno Gervais in the second half -- will be okay. The rest are in for a fight. If the bigger Sutton can be productive next to Streit, maybe it makes sense to try him there and put Gervais in a more "mobile" mode.
Regardless, while we're starting to see our future core forwards emerge, the Islanders rebuild on the blueline depends mostly on prospects who aren't here yet and probably won't see significant time (if any at all) this season.
What say you of Sutton? Better than I made him out? Worse? Who do you want to see him paired with? Or are you just hoping, as the little-known poem reflects, that he's healthy and productive enough to make good trade-deadline bait?
Hey Andy Sutton
You shot-blocking glutton
Tallest on the N-Y-I
The old ladies love you
The children, they fear you
Let's face it -- you're quite a large guy
Thanks for your service
But you make us nervous
When you block shots low and high
So kindly stay healthy
'Cause god knows you're wealthy
And we need a vet to sell high
Please come to camp real fit,
Show 'em you don't quit
And maybe some Waddell will buy
Just last 'till the deadline
Without another "hairline"
And greedily, we'll say our goodbye