As the hockey season draws near, there are many questions that will face the 2017-18 version of the New York Islanders. After missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, the expectations are still high for the Isles. With an entirely new coaching staff and new blood ready to make an impact, this season could be something special, or the final chapter before major changes is made. Over the next 30 days, our Rob Taub will give his thoughts on what to look for from the blue and orange this season.
There’s no argument that needs to be made that Calvin de Haan was the New York Islanders best defensemen last season.
De Haan’s numbers speak for themselves. He recorded 25 points in 82 games, and a plus 15 rating, which was second best on the team behind fellow d-man Dennis Seidenberg. He also blocked 190 shots, which was fourth best in the entire NHL. But it wasn’t only the stat department that de Haan improved tremendously. His play in his own zone and his awareness skyrocketed from where they were in the two years leading up to last season. De Haan also took strides offensively as he set a career high in goals and assists, and showed that he wasn’t hesitant to take the shot or make the extra pass.
This summer provided de Haan and the fan base a few hints on whether he’s one of the key core players for the Islanders in the future.
When the season ended, there were questions surrounding de Haan, and whether he would be an Islander once free agency rolled around. Everyone was taken aback when g.m. Garth Snow protected five defensemen for the upcoming expansion draft, with de Haan not being one of them. Instead he picked Adam Pelech. The fan base all thought de Haan was as good as gone. There was relief when Snow pulled off a deal with Vegas g.m. George McPhee so that he would stay away from some of the Isles unprotected assets, including de Haan. Once the expansion draft was over, and free agency took its course, Calvin de Haan’s RFA status was now on the table for Snow to handle.
As all other RFAs were agreeing to deals, fans and writers alike were waiting for a de Haan deal to be made before he and his agent would have to go to arbitration.
De Haan and the Isles came to an agreement on a one-year deal on August 2, just minutes before arbitration. The 26-year old only getting one-year, $3.3 million came to surprise of pretty much everyone in Islanders country and many skeptics around the league. With this contract, some think the Islanders low-balled de Haan or they might have put themselves in a corner for when he will be a UFA next summer, and he’ll look for more money while the club might be strapped cap wise. But that will all depend on de Haan’s performance this upcoming season.
Speaking of this season, it’s only a few weeks away, and de Haan’s value to the coaching staff and Isles brass all come down to this season.
When de Haan signed, I believed that this was Garth Snow and Co. blindly telling him they want to see even more from him after he had his best season last year. With Travis Hamonic now gone, de Haan will presumably be New York’s number three defensemen, and his responsibilities will increase ten-fold at both ends of the ice. He will have to adjust to finding chemistry with one of the younger d-men — Ryan Pulock or Adam Pelech — fighting for a regular spot, plus offer guidance for the likes of Pulock, Pelech, or Scott Mayfield.
De Haan’s style of play makes him the perfect player that can help also help the Islanders special teams which struggled for prolonged stretches in the 2016-17 campaign.
On the other end of the spectrum, with the surplus of defensemen the New York Islanders have both at the NHL level and in the prospect system, de Haan will have to prove his worth. de Haan will have to make it known to Garth Snow that he’s one of the key pieces on the blue line for the next five to seven years. And that with his play, he can help get this franchise to the next level.
For Calvin de Haan this year, it simple, show me more (management), and show me why a long-term deal is in the cards. He elevated his game last season, the hope is that year should be no different.