During the New York Islanders rebuild if there was one player on defense where fans would scratch their heads and say “why him?” it’s defenseman Calvin de Haan. It was bad enough for fans at the 2008 draft where Islanders General Manager Garth Snow traded down several picks and selected Josh Bailey when winger Nikita Filatov was clearly available, but he made another bizarre move in 2009 by trading up for Calvin de Haan when they had a point-blank shot at Nick Leddy. Only the Detroit Red Wings had de Haan on their radar because the hope was he’d fall into their laps at number 30. If Detroit wanted him, that’s usually a big thing.
So after de Haan gets drafted and his junior career is finished, he moved on to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers like the rest of the draftees, save for Bailey and John Tavares. He put up some decent numbers on his first full season and fans were almost ready to forgive Snow as they saw some potential. Then over the next two years, de Haan plays a whopping 20 games and amasses an intimidating 5 points. Many fans knew he would be destined to be a career AHL player or the second coming to the beloved Islanders glass defenceman, Radek Martinek, which made fans even more irritated at Snow when Nick Leddy should’ve been here. Not since the Islanders passed on Zach Parise and drafted Robert Nilsson had Islanders fans been this upset with their General Manager.
Then came the start of the 2013-14 season when many assumed de Haan would just run out his days in Bridgeport and go the way of Dustin Kohn. The Islanders fan base were stunned around November 30th when de Haan was called up and to their amazement, he never looked back. Not only would de Haan finish out the rest of the season on the Islanders roster, but fans then thought he would be a regular fixture, speed up the Islanders rebuild and finally make a run at the playoffs. Funny how things can change. This past season however, de Haan may have taken a slight step back as he posted less points in more games than he did in 2013-14. He has always been a good defensive, puck moving defenseman but his biggest asset to the Islanders may be putting up points because when he does, all the Islanders do is win.
With free agency too far away to look right now, it appears that Lubomir Visnovsky is not returning to the Islanders roster. Could de Haan replace Visnovsky? He has the potential to, but the Islanders need to find out. When Visnovsky was on the ice, the Islanders went 31-17-5 and when he was not they went 16-11-2, good for a 96 point pace. When de Haan was on the ice, the Isles went 33-25-6 and 14-3-1 when he was not playing. Almost makes you want to resign Lubo doesn’t it? There is however another statistic that is very crucial if the Islanders are to succeed with de Haan.
This year, despite only recording 12 points in 65 games, the Islanders went a mind-blowing 11-1-0 when de Haan gets on the score sheet. Now I wanted to make sure this was not a fluke and went back to the 2013-14 season and sure enough it wasn’t. Calvin de Haan put up 16 points in 51 games, not bad for half of a rookie season, but when he scored at least one point the Islanders went 8-5-1 and that was without Nick Leddy, Johnny Boychuk, Jaroslav Halak, Nikolay Kulemin or Mikhail Grabovski. What’s the biggest difference with between Visnovsky and de Haan? The experience.
Despite his injuries, Visnovsky is an ageless wonder playing in more than 900 NHL games (including playoffs) where de Haan has only accumulated 122, so he has a lot to go in terms of gaining experience, yet despite a small sample size in the minors, his hockey IQ is well above average. As for comparing him to Nick Leddy? Well, you can’t. Leddy, who was drafted by Minnesota and has already won a Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks, has close to 400 games played and is averaging over 30 points a season. Calvin de Haan did not have the luxury of playing with a playoff caliber team until this year, but now he has a chance to improve not only his game, but the Islanders consistent winning. It’s almost a common practice to really evaluate a defenseman around the 300 games played mark because by then most coaches/managers know what you’re getting out of a young player. For de Haan, the timing could not be better.
This upcoming year is crucial for de Haan. If he has a bounce back year from what I’m calling a sophomore slump, the Islanders could have four defenseman averaging 30 points or more a season, a feat not seen since the days of Hamrlik, Jonsson, Aucoin and Niinimaa, none of whom were drafted by the Isles. A good offseason, renewed confidence and a healthy Calvin de Haan means the Islanders have drafted another top 4 defenseman at their disposal for the long term. May not have been a bad idea trading up and don’t even tell me you knew who Nick Leddy was at that draft.
As always, click on the initials and follow me on twitter or go click here to the Isles Talk Facebook page.