First, an amendment to part 1 on the forwards. From all that I can gather, Sean Bergenheim inked a 1-way contract with the Isles and, thus, will more than likely be with the team post-training camp. (Thanks to psycomkl for the tip.) This is not necessarily a bad thing as, like I said in part 1, I like what Bergy brought to the table before he took his ball and sailed overseas. He can play either wing, so you can plug him in really wherever you like into the lines I threw together earlier. That said, I've always considered it a waste for highly-touted prospects to spend significant time on the 4th line when they could be developing their game further elsewhere. If talented kids can't see time on the top three lines, they need to be getting ice time in the AHL. With Bergenheim and, presumably, Jeff Tambellini in tow out of training camp, a trade of Miroslav Satan might make even more sense than I'd already thought. (More on that later, perhaps ...)
Onto the D!
Unlike the forward ranks, the Islander defense could forge forward as is and I wouldn't have too much of a problem with that. Still, there's always room for improvement and, with rumored interest in a handful of free agent d-men, the Islanders could very soon add to their depth at defense, making for some very interesting (and difficult) decisions come late September. For now, we'll start with what we already have ...
LOCKS: Marc-Andre Bergeron, Chris Campoli, Bruno Gervais, Radek Martinek, Freddy Meyer, Brendan Witt
Again, in direct contrast to my list of forward "locks" from part 1, the defense "locks" make up a full, NHL-ready squad already. Upon closer examination, however, some more NHL experience (and maybe some more toughness on the back end) is sorely needed.
After Witt, who will surely continue to take care of his own end in his trademark, ferocious style, the elder statesman of the Islander D is Martinek. While his game has continuously developed since his NHL debut in 2001-02, Radek is always an injury risk. Like forward Shawn Bates, he might just be an unfortunate victim of the "injury-prone" label. I love his game more and more every time I see him play, but Marty always seems to suffer a freak injury at the worst time and, until he proves otherwise, he can't be counted on for the long haul.
Bergeron will continue to be Bergeron - a monster on the power play and a liability at times in the defensive end. Personally, I think 47's Howitzer from the blueline heavily outweighs his sporadic defensive lapses.
In many ways, Campoli, Gervais and Meyer are the same player. Solid, young defensemen with glimpses of offensive streaks that may one day become consistent, paired with the occasional defensive zone mistakes. I like these three as well, especially Campoli and Gervais having seen much more of them than Meyer. Unless Martinek (or someone else) is injured in camp or early on, at least one of these three becomes expendable with any further defense acquisitions.
Others in the system who might contribute at the NHL level this season are the feisty Drew Fata and newcomers Aaron Johnson and Matthew Spiller.
As for other potential additions, Danny Markov and ex-Islander Bryan Berard continue to be mentioned, along with Andy Sutton and Nolan Pratt. Berard could add to the offensive output from the defense but injuries have always been a problem for him as well. Markov would further stabilize things with his experience and solid play in the defensive zone. What about a guy like Josef Melichar? There's some intrigue for me there. Ideally, I'd welcome Markov and I'd also like to hear the Islanders mentioned alongside former Thrasher Andy Sutton, a behemoth blueline banger who would do what Sean Hill did and more for the team. With Witt, Martinek, Markov and Sutton, the defensive side of things are solid. With Bergeron and one of Campoli, Gervais or Meyer, some offensive upside is thrown into the mix.
After penning both parts 1 and 2 of this glimpse at the current Islander roster, I find it clear that further changes must still be on the way. My gut says the Islanders add Markov and another defensemen AND a big trade, possibly involving Satan and one (or two) of Campoli, Gervais and Meyer that brings back a pair of forwards will take place before the start of training camp.
That's what I'm pulling for anyway ...
All yours, kids!