February 26, 2015 grabo84
As the trade deadline approaches, every team is assessing their wants and needs. Despite reports, the Islanders are no different. Many cup contending teams will tinker with their depth chart at the trade deadline. This Islanders team is built for the future, but there is no need to wait on taking a serious run at the cup. Many rumors around the NHL trade deadline are just that, rumors. Currently, the rumors are not swirling around a very successful New York Islanders team in Uniondale.
The forwards on the roster, injured or healthy, provide enough scoring balance to make a solid push. The losses of Okposo, Grabovski and Cizikas have had an obvious effect on the team. Fortunately Cizikas and Okposo should be returning within the month. These will be necessary additions that will be the equivalent of trading for talent at the Monday deadline. With the emergence of Lee, Strome, and Nelson, the secondary scoring won’t be a concern. The return of Okposo should provide the team with a legitimate top line again, combining with Tavares and Bailey. Besides requiring more size up front, the Islanders have the luxury of eliminating a need at the deadline.
The defensive core on the other hand, will require improvement. The price for a mid to high level defenseman is steep. The team’s top four defensemen are locked and steady with Leddy, Boychuk, Hamonic, and De Haan. After the top four, it has been a cycle of mediocre players. A key to winning a playoff series is matching up defensive pairings to the opposition’s top line. With the depth from the teams in the playoffs, a small and weak third pairing could cause a large disadvantage. This combined with the free style the Islanders defenseman play, may leave Halak no room for any mistakes. As of now, the third pairing will be Visnovksy and Hickey. Both play very small and offensively minded games. In addition, the remaining available defenseman are all left handed shots.
Hickey has had a career year thus far, but that is not necessarily comforting against the likes of Malkin, Ovechkin, Nash, etc. Hickey has the speed to keep up with some forwards, but the lack of size eliminates any advantage he gains from his speed. The more frustrating component to Hickey’s game is the excessive pinching in the offensive zone. Whether the Islanders are leading or trailing in the game, Hickey will be caught deep in the offensive zone. Visnovsky provides an offensive threat with his shot but again lacks size. The wear and tear of a long career seems to have caught up to the veteran. This would be fine with Strait and Donovan waiting from the press box, but Hickey cannot be the player to fall back on with a rotation of healthy scratches.
Enter Zybnek Michalek from the Arizona Coyotes. Michalek is at the end of a contract and will be an unrestricted free agent in the summer. His resume will show the type of stay at home, shot blocking defensive style he plays. With a few injuries this season, the Coyotes will not have the benefit of asking for multiple high level draft picks. Michalek could greatly benefit from playing fifth defenseman minutes. The Islanders would in turn benefit from Michalek’s steady defensive play and phenomenal shot blocking ability. The fact that michalek is a right handed shot will allow the Islanders to pair him with the lefty hot hand of Hickey, Visnovsky, Strait, orDonovan. The price for Michalek would be at least the 3rd round pick in this year’s draft along with a mid-level prospect or draft pick in 2016. This is a very small price to pay for such quality depth on the blue line.