The New York Islanders start their first long road trip of the season on Saturday, and there will be a familiar face back in the dressing room. Andrew Ladd had missed the first three games of the season due to injury and took regular lines rushes in practice on Tuesday with Leo Komarov and Tom Kuhnhackl. But for someone who two years ago was supposed to be the Islanders elite winger, Ladd does not have a set spot in the lineup.
It is obvious that the 32-year old winger is a decaying player and is no longer at elite status, if he ever was. So Ladd will likely not be in the top-six. But believe it or not there is a spot for him in the lineup and it is a perfect one. Ladd can become one of the wingers on the “vets line” which consists of Leo Komarov, Valtteri Fillpula, and a rotation of Tom Kuhnhackl and Tanner Fritz, one of whom will likely go down to Bridgeport when Ladd comes back. Ladd would fit in perfectly with this line not only to add more veteran depth and scoring, but to be responsible defensively.
Now some may ask, Andrew Ladd is a good defensive player? Even though he was bad offensively last season, Ladd was responsible defensively last season. He was a +11 last season which was his second highest rating of his career, behind +26 in the 2008-2009 season. It is amazing that of all players, Andrew Ladd was a +11 under the the horrific system of Doug Weight. Now, with Barry Trotz’s defensive system in place, Ladd shouldn’t have an issue being defensively responsible, especially on a defensive line with Komarov and Fillpula.
Now the biggest issue for Ladd since he’s gotten here is his offensive play. It is clear that he should not be making 5.5-million dollars a season. Now something that is unclear to fans is that Ladd has had streaks in parts of his two seasons where he has quietly produced. In 2016-2017, Ladd missed three games due to injury in January. When he returned, he scored 15 goals the rest of the season, totaling 23 for the year. Ladd also got off to a good start last season, scoring nine goals before January 4th, when he got injured and missed nine games. He came back and wasn’t the same player. But the Islanders needed him and he played hurt the rest of the season. Although having success last season with Mat Barzal and Jordan Eberle, Ladd scored 23 goals in 16-17 playing with Alan Quine and Jason Chimera. Those two players were not known for scoring goals but were responsible defensively and in the offensive zone. So if Ladd joins Komarov and Fillpula, who are better defensive players than Quine and Chimera, we may see a revival of Andrew Ladd.