As the NHL playoff’s qualifying round has started up, coaches and general managers are figuring out the lines to roll out during their games, finding the best group they can to compete for the Stanley Cup. New York Islanders head coach Barry Trotz and General Manager Lou Lamoriello face this challenge, as the Islanders have eight NHL-caliber defensemen within their organization. Since summer camp has begun, the defense pairs looked to be consistent with what was expected and all have been playing well, but the pair of Andy Greene and Noah Dobson have been performing well enough to the point that Trotz has had a tough decision to make.
Noah Dobson has had quite the interesting first season in the NHL. He has gone in-and-out of the lineup, traditionally serving as a seventh defenseman. The twenty-year-old former first-round pick scored one goal and totaled seven points in 34 games, but really started to improve his game both offensively and defensively right before the league shut down.
Andy Greene has also had an interesting start to his time on Long Island. Greene proved to the Islanders’ faithful right away why Lamoriello acquired the veteran defenseman, as he plays a very similar game to Adam Pelech. In Greene’s fifth game on the Island, he suffered an undisclosed injury after getting hit into the boards and a game because of it.
Throughout the Islanders Phase 3 training camp, Barry Trotz had nothing but praise for the most unlikely pair of defensemen, stating the pair was “as good as any pair we’ve had”, which is extremely high praise considering the competition from the traditional pairings of Ryan Pulock and Pelech, Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, and Devon Toews and Scott Mayfield.
The question is, who would come out of the lineup if the pairing of Andy Greene and Noah Dobson make an appearance in the playoffs? Obviously, the Pelech-Pulock pairing will be staying in the lineup as they are the most reliable pairing on the team, and it is also very likely that Nick Leddy will get a spot due to his 200-foot play-style. Having it narrowed down between Boychuk, Toews, and Mayfield it would be tough to figure out who would take the last spot between the playoff-veteran in Boychuk, the offensive defenseman in Toews, and the defensive-first Mayfield. In my opinion, I think Boychuk would take the final spot due to his hard-nosed game and his playoff experience.
It is crazy to think that Devon Toews and Scott Mayfield would not crack the lineup in the most important part of the season, but if the growth of top-prospect Noah Dobson and the experience Andy Greene brings every shift is something that Trotz wants in the lineup, he could give the pair a chance at the highest stage possible.