Should the Islanders Pursue Grit Rather than Skill?

With the Islanders forward depth having taken a major hit recently with the loss of Mikhail Grabovski and potential loss of Frans Nielsen, Islander fans are again discussing team needs as the trade deadline approaches.  While as recently as 7 days ago most fans would’ve told you that the team could use a defenseman over a forward, now that is no longer the case.  Last week, I examined if Jaromir Jagr of the Devils would be someone the Islanders should target at the deadline.  Today, I am going to shift focus from New Jersey to upstate New York and look at the Sabres Chris Stewart.  On the Devils broadcast last night, the legendary Stan Fischler said that he thought Chris Stewart could end up in the orange and blue.

Grit Over Skill?

In Jagr, the Islanders would get a more skilled forward who is totally different from Stewart.  While Stewart does have skill, his game is more physical and based on hard nose play.  Stewart broke out in the 09/10 season with 64 points in 77 games.  He then followed that up with 53 points in 62 games in the following season split between the Blues and the Avalanche.  While his numbers have been on a downfall over the last few years, getting him on a skilled team poised and hungry for a run could be exactly what he needs.  While his point total may have fallen, his penalty minute total has remained on the higher side.  In the last two full NHL seasons Stewart has gotten over 100 penalty minutes and is on track to get near their again this season.  So this begs the question, what do you think is a bigger need for the Islanders?  If it is skill, then Jagr or someone like him would be your guy.  Meanwhile, if it is grit, then a hard-nosed player like Stewart would better fit the bill.


Where Would He Fit?

Another question to ask when considering Stewart is where he would fit when the Islanders get healthy.  While he does bring elements in his game that would be useful for the Islanders, his game is also similar to both Cal Clutterbuck and Matt Martin.  While Stewart has more offensive upside than both of those players, when does the similar type player get redundant?  I think he could flourish playing with someone like Strome or Nelson, particularly Nelson.  With him and Nelson on the same line, defenses would throw fits getting these guys off the puck due to their bigger frame.

With Playoffs in Mind

While the Islanders may not have a huge need for him in the regular season, the playoffs is where players like Stewart usually come in handy.  Stewarts brand of hard-nosed physical hockey is one that usually excels in the playoffs which could make him valuable for the Islanders.  With Stewart set to be a UFA this summer a good playoff run could lead a payday as it has for other players in years past.  Additionally, his pending UFA status and change of scenery could also serve as a motivator for him to get his game back to where it once was.

Will Stewart Be an Islander?

Could I see it happen, yes I could see Chris Stewart being an Islander by March 3rd.  However, I don’t feel as though he is number one on their list among available forwards.  With Ken Morrow having been at the Devils game last night scouting, I think Jaromir Jagr could be the one on top of the Islanders wishlist.  If the Islanders fail on him though, it wouldn’t shock me if they strike their second deal with the Sabres in 16 months.