As many people well know, this year has not been a good defensive year for the Isles. Nobody has felt the effects none other than Nick Leddy who is supposed to be the Isles top veteran defenseman leading the way for the rookies.
Leddy finished with the worst plus/minus in the league at a -42, but can we put all the blame solely on him?
Leddy was a leader in time-on-ice but it is disheartening to see that the next worst plus/minus among D-men is Dennis Seidenberg only at a -9. Also, Thomas Hickey racked up a lot of minutes this season and was a +20. The numbers don’t lie and clearly something went wrong with Leddy. Was it bad luck? Was it just a bad season? Or was it just because he was faced up against the top players from every club?
Inexperience On the Back End
Another aspect to the lack of defense could be the result of a young defensive core. Besides for Leddy and Johnny Boychuk, the rest of the D core was young and still in the learning process.
Ryan Pulock, Scott Mayfield and Adam Pelech all had a taste of a full NHL season this year. Although Pulock had a successful offensive season with 32 points which was second among defense behind Nick Leddy. Still, Pulock ended the year as a -4. With the amount of goals the Isles scored this year, nobody on this team should have ended with a -40.
Forwards Need to be Accountable
Another aspect to look at is the forwards in the defensive zone because the blame should not be put all on the defenseman and goaltending. Although the defense and goaltending was a huge problem, the forwards are just as much accountable in the defensive zone as the defenseman are.
Game after game, the Islanders have the same problems in the defensive zone that never seemed to get fixed. Some of these problems are simple and are taught at the lowest levels of hockey. Right off the bat, the biggest problem was turnovers in the defensive zone and the coaching staff should be stressing on puck management because this simply should just not happen. The Islanders also do not clear out the net and this makes life difficult for Islanders goaltending. Even though the Islanders defenseman are large in size, they play weak.
As a result of poor puck management, more shots on goal against starts to increase. The Islanders averaged 35.6 shots on goal against per game which led the NHL. Also another interesting stat was that the Islanders only won 10 games when outshooting their opponent, which means they had 25 wins where they were outshot. In order for the Islanders to get better defensively, they need to fix these numbers. Another stat was that they lost 22 times when being outshot, which is no surprise.
The idea that “defense wins games” is tossed around a lot in the hockey community, and the Islanders saw how true this statement really is first hand. In order for the Isles to be a real contender next year, they need to clean up on the defensive end.