Monday, August 2, 2010

Islanders add Wiz to blueline



Lately, there hasn't been a lot for Islander fans to get excited about. However, a few nights ago while I was out with the big guy and bro over our friend's new house for a fun barbecue, Garth Snow made a solid move acquiring defenseman James Wisniewski from Anaheim for just a conditional third round pick in 2011.

Considering that the original Chicago '02 fifth rounder is still only 26, it looks like a calculated gamble by the Islander GM. When healthy, Wiz is easily a top four D who can log important minutes and play any situation. In five seasons spent with both the Hawks and Ducks, the Canton Michigan native who was part of the '03 USA WJC gold medal team has proven a capable puckmoving D who combines skill with physicality. Loose translation: Wiz ain't soft as evidenced by his 129 hits (41st among D) and 102 blocked shots, which ranked him in the top 100 for his position. Unfortunately, that edge also resulted in an eight-game suspension after this controversial hit in which he retaliated on former 'mate Brent Seabrook for a hit on Corey Perry prior in the shift.

Islander fans will like that edge as it's certainly something their blueline can use in support of budding teenager John Tavares. What also is a plus is that Wisniewski's in no way one-dimensional as he can also contribute offensively. Following two straight seasons of 20 points or more, the ex-Duck registered a career high 30 including a new best 27 helpers to go with three markers in 69 contests (also a new personal best). The Wiz also racked up 69 penalty minutes with two power play goals, 146 shots while posting a minus-five rating. Numbers he'll look to improve on in his new Long Island home.

Why was he essentially dumped by Duck GM Bob Murray? Because apparently, he didn't think the $3.25 million Wisniewski was due was worth it. Especially for a defenseman who's never played a full season and will turn unrestricted next summer. Still, he gave Sabre reject Toni Lydman basically the same money ($3M) which makes you scratch your head.

For the Islanders, it looks like a win. They get a good player while losing zilch. Does Wiz team with Mark Streit while other key addition Mark Eaton works with Bruno Gervais? What happens to Andrew MacDonald, Jack Hillen and Milan Jurcina if Radek Martinek returns healthy? Considering that there's a an IL slot reserved for Martinek, you can never have enough defensemen. It'll be interesting to see who the odd men out are once the season rolls around. Something which could be a tough choice for Scott Gordon.

On paper, the Isles improved with this trade and should be tougher to play against. However, they still haven't addressed gaping holes up front like who's going to put the puck in the net other than Tavares and Matt Moulson? Expect Kyle Okposo to increase production and perhaps Rob Schremp can finish a little more as well. Unless top pick Nino Niederreiter makes the roster, the team still lacks enough skill to help Tavares and Co. Given that they have plenty of cap room, what about bringing back a vet like Bill Guerin or taking a flier on Paul Kariya? Unless P.A. Parenteau proves the Rangers wrong, it looks like the club may struggle to score again.

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