The Islanders' defense will improve in 2018-19 for a simple reason beyond the fact that the team is now coached by the infinitely more accomplished tactician Barry Trotz. It will be better because it could not possibly be worse than it was under Doug Weight and his band of assistants last season, when it was historically very, very bad:
Most goals allowed (293) by an NHL team since 2006-07
Allowed five or more goals in regulation and conceded at least 40 shots on goal 20 times
Penalty killing "efficiency" was 73.2 percent -- lowest in the league in almost three decades.
Of course, it would be unfair to blame all of this on horrendous coaching or the team's (mis)management. As the players as much as anyone like to say, it's the players that play.
However, as if he is determined to prove the point that a new sheriff is in town, last season's disgrace is in the rearview mirror, and Trotz, associate Lane Lambert and the rest of the new staff have the tools to fix this, Islanders GM Lou Lamoriello (it's still strange to type that) has yet to make a single upgrade on the blue line. Calvin de (MVP) Haan has left for Carolina via free agency, and no one has been added.
Today, the depth chart -- no doubt, you will have your protests of the order from 2 through 9 -- looks like this:
(Never mind the Jack Adams Award. If Trotz immediately turns this team around, he'll be a candidate for the Pulitzer).
As we approach late July, the hockey news slows down. Major trades are usually completed by now -- although Erik Karlsson and possibly Matt Duchene are both still in play in Ottawa. Just about all of the brand-name and best unrestricted free agents have signed. With August, the only crumbs we get are usually announcements of "PTOs" - player tryout agreements. You know, like when we announced in Garth Snow's first summer on the job 12 years ago that Richard Park and his college co-goalie Mike Dunham were invited to training camp.
There are some unsigned free agents who will insist on a contract and would rather sit out than attend a training camp without one. On the other hand, possibly thinking that if he couldn't make the Canadiens he wouldn't make any NHL team, Simon Despres last week jumped at the chance to attend Habs camp.
Here's a look at some of the unsigned free agent defensemen available. One would think Lamoriello -- whose first camp with the Toronto Maple Leafs hosted a whopping 73 players -- might reach out to one or two to gauge their interest in donning the Blue and Orange.
Paul Martin (age: 37)
Respected defender, great "room" guy and has a history with Lamoriello. Has been slowing down for a while, and he's far from what the Islanders need right now, but keep in mind just about everyone without a contract today for 2018-19 is going to have plenty of flaws.
Dan Hamhuis (35)
Arguably the best available grizzled veteran. If he's going to be some team's 6-7 guy, his preference is likely Cup contenders.
Brooks Orpik (37)
Won a Cup in Washington with Trotz. One of those guys who is detested for his edgy hits and is always called out for a lack of mobility, but teammates and coaches love him and he's been on his share of winning teams. Maybe he's this year's version of Brendan Witt for the new-look Islanders.
Toby Enstrom (33)
The most talented offensively of the available D by a wide margin, but the Islanders are already okay in the small and offensive department.
Johnny Oduya (36)
Arguably the best all-around fit for the Islanders. Likely seeking a contract.
Others include Luca Sbisa (27), Justin Falk (29), Kyle Quincey (32).
At this moment, the Islanders have more fourth-line forwards than established, bonafide NHL defenseman. There's plenty of time before the start of the season, if they want to shop.