Editorials

New York Islanders: The Anders Lee Rebuttal

By Farrell Hirsch
Mar 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders forward Anders Lee (27) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The New York Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in the overtime. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports
Mar 26, 2016; Raleigh, NC, USA; New York Islanders forward Anders Lee (27) skates with the puck against the Carolina Hurricanes at PNC Arena. The New York Islanders defeated the Carolina Hurricanes 4-3 in the overtime. Mandatory Credit: James Guillory-USA TODAY Sports /
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New York Islanders Winger Anders Lee might be a prime candidate for a comeback season.   Here’s why I don’t think so.

Michel Anderson wrote a thoughtful, and stat-backed piece last week about why Anders Lee is likely to bounce back from a lackluster first half, and an injury that kept him out of the playoffs.

Michel’s point was that Lee’s shooting percentage seemed to dip last year, and a regression to league average — where he resided before- would do wonders for his numbers. Michel also found evidence that Lee’s shot selection was at fault. He was firing from too far this past season.

But to me, Anders Lee isn’t a guy with a particularly good, or even average, shot. Because a high percentage of his goals go off his butt, his shoulder, or deflect off his stick blade, his shooting percentage numbers are skewed. He’s a guy who can have a hat trick without taking a single shot. So, his shot percentage will always look better than he deserves.

If you asked me who the best centers have been during Lee’s time on The Islanders, I would have said Tavares first. That much is obvious. But it looks like Ladd will be taking that left wing spot this year. I would have said Nielsen second, and we know Lee won’t be playing with him. Third? Maybe Grabovski.

He might play with Grabovski this year. Then again, Grabovski might not play much at all.  And that leaves Lee on a line with Ryan Strome. In one sense that is good news. Strome, a right handed center, would be more prone to feeding a left wing than other Islander pivots.

But to believe Strome would be the main factor in elevating Lee’s game, requires the belief that Strome can elevate his own game. That remains to be seen. Nobody is ruling it out. Maybe these two guys, and Brock Nelson, form a line and find redemption together. But three guys, all lost at sea, might drown together.

Maybe Lee ends up playing more with Casey Cizikas and Cal Clutterbuck under the theory that these two guys work their tails off and Lee scores the gritty, garbage, rebound goals. That would be more plausible if Lee were a better shooter and could convert passes and loose pucks into goals. It would work better if Lee was a really good skater to capitalize when the the other guys make a steal.  He is neither. At age 26 there probably isn’t the room to take giant leaps forward in skill level.

In all of these scenarios Lee loses time on the first power play unit. Ironically, that is the one place where Lee might actually best utilize those skills he possesses.  So he doesn’t top my list of potential comeback players.

If Strome and Nelson are the other two comeback candidates among the forwards, Lee does seem to be the one who gives the most consistent effort. He is the one who has dropped his gloves to defend a teammate. That’s another rarity on this squad. so good for him. He is the one forward who will make at least SOME attempt to drive the net. There’s plenty to like about the man’s game.

Next: Grabovski Has Strengths

But he is also the least skilled skater, the weakest shooter, the poorest passer, and to my eyes the softest board guy among the three comeback candidates.  So my best bet is that he levels out as a 12-15 goal, third line enigma. Perhaps he already has.

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