Top Five Greatest Defensemen In New York Islanders History
Top 5 Greatest New York Islanders Defensemen
There’s an old saying in sports - defense wins championships. There has never been a victorious team that has gotten to a championship without great defense. Hockey is no exception to this rule. Teams that have claimed the Stanley Cup are some of the best defensive teams in the league. Every Cup winning team has had at least two great defensemen on their clubs. NHL defenseman have some of the toughest assignments in all of sports. Blueliners can often log more minutes on the ice than any other skater and with good reason. They are relied on to shut down the opposition in any way possible.
NHL defensemen come in all shapes and sizes, but it's their on-ice performances and off-ice leadership that define their careers. Over the course of franchise history, the New York Islanders have had some great players patrol their blue lines. Some guys have been lucky enough to be on the dynasty teams, while others have been around through some of the dark days. All in all they have had the same job description, shut down the opposition.
When it comes to this list, much like the others, there were a few factors that were taken into account. First things first, the men on this list had to be a force in their defensive end. They had to make the opposition pay for crossing over the Islanders' blue line. Also taken into account is an offensive touch. The franchise has had their fair share of offensive defensemen, guys that can make an impact at both ends of the rink.
Of course there is going to be some debate as to who makes this list and who doesn’t. Some guys came close to cracking this list but came up just short. Roman Hamrlik was given strong consideration for making it here. He had a good career on Long Island, provided some offensive spark while being a solid anchor in the defensive zone. Also Vladimir Malakhov came close to making the list, mostly because he was solid in his own end and created offensive chances with that cannon of a shot he had. Finally there’s Darius Kasparaitis, who was one of the best checking defenseman to ever play for the Islanders. In the end, though, they just fell short of making this list.
So now, without further ado, here are the five greatest defensemen to ever play for the Islanders!
5. Adrian Aucoin
Adrian Aucion has been one of the more traveled defensemen since coming into the league in 1992. He joined the Islanders during the 2001-02 season and stayed for a full three years. While with the Islanders, Aucoin put up the most consistent offensive numbers of his career, including a career-high 33 assists and 44 points in 2003–04. Two things stood out about Aucion when he was playing: First was his level of endurance. He was averaging about 25-30 minutes a night with the Islanders. It always seemed that the more ice time he saw during a game, the better he played. The other thing that stood out about Aucoin was the shot. He had one of the hardest shots I’ve ever seen, and he used that as a very effective weapon.
During his time on the Island, Aucoin played in 235 games, racking up 33 goals and 80 assists for 113 points. The offensive production wasn’t that great, but the play in his own defensive end sure was.
4. Kenny Jonsson
Jonsson was originally drafted by the Toronto Maple Leafs and played there for three years before coming to the Islanders via trade in 1996. During his nine year career with the Islanders, Jonsson made an impact with the team, both on and off the ice. Fans and journalists considered Jonsson one of the most underrated defensemen in the league during his time in the NHL. He played good positional defense and had sound offensive skills as well, but his quiet demeanor and low-key playing style kept him below the radar of some observers. He was a great teammate and was an anchor on that Islanders blueline on a nightly basis.
Jonsson played 597 games in an Islanders uniform, during which he scored 57 goals, while adding in 175 assists for 232 points. He is currently a member of the Islanders Hall of Fame.
3. Stefan Persson
Drafted by the Islanders late in the 1974 entry draft, Stefan Persson proved to be a steal. He played his entire nine year career on Long Island and made an impact almost immediately. Persson's responsible, defensive style was endorsed highly by the Islanders head coach, Al Arbour. Persson also showed an adept passing ability and an occasional scoring touch. His steady play was a calming influence on the team, and he was a key component in the dynasty years. Persson set a record with the Islanders, playing more games than any other Swedish player in the NHL at that time. It has since been passed. He knew how to play, taking responsibility at both ends of the rink.
During his career, Persson played in 622 regular season games, scoring 52 goals and adding in 317 assists for 369 points. The assists and points are both 2nd in team history among defensemen.
2. Ken Morrow
Morrow was drafted by the Islanders in 1978 and joined the club shortly after helping the US win gold at the 1980 Olympics. When the Islanders captured their first championship, Morrow became the first player ever to win the Olympic Gold and an NHL championship in one season. He was an integral member of all four Islanders Stanley Cup teams, playing a tough, physical brand of hockey he become known for. Furthermore, although Morrow was never a goal-scorer, during the playoffs the Isles often benefited from his clutch goal scoring at key times. Injuries to his knees would cut Morrow’s career short but not before he could have a major impact on the team. He had a quite impact on the team, because he never said a word. Morrow just went about doing his job and he did so very, very well. He's probably the best defensive defensemen on this list.
Morrow played in 550 games for the Islanders, all the while scoring 17 goals and 88 assists for 105 points. Morrow is currently a member of the Islanders Hall of Fame.
1. Denis Potvin
This one is too easy to pick. Potvin was drafted 1st overall by the Islanders in 1973 and played his entire 15 year career on the Island. Potvin entered the NHL with high expectations, as he was regarded by some as the savior of the Islanders' franchise and by others as potentially the next Bobby Orr. While he did not dominate the game in the same way as Orr, Potvin became an immediate star. Potvin could skate, he could make plays offensively and boy could he hit. Many regard Potvin as one of, if not the best open ice hitting defensemen of all-time. His best season offensively was 1979, during which he became the second defenseman (Orr being the first) to score 30 goals and 100 points in a single season. Potvin was awarded his third Norris trophy for the regular season, which the Islanders finished first overall in the NHL.
Potvin was a more traditional defender than Orr and an extremely physical player. He averaged just under a point per game over his career (0.992), while Orr averaged 1.39 points per game. Late in his career, Potvin suffered a series of injuries that impeded his performance, leading to his retirement following the 1988 season. During his time with the Islanders, Potvin played in 1,060 games while scoring 310 goals and adding in 740 assists for a total of 1,052 points, the most in Islanders history by a defenseman. His 1,052 points are the 3rd most in team history, trailing only Mike Bossy and Bryan Trottier. Potvin is currently a member of the Islanders Hall of Fame.