September 27, 2010

Report: Streit out for 6 Months; Okposo, Training Camp Invites

I have been a bit slow in putting together my re-cap from the Islanders scrimmage from this past Saturday, and I apologize for that. It is still a work in progress as I try to gather together all the photos and all my thoughts. However, there is some unfortunate news to hit on now, something that came as a result of said scrimmage.

Islanders country has been hit hard by the latest word, as Katie Strang of Newsday has reported that Mark Streit will be out of action for six months. If this is true, it is obviously a crushing blow to the squad.

I say "if this is true" because the Islanders have not confirmed that this is the case. The Islanders and Streit are going to get a second opinion of the injury, which Strang reports as a torn labrum and rotator cuff that will require surgery. It is also being reported that the blue liner's shoulder was dislocated for close to 20 minutes after the injury. The Isles have been very adamant in their statements thus far, only going as far to say Streit is out indefinitely until they can get that second opinion.

If you ask me, I would have to say he is going to be out for six months. Based on what I've heard, the amount of sources saying it - we have to prepare for a season without one of the top-15 defensemen in the league. This would be very bad on so many levels.

The obvious one is how this would affect the power play. The Islanders last season, with Streit, finished 27th in that category. They added a bona-fide two-way defenseman in James Wisniewski, who they planned to put on the first unit with Streit. All preseason, the combo looked very good. Now, we wont even have a chance to see it or use it.

Another issue here is that this will most likely force one of the Islanders young defenseman to step up their game and prove that they can help the remaining group out. I might be in the minority here, but honestly I have not seen enough out of Calvin de Haan or Travis Hamonic at this time. The have both had their moments, but thinking overall of what I have seen out of both in training camp does not put my mind at ease. De Haan is 19, and really only has one full season of juniors under his belt after suffering a couple of injuries last season. Hamonic needs just a little more seasoning in Bridgeport before he can make the jump to playing with men.

Sure, it is very possible that the Islanders can look to bring in a defenseman from outside the organization, but who or what, and for what? The Rangers put Wade Redden on waivers, and that isn't anywhere on their radar. So for those of you thinking about him, be it now or on re-entry waivers, you can forget it. The Islanders won't be doing their rivals any favors. Edmonton's Sheldon Souray is ideal, however there apparently has been no interest in him and I quite frankly do not understand that. He's a defenseman ho has a cap hit of $5.4 million, but for only two seasons. When healthy, he can provide offensive output equivalent of Streit's, and from what I have seen worked on his defensive game a bit over the years.

The argument against Souray has people bringing up how no one was willing to pick him up on waivers, so why trade for him? Well, while it's true that no one picked him up on waivers, it is also true that his health has been very unclear. In a league with a salary cap, when so many teams are really close to it, not many are going to pick him up, be it at $5.4 million or half that through re-entry. Many teams are playing with a few hundred thousand dollars to spare, not $2.5 million. You can be sure that Souray would be highly motivated as well, to try and stick it to the Oilers and everyone else who passed on him.

Other names that will surface as trade candidates are Florida's Bryan McCabe and Vancouver's Kevin Bieska. Bieska would be a long shot because of the long term injury to Sami Salo.

The problem with the trade market is that teams now see the Islanders as a possibly desperate team. If I were an opposing GM, of course I would try to take advantage of this. While the Islanders should really be looking at moves to make, they have to beware of the dreaded knee-jerk reaction.

So far, the only move we have seen from the team is bringing in defenseman Anders Eriksson on a tryout basis (along with some others, but more on that later in this entry). Eriksson provides some good depth, but quite simply isn't going to cut it if he makes the team and is relied on for a top-six spot.

The Islanders find themselves in a very precarious situation now, and a Streit injury makes their job even tougher. Last week during media day, Charles Wang, Garth Snow and Scott Gordon all spoke of their expectations for the season, and how this is a team that is done with the rebuilding tag and looking to make the playoffs. Snow told us that he has no restrictions standing in his way, and the owner has said that he is more than willing to do what it takes for this team to make the playoffs. But as you can see from that Bob McKenzie tweet, the money on trading for Souray reportedly "doesn't make sense." What's unclear there is if the Islanders simply don't want to help the Oilers out, or the Islanders just aren't willing to spend the money. If it's the latter, then they don't come out looking too good, and many fans responding to this tweet have started to make accusations already.

Be that as it may, the Islanders have some options to work with right now. The Islanders still have seven defensemen on one-way contracts, so they can try to mix and match them if need be. Everyone now will have to understand that they need to step their games up to bring the level of the group as a whole up to try and mitigate some of the loss.

Wisniewski has talked so much about getting the opportunity to be a first pairing guy on this squad. I bet you he had no idea that he might be coming into the season looked at as the number one defenseman, but I do think he is capable of it. He is the only one who has logged Streit-like minutes, without too many weaknesses exposed while in Anaheim. Mark Eaton logged 20 minutes per game for the Penguins, and Andy MacDonald, who came up from Bridgeport in the middle of last season, found himself playing with Streit and logging 23+ minutes per night by seasons end. MacDonald and Jack Hillen have been playing on the power play in the preseason, and both have looked pretty good. MacDonald appears to have not lost a step from last season, so that is obviously good to see. A sophomore slump from him would not be good at this time, and quite frankly cannot happen.

The best thing that we can do is hope that there is some good news on the 2nd opinion. If not, then you just roll with the punches and see what you can work with. I agree with not making a knee-jerk move, and going through camp with what you have. However, if there is a deal to be made, for a late pick, for a guy like Souray and he is as healthy as he claims to be, then it is something that needs to be explored and talked about. The team's chances of making the playoffs could rely on it by seasons end.

OKPOSO AILING: Speaking of shoulder injuries, Kyle Okposo has been going through some of his own discomfort. He has sat out the last couple of days, and now the Islanders are going to have him look at an additional specialist on Monday as well.

There is some cause for concern here, but it is being overshadowed by the Streit talk. I hope nothing is seriously wrong with Okposo. He was at the scrimmage, watching from the stands and seemed to be in very good spirits, so we'll see what this brings.

TRAINING CAMP INVITES: As I mentioned earlier, the Islanders decided that they were going to bring in some training camp invites after all. They have announced that aside from Eriksson, they are bringing in goalies Manny Legace and Joel Martin, and forwards Dean McAmmond and Kris Kolanos. Martin was slated to go to Bridgeport originally. McAmmond played for the Isles in 2009, and I actually liked him in a bottom six role. He'll provide some good depth if he sticks.

The thing that makes these moves interesting is the fact that the Islanders needed to dress at least eight vets for each of their split squad preseason games this week, so that obviously played a factor. But I feel that some of these guys can stick on two-way deals.

So that's where we stand right now. As I said earlier, I am still working on that recap from the scrimmage with some observations I've had and all that. I'll try and get that up for you guys within the next day or so.


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