Ranking the Top 5 Islanders Defensemen of All Time

Andy Graziano
April 23, 2020 - 12:35 pm

With commissioner Gary Bettman still holding out hope for a resumption of the National Hockey League season, the biggest hurdle he has yet to address publicly seems to be players' concern. Concern over their health and the safety of their families, spouses and children. Nothing happens without NHLPA consent, and after appreciating comments from Washington Capitals forward T.J Oshie, it might not be as much of a ‘slam-dunk’ as some are anticipating. 

"A smarter man or team of men and women will have to figure out how to get this thing going, and make sure it's 100 percent safe, and we can guarantee we're not going to put anyone in harm's way," Oshie said.

With a vaccine said to be a year off, when will things be ‘100% safe’ in the near future? When can the league ‘guarantee’ putting nobody in harm’s way? One of the plans that leaked yesterday was to play three games daily in one of four arenas. That’s six teams of 20 players interchanging on a daily basis in confined quarters. 

At the end of the day, they want to play. Fans want them to play. The league wants to resume. How they do it, as Oshie said, with the complete safety of all involved, is a totally different story. I’m sure glad I’m not paid to make that call.

With the forwards down, we now move onto the defenseman and my top five in Islanders history. Now, for those who need to be reminded, this is my list and subjective to my opinion. Disagree, if you must, in my Twitter feed.

5. Tomas Jonsson

The silky, smooth Swede played his first eight seasons in the NHL with New York and is third all time in Islanders history in scoring among defensemen. Jonsson collected 84-249-333 in 532 career games before moving onto the Edmonton Oilers for a season, then finishing up his career in his native home. Jonsson was indirectly involved in getting Pat LaFontaine to the team, as his signing prior to the start of the 1981-82 season allowed Bill Torrey to trade for a 1983 first-round draft pick, which he used to select the speedy center. 

4. Kenny Jonsson

The rock. Jonsson, who shared a last name with my No. 5 selection, came over from the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1995-96 and finished his career in New York after nine solid seasons. He amassed 57-175-232 in 597 career games with the Islanders and captained the team with class and dignity, matching his steady play on the ice.

3. Stefan Persson

Persson is second all time in scoring among Islanders defensemen, having collected 52-317-369 in 622 games. He played his entire nine-year NHL career with the Islanders and was as smooth as they came, winning four Stanley Cups in the process. Known as the ‘poor man’s Borje Salming’, Persson manned the power play with Denis Potvin and had 57 playoff points in 102 career post-season appearances. He was selected in the 14th round of the 1974 draft, one of the steals of the century.

2. Ken Morrow

You wouldn’t even notice him on the ice and that suited Morrow’s game just fine. Months after winning Olympic gold in 1980, he made an immediate impact with his calm, cool and steady play and won a Stanley Cup, becoming the first player to accomplish the incredible feat. Memories that will last a lifetime. He scored three overtime playoff goals, played his entire 10-year career on the Island and is currently the director of pro scouting for the organization. 

1. Denis Potvin

The list above has some solid players, ones who made a commitment to the Islanders and gave fans years of terrific play. But, there isn’t even a contest at No. 1. Denis Potvin, arguably more important to this organization than Bryan Trottier, Mike Bossy or Billy Smith, is the top dog and one of the greatest defensemen the league has ever known. After all these years, he still has a chant at Madison Square Garden for crying out loud. Potvin was tenacious and tough, never giving an inch, but also excelling on the offensive end. He finished his incredible career after 15 seasons, all with the Islanders, amassing 1052 points in 1060 games (164 in 185 playoff games). Nine-time All-Star, three-time Norris winner, Calder winner, four-time Stanley Cup champion. He was one of the best to ever do it.