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THN.com Blog: Defenseless Isles search for winning formula

The Islanders are 1-4-4 to start the season, good for 13th in the East ahead of Florida and Toronto. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

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The Islanders are 1-4-4 to start the season, good for 13th in the East ahead of Florida and Toronto. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

My Saturday night viewing schedule consisted of the Leafs-Canucks game followed by the horror flick Hostel 2. Guess which one was more brutal and unsettling.

Hey-Ohhh! I’ll be here all week.

Seriously, though, how did Toronto still have a chance to win that game late in the third? If only the Buds had been playing the Islanders, they would have sealed the deal.

Yes, the young crew from New York has had a bit of trouble keeping leads so far this season. Seems like every time I flip on an Islanders game, they are inexplicably beating someone like Boston or Washington. When I flip back later, the game is tied and the Isles are in the process of completing the choke job by losing in extra time.

So far in this young 2009-10 campaign, New York has one win and three overtime losses when leading after two periods. That one win? It came against Carolina in a shootout (marvelously ended by John Tavares, who had a mischievous look on his face pre-attempt that made it clear he was scoring on Cam Ward), in a game the Isles had led 3-1 with six minutes to play.

What’s the problem? There are some obvious maladies – shaky goaltending from both Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron, for example – but with the youth of the Islanders it may be the simple fact this group doesn’t know how to win at the NHL level yet.

Looking at New York’s depth chart, the Isles’ forward corps is composed of at least six players who had suited up for less than 82 NHL games total heading into the season, including the entire top line of Tavares, Matt Moulson and Kyle Okposo. Now obviously that trio has made magic offensively, but it’s the closing out part the Islanders are having trouble with.

Perhaps the solution lies not with the top line, but with the shutdown line. Is there one? The fourth unit is certainly a grinding energy group and the third line has some offensive potential with Josh Bailey in the middle, but there are no fearsome defenders in the mix, no Sammy Pahlssons or John Maddens.

And I recognize that the next major forward to join the Islanders is probably one of Taylor Hall, Tyler Seguin or Kirill Kabanov (unless the likely high-drafting Garth Snow goes for premier defenseman Cam Fowler), but here’s a humble suggestion: Grab Dave Bolland from the Blackhawks.

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Bolland has great two-way potential as a pivot and his contract – recently signed, though under duress thanks to Chicago’s Endless Summer of Mis-steps – must be moved by the Hawks if they have any hope of retaining their super-core of Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane and Duncan Keith.

Plus, the youngster has learned the shutdown game from both Pahlsson and Madden, who both served time in Chicago lately (Madden currently anchors the third line).

Is he the silver bullet for New York’s woes? Of course not. But Bolland would be an intriguing piece of the puzzle. The Islanders have given up a copious amount of goals so far this season (32 through nine games) and that needs to come down. More help on the blueline would obviously be a boon, as would the return of franchise goalie Rick DiPietro (is that ever going to happen?). But a more defensive conscience up front would go a long way. The Isles certainly have the cap space to make it happen; now it’s just a matter of pulling the trigger.

Ryan Kennedy is a writer and copy editor for The Hockey News magazine, the co-author of the book Hockey's Young Guns and a regular contributor to THN.com. His blog will appears Monday and Wednesday, his column - The Straight Edge - every Friday, and his prospect feature, The Hot List appears Tuesdays. 

For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine.

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