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Grading the Islanders: Andrew MacDonald, top-four revelation

Andrew MacDonald and Mark Streit were a frequent -- and effective -- pair for the Islanders.
Andrew MacDonald and Mark Streit were a frequent -- and effective -- pair for the Islanders.

Like Dustin Kohn except a bit less so, Andrew MacDonald wasn't really on my radar heading into 2009-10. I knew he was down there ("there" being AHL Bridgeport, where the Islanders weren't storing any hot-shot prospects), but his name blended in with the other depth-D hopefuls stashed on the farm. I was hoping for blueline upgrades, not rummages into the AHL closet.

Cue my surprise, then, when in his first few NHL games I was struck by how well MacDonald's evident defensive hockey sense translated at the NHL level. After his call-up to replace Radek Martinek, MacDonald went +4 in his first four games this season, avoiding being on the ice for a single goal against of any kind during that stretch. His season-total +4 was dented a bit by a combined minus-5 in the final two throwaway games of the season.

Though he was sheltered by playing almost half his shifts with Mark Streit, the fact is we discovered we have a steady D-man on our hands who was hardly mourned when relegated to Bridgeport by the end of training camp. That performance, I suspect, is what garnered him a four-year contract extension at a cap hit of $550,000 -- one of those bargain-for-value contracts that is fast becoming a habit of Garth Snow's,

Andrew MacDonald

#47 / Defenseman / New York Islanders



Sep 07, 1986


4 years, $550k cap hit

He's the first call-up, but nothing special.

I'm wary of praising someone too much when they make their living paired with Streit -- as some of us reason around here, who doesn't look good when playing with Streit? But when I think of Bruno Gervais and Streit vs. Andy Mac and Streit, I know instantly which one I trust more.

If MacDonald's defensive strengths allow Streit to do more Streit-like things, then he's a keeper -- and at a very affordable rate, to boot.

2009-10 - Andrew MacDonald GP G A P +/- PIM PPG Hits Blocks TOI PPtoi PKtoi SOG PCT
Islanders (NHL) 46 1 6 7 +4 20 0 36 94 20:05 1:41 1:16 43 2.3
Sound Tigers (AHL) 21 2
6 8
+2 29 0 n/a n/a n/a n/a n/a 63 3.1

MacDonald shot much less in the NHL than in the AHL -- but again, his role was far more stay-at-home with the Isles.

And how did he do in that role? Pretty darn good. According to the rate stats at Behind The Net, among Isles regular defenders MacDonald had the highest relative plus/minus (rating), the highest plus/minus per 60 minutes -- and all against the toughest competition. MacDonald was not an offensive factor (and with a decent dose of powerplay time, we could ask for more there), but in his chief role -- facing the opposition's best without bleeding goals -- he did his job.

For blocked shots, MacDonald was up there with most Isles defensemen not named Andy Sutton; for hits, he was considerably lower on the list. Which just might speak to A-Mac's game: Not a lot of flash, not a lot of bruising violence -- just steady, smart play.

The Poem

Ted Nolan's lasting gift
Drafted well before the rift
Was a steady D from Nova Scotia
An addition as sweet as ambrosia
Stable partner for the Swiss #1
Contract in hand, his work's just begun.

The Grade

So since many of us probably had zero NHL expectations for MacDonald at the beginning of the season, issue your grade for him based on whatever your expectations were at whatever point he hit your radar.