In just one week the new hockey season begins. For the New York Islanders, there are many questions that they will face in 2017-18. After missing the playoffs for the first time since the 2013-14 campaign, the expectations are still high for the Isles. With an entirely new coaching staff and new blood ready to make an impact, this season could be something special, or the final chapter before major changes is made.
Our Rob Taub will give his thoughts on what to look for from the blue and orange this season.
From the time he arrived three years ago, Nick Leddy has without question fulfilled the expectations as the New York Islanders number-one defensemen.
Leddy, came via trade from the Chicago Blackhawks just before the start of the 2014-15 season. Right after the deal, Leddy immediately immersed himself with the team and the fans. Leddy, along with fellow acquisition Johnny Boychuk, became the Isles top pairing on defense. Throughout that season, the trade began to look more and more beneficial as Leddy kept producing at a high rate. The Isles brass was so impressed with Leddy’s play, they signed him to a seven-year contract, worth $38.5 million dollars.
After receiving the contract, Leddy continued his strong play, helping the team return to the playoffs for the first time in two years. The Islanders would lose in seven games in the first round. But for Leddy, it was a fantastic season where he set a career high in goals and tied his career high in points.
Leddy would go on to have another superb season a year later in 2015-16, totaling 40 points and helping the Islanders reach the second round for the first time since 1993.
Last year, Leddy got off to his slowest start to the season since becoming an Islander. He and Travis Hamonic struggled right off the bat, which translated to the Isles falling in the standings. Through the first 42 games of the season, Leddy only registered 21 points. But once Doug Weight took over as head coach, Leddy’s numbers and performance began to rise. He would notch 25 points over the next 40 games, ending the season with a team-leading 46 points on defense. His 11 goals were the most of his seven years as a pro.
2017-18 has the chance to be a sensational season for Leddy.
Leddy’s numbers have continued to improve year after year. Plus, his position on the first power play should get a boost this season, as the team is looking to have a much more consistent man-advantage. Head coach Doug Weight implementing his new systems will also benefit Leddy. Letting his defensemen take more risks to generate more offense this year, Leddy will have the advantage of shooting more, something he’s done by increasing his shot total as each year passes. Taking more of those risks will also help Leddy rack up more assists.
The infusion of youth on the defense will help Leddy. Leddy and Boychuk have been the two d-men the Isles have depended on the most for offense in recent seasons, but they could have some of that weight taken off of them this year with some younger guys taking over.
The smooth skating of the 26-year old is another element for why Leddy has a chance at being an All-Star.
Leddy, hands down, is the best skater on the Islanders. The way he carries the puck and his zone entries are so smooth and gets the attention of everybody. His skating creates so much space for his teammates, while also allowing him to survey the best possible option to get the puck to the net. Leddy’s ability to wheel should also help him become more consistent defensively. We’re not saying Leddy is bad defensively, but he does go through spurts where he struggles in his own zone by not moving his feet quick enough.
The success of the Islanders depends on Nick Leddy. He has taken strides each season, but this year, he could take it to new heights and become an All-Star caliber defensemen. Leddy having that type of campaign will get the Isles back to playoffs and finally establish the team as a legit contender.
Prediction: Leddy has a 55-point season and receives his first All-Star nod.