August 28, 2007

Isles invite an old Friend to Camp

After 7 seasons, Bryan Berard is back with the Islanders-maybe.

On Monday, Berard's agent confirmed what was already reported in Edmonton newspapers, saying his client accepted an invite to come to Isles training camp. Berard has been having hard luck finding a job, mostly because of his back injuries. Last season, he had 2 surgeries to repair the back and only played in 11 games for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

This is a good move in my opinion. In a way, it feels good to see someone who was involved in one of Milbury's worst trades as GM come back, even if it is only on a try out basis. If he's healthy, Berard could make the Islander power play that much, well, powerful. Throughout his entire career, he has put up great offensive numbers.

Some have wondered if Berard's eye injury is what created some of the problems for him defensively. But ever since he recovered from that eye injury, even with 20-400 vision in his right eye, Berard has been able to put up some good offensive numbers. I think his bad +/- rating is more attributed to being on bad teams than anything.

Of course it is not a given that Berard will make the Isles blueline, one which already includes regulars Brendan Witt, newcomer Andy Sutton, Radek Martinek, Marc-Andre Bergeron, Chris Campoli and Bruno Gervais. Other defensemen in the system who are NHL capable are Aaron Johnson, Freddy Meyer and Matt Spiller. Now add Berard to that, and it could make for a very interesting camp. Add a healthy Berard to that, and he could make this team. Many people are high on both Campoli and Gervais, and even though they both played in 51 games last season one could be sent down for more seasoning. The other could either make the team, be sent down to Bridgeport, or be traded for some help up front. Unless the Isles were getting a good offensive player who is under contract for more than 1 year, I hold on to them. Also keep in mind that Campoli now has a 1 way deal and would have to pass through waivers to get sent down. Gervais is still on his 2-way deal, so he would be a more likely candidate to be sent down.

Even with Bergeron on the team, I would see no issue if he were to make it. He would be a perfect QB on the PP, and could dish the puck to Bergeron for the 100+MPH slapshot. Or, Berard could shoot the puck himself, and really keep the opposing teams guessing. After Bergeron arrived last year, even though he put up a point per game with the team, Tom Poti would pass to him more often than not and after a while it became redundant. The Isles have plenty of defensively responsible defenseman where they could pair Bergeron with one and Berard with another for 5 on 5 play.

Training camp starts in only 17 days!


Anonymous said...

In a previous article, you mention that if you were GM, you would stay as far away from Berard as possible.

Now all of a sudden, this is a good move? What gives?

Chris Hessel said...

This is true, back in early July I said to stay away from him. Let me clarify.

At the time, the Isles seemed set on signing only one defenseman. If that was the case, then they should be thinking defense first, so the likes of Markov, Sutton, Vaananen or Vishnevski. At the time, it was best to stay away from Berard. Now that the Isles have 3 defensemen good in their own end in Witt, Sutton, and Matinek, then they can look into another offensive defenseman.

Another point is that it is only a try out. They haven't signed him. If he is as healthy as he says he is, then he will get a contract based on his camp. I am rooting for him to stay helthy and make the team as I feel our powerplay can use him. And I feel safe that the Isles now have 3 good defensive defensemen that they can carry guys like Bergeron and Berard on the Blue line and pair them up with one of those 3. Then the last spot is up for grabs between Gervais and Campoli, both of which are good both ways, but Bruno is slightly better on the defensive side IMO.

Thanks for pointing this out, it was not a slip up, just based on what was needed at the time and the fact that Snow hinted at getting only 1 defenseman. I'll welcome Berard if he makes it being that we signed a good defensive defenseman in Sutton.