Although in his tenure as the General Manager of the New York Islanders, Garth Snow made some questionable decisions, he made Oct. 4, 2014 one of the more memorable days in the last decade. On that Saturday, he acquired Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk in separate trades, two defensemen who would ultimately play on the top defensive pairing over the next few years.
More than five and a half years later, Leddy is consistently outplayed by four younger defensemen on the Islanders and is, consequently, the subject of trade rumors or discussions regarding a loss of ice time.
Nonetheless, Leddy ranks third on the Islanders in ice time, so his performance, whether positive or negative, still has the potential to affect the success, or lack thereof, of the Islanders. Therefore, let’s dive into Leddy’s numbers this season to evaluate his performance in the 2019-20 season.
Compared to the majority of the Islanders’ roster, Leddy excels in transition, both out of the defensive zone and into the offensive zone. Carrying the puck into the offensive zone is far more effective than dumping the puck in, and Leddy incorporates this narrative into his playstyle.
According to Corey Sznajder’s transition data, Leddy’s even-strength ratio of carry-ins to dump-ins ranks within the top five among skaters on the Islanders, which exhibits his awareness of the effectiveness of carry-ins and his ability to carry the puck into the offensive zone.
Additionally, Leddy ranks second among skaters on the Islanders in even-strength defensive zone clears, per Sznajder. His ability to clear the puck out of the defensive zone can make a huge difference when the opposing team applies pressure in the offensive zone. Finally, Leddy’s shooting talent is 14.5% above league average, per Money Puck, which ranks second on the Islanders.
Leddy’s shot can be a valuable asset in close games or on the power play, especially compared to some of the defensemen with whom he competes for ice time. Although each of the importance of these elements of Leddy’s game may be questionable, these statistics portray Leddy’s ability to impact any game in a subtle, or not so subtle, way.
As much as Leddy’s micro-stats display certain areas of the game in which he excels, his overall impact has remained very replaceable to the Islanders. Similar to the last three seasons, his WAR is approximately zero, which furthers the notion that Leddy’s production is no better than the production of a replacement-level defenseman.
Whereas Leddy does have an effective shot, he does not use his shot nearly enough for it to make a significant impact on his production. In fact, Leddy’s shot is so underutilized that it, although 14.5% above league average, is only expected to add 0.8 goals to his actual goal total, according to Money Puck.
For Leddy to maximize his impact, he must resort to his shot more often, but because, in reality, he shoots very infrequently, his impact is relatively minimized.
Furthermore, although Leddy is effective in carrying the puck into the offensive zone, his production inside of the offensive zone is rather insignificant. In fact, his Expected Goals, which partially exhibits his impact when he is in the offensive zone, is actually below replacement-level, per Evolving Hockey.
Therefore, for his transition prowess to be effective, he would need the players around him to carry the load in the offensive zone. Given the lack of elite offensive catalysts on the Islanders, his value in transition is belittled because of his inability to produce further in the offensive zone.
Although Leddy was once a top-pairing defenseman for the Islanders, his production had drastically fallen over the past few years. His Wins Above Replacement (WAR), per Evolving Hockey, had hovered around zero over the three seasons leading up to this one, so his production was easily replaceable.
Additionally, as the Islanders displayed the need for an increase in offensive production, Leddy was rumored to have been the subject of trade talks, so there was even uncertainty regarding the jersey he would be wearing at the end of the season.
Even though Leddy is still an Islander, the Islanders have a few young defensemen who should surpass or have surpassed Leddy on the depth chart.
Altogether, the expectations for Leddy were rather low entering the season, especially given the uncertainty surrounding his status as an Islander and surrounding his ice time.
The Moment of the Season
Entering the Islanders’ game against the Ottawa Senators on Oct. 25, 2019, Leddy had been held without a goal in the short season. That changed early in the game, as Leddy scored two goals in the first period.
The first goal was the result of a beautiful coast-to-coast rush by Leddy, and the second goal, which is Leddy’s most memorable moment of the season, came on a penalty shot to give the Islanders a 2-1 lead.
Leddy was undoubtedly the Islanders’ most valuable player in the game against the Senators, and his production ultimately helped to preserve what would turn out to be a 17-game point streak.
While Nick Leddy has the potential to be effective in certain aspects of the game, his use on the team, combined with some of the shortcomings of the players around him, renders his production replaceable. With so much talent and speed, he just does not use it enough.
As younger defensemen such as Noah Dobson or Sebastian Aho seek more chances in the NHL, they will have an easier time entering the lineup when a 29-year-old defenseman who has produced at replacement-level for four consecutive seasons holds one of the lineup spots.
Therefore, unless Leddy’s utilization or surroundings changes very soon, which is very unlikely, it seems as if the end is near for his tight grip on a spot in the lineup, especially as the Islanders attempt to compete for the Stanley Cup.