The Mark Streit injury news, however it turns out (there is a very bad possibility and there is a worse possibility), has got me down. So first, a fun update from the Daily News on a beloved original- and Dynasty-era Islander: Garry Howatt is roping steers in Arizona. Of course.
Don't care how you like your hockey, or how old, mature or immune-to-stardom you get, there is something about your faves living up to the narrative you'd have constructed for them. So the ol' Islanders tough guy ropes steers. And Howatt's fellow Albertan Brian Sutter (my dad's favorite Sutter, the first NHL Sutter) fell off a horse, broke his ribs and collapsed a lung -- yet kept riding for four days and waited another week to see a doctor. He didn't realize he was that hurt. Of course.
Although Newsday reports Streit will get a second opinion [sub.] on what sounds like a massively injured shoulder, I don't suspect the Islanders will ask him be an Albertan about it. Doug Weight rehabbed and played through a bad shoulder injury last season, and we suffered (none more than him) his extremely diminished results; he had surgery this summer after all, saying he shouldn't have tried to play through it. Come to think of it, the aforementioned Brian Sutter's playing career was shortened by a bad shoulder -- one he played through to steadily diminishing returns before going behind the bench.
So assuming Streit is lost for the extent of the season -- guess we can close this poll -- what now?
All Is Not Lost; It's Just Considerably Worse than Before
Streit anchored the defense, had the third-most points on the team, and led all Islanders in ice time last year by a full 5 minutes per game over the next guy. Is there a position the Islanders could less afford to lose in 2010-11? Probably not. (And how Satherific is it that, two summers after two very different free agent decisions, the Rangers are trying to bury the remaining $23 million on Wade Redden's contract, while the Islanders are mourning the loss of Streit, who's got just $12.3 million left on his?)
Garth Snow upgraded the blueline over the summer because 1) it needed it badly, but also 2) blueline injuries happen. Carrying 8 one-way contracts was smart insurance; and now we see all too painfully why. Of course, when I proposed last month that training camp injuries might sort the blueline out for us, I never dreamed it would be this devastating. While we're seeing training camp injuries all around the league (Minnesota's Josh Harding the latest, with a severely injured knee), none have been as important to his team as Streit.
It's not that I think all is lost or we should give up now; it's just that I've seen calls for Snow to do something! -- and as we'll get to in a moment, I don't believe there are any do something! options out there.
The biggest problem with a top-tier injury like Streit is suddenly everyone has to move up, everyone has to take on assignments above their paygrade. Sometimes that produces revelations (such as Andrew MacDonald after Radek Martinek's injury last year), but more often it produces overexposure (Bruno Gervais playing too many minutes).
So now James Wisniewski becomes even more important, although his career thus far has shown he's no #1. Martinek's health becomes more important. MacDonald's role and Jack Hillen's role each increases. We probably end up seeing a forward on the powerplay point more than we'd like -- and we might see Wiz on said powerplay shoot more than we'd like. Mark Eaton and Milan Jurcina, brought in to fill the depths behind a likely top pair of Streit-Wiz, now shoulder more.
Maybe this gives Gervais a new lease in his walk year and creates a better opportunity for Dylan Reese, Mark Katic or Dustin Kohn (while also hurting Bridgeport's defense). Maybe the chain effect means Travis Hamonic or even Calvin de Haan see the NHL sooner. Or maybe new invite Anders Eriksson brings the "veteran savvy" juice to camp and gets a real contract out of it. Despite my overall pessimism, I actually do expect one or two guys to show us more than we knew they had as a result.
External Options: Tom, Dick and Harry
But no matter what, the Islanders are now a weaker team and, barring a major revelation (hey, Albert Pujols' career started after Bobby Bonilla got injured in camp), Streit's absence will translate into more losses over the long haul of this season. For a team with a thin margin to be in the playoff picture, that hurts. But that's what losing your #1 does.
And the external options that immediately come to mind just don't do it. At all. Sheldon Souray still (presumably?) has a slapshot but a Martinek-like (or is it Witt-like?) recent injury history and two years left at an unpalatable figure ($5.4 million cap, $4.5 million actual salary, age 34), save for via re-entry waivers. While I'd accept a desperate play for Souray, particularly for free and at re-entry's 50% discount, I strongly fear he'd disappoint those who think he can still be the answer.
Meanwhile, Wade Redden's play and contract is far worse. I've actually seen Mathieu Schneider's name -- seriously -- thrown out there a few times, which is ... unspeakable unless someone erased the last decade of my life. (Excluding the Islanders, I've also read theories about a Souray-Redden arrangement between the Oilers and Oilers East, as wherever there are mutual problems there are people putting the two together.)
If it's just a powerplay cannon we're after, might as well throw a bone to ex-Isle Marc-Andre Bergeron rather than bring Souray in to throw bombs on the PP and either play deficient at 5-on-5 (like MAB) or be miserable because he's not being used more 5-on-5. (At least MAB is used to that bit role.)
So with no real replacements available, whether internally or externally we're going to see guys share the duties to fill in and likely suffer somewhat as a result. It stinks, but that's the reality when you lose a blueline anchor in late September.
Can this franchise ever catch a break? I don't know, but throwing my Streit depression aside -- and this is what's great about hockey -- I can't wait for the season to start so we can find out.
* * *
P.S. This is why I HATE doing season previews before games have even started!
P.P.S. Worse Islanders injury since Peca, or did DiPietro's All-Star injury in '08 take that title?