I think now is a good time to address the young defensive players for the Islanders and how they seem to be doing. There are several of young, developing forwards, but really only two main defense-man that stand out with the near future, and a third that may end up as a contributor later in his career: Chris Campoli, Bruno Gervais, and Jack Hillen.
He has shown signs that he can be that clutch player on the back-end, contributing offensively when the team needs him too. That is evident with his OT-goal against Columbus (the one that counted, and heck, even the one that went through the net) and his game tying goal with barely under 2 seconds left against Buffalo. He has a pretty solid slapper when he gets to take it and a fairly accurate wrist shot as well. He has also shown that he isn't afraid to do the dirty work and take the body along the boards.
He hasn't grown much passed his first two seasons and that is partially due to injuries, but defense-man typically take longer to develop than other skaters. But with improvements in his physical game and defensive awareness, and fairly consistent offensive upside, it is easy to see a future #3 d-man. I know 15 points and a -14 in 45 games isn't very impressive, but with the exception of Mark Streit, no one has really contributed very much from the blue line this season. This then brings me to...
Bruno used to have great years in the minors. In 2006 he put up 42 points in 55 games for the Sound Tigers. Since his NHL debut where he registered 3 goals and 4 assists in 27 games, he has only cashed in a total of 27 assists in 147 games played, only scoring a maximum of 13 assists in 60 games last year. Offense isn't everything, but for a guy who pretty much dominated the Sound Tigers blue line it is very surprising to barely see any improvement. He even looks frantic at times in the Isles defensive zone, making blind passes and getting caught out of position. It seems that he may have already reached his NHL potential.
However, he is here for the next three years. I'll be curious to see if the Isles will be able to fully commit to that contract patiently. If they do, hopefully Bruno will find a way to make what happened on AHL ice with that of the Coliseum's.
At this stage of the game there isn't too much to say about Hillen. He's young and straight out of college and putting up impressive numbers with the Tigers. So far he has 37 points in 41 games. He's also managed 60 penalty minutes, which shows he needs to learn to discipline himself if he hopes to find a regular roster spot with the Islanders. He was a highly sought after defense-man and is currently proving why. Hopefully it won't be long before he's a regular contributor for the blue and orange.
With the lack of production coming from the Isles defense-man, (and continuing to retain players that are constantly getting injured) Garth Snow may have to consider his options this off-season and try to determine who should stay and who should go.
Who knows, we may even see some changes come March 4th.