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.
When g.m. Garth Snow decided to sign free agent d-man Dennis Seidenberg during the World Cup of Hockey last September, everybody around the Isles was questioning the decision.
This wasn’t the first time during his tenure that Snow went out and got a veteran d-man to add to his defensive corps before the season was just about to begin. And with defensive prospects Ryan Pulock and Scott Mayfield having very little experience on the back-end, the addition of Seidenberg would add some much-needed balance to the Isles third-pair of defense. To everyone’s disbelief, that’s exactly what the 36-year old did for a full season.
From the beginning till the end of the 2016-17 season, Seidenberg was a constant lock on the last pairing on the blue line, whether alongside Calvin de Haan or Thomas Hickey. It was early in the season that Seidenberg really showed why Snow went out and got him. In late October, he notched seven points in a five-game stretch as one of the bright spots for the team as they struggled to find their footing. Seidenberg continued his strong play in the next two months while averaging 17 to 20 minutes a night as a 35-year old. As the Islanders surged in the second half, it was Seidenberg’s physicality and shot blocking that made a difference. Seidenberg would end the season with 22 points in 73 games played. A ten point jump from his previous season with the Bruins. And there was another tidbit for how vital Seidenberg was: He was a +25 which was tops on the Isles for the year, with Calvin de Haan a mere 10 points behind him.
Seidenberg’s strong season prompted Garth Snow to re-sign him to another one-year deal worth $1.25 million dollars just a few weeks after the season ended. The contract works in the Isles favor as they get Seidenberg on the cheap for another season, plus another veteran who can help push Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech to establish themselves as regulars.
So for this year, is it possible that Seidenberg replicates his solid play and numbers from last year?
It might be hard for Seidenberg based on the amount of depth the Islanders now have on the blue line. Being the number-six defensemen, Seidenberg’s spot can be easily replaced as it is not the biggest position on the defense that causes questions to be asked. We already named Pulock, Pelech, and Mayfield, but there are others in Bridgeport who might get the call up to play over Seids. This all comes back to the Isles brass and coaching staff transitioning to a younger, faster core on both offense and defense. Seidenberg definitely still has the experience that the younger players don’t have, but at 36, will he be able to keep up with how much faster the game is becoming?
On the other hand, because the Isles will be looking to infuse more youth on the back-end this season, this might force Seidenberg to take his game up a notch to ensure that he’s still playing on a nightly basis.
Seidenberg also showed he can stay relatively healthy which could bode well for another good campaign. He only missed nine games in 2016-17. For a 36-year old to only miss a small amount of time like that with the grind of an 82-game schedule seems unheard-of. But if Seidenberg can do that again this year, his value to New York’s d-corps will still be extremely important.
Just like several others on the team, this year will be very interesting for Dennis Seidenberg. His season last year left a lasting impression, that many hope to see him duplicate. If Seidenberg accepts the challenge of have youngsters on his back, and sticks to his game, he will be just fine.