New York Islanders: What About That Power Play?

Feb 7, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy (2) during the first period against the Edmonton Oilers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports
Feb 7, 2016; Brooklyn, NY, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Nick Leddy (2) during the first period against the Edmonton Oilers at Barclays Center. Mandatory Credit: Anthony Gruppuso-USA TODAY Sports

The New York Islanders power play was consistently inconsistent all season long and finished a disappointing 17th in the NHL. So what can they do to improve it?

How are the New York Islanders going to replace Frans Nielsen on the power play? It’s a question being tossed around a lot and I’m a little vexed about why. Now don’t get me wrong, I know what Nielsen brought to the table and I know the responsibilities he had at even strength, on the power play, and on the penalty kill. The intangibles are irreplaceable. Nielsen as a human is irreplaceable.

Newsflash, though. The New York Islanders power play wasn’t great with Nielsen. It ranked in the NHL’s bottom fifteen and there were times it was absolutely abysmal. Like when it really mattered. The brainchildren behind it did very little to change it.

I’ve said it before. Einstein claimed insanity to be the act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. Insert photo/video/description of the Isles power play here.

If nothing else Nielsen’s – and to an extent – Kyle Okposo’s departure forces the Islanders’ coaching staff to do something else. Since changing personnel on the ice has to occur, it would make sense to also utilize their strengths.

What are those, you may ask. Well, let’s see:

The Defense

Folks, this corps is solid and not just for defending. Utilization number one is to stop worrying about how they’re going to replace Nielsen on zone entries and look at what’s staring them in the face with his tongue out like an excited puppy. Nick Leddy.

Smooth-skating, puck-handling, zone-entering Nick Leddy. The guy is magic and can make magic. He did it in the playoffs. Give him the job, the green light, the kick in the pants. Whatever it takes, get it done and say next.

As in the two guys on the team who can shoot the puck. And by shoot the puck, we mean the big booming slappers of Ryan Pulock and Johnny Boychuk. They should both be getting more time than they do – and that’s if Pulock gets a shot at all with the signing of Dennis Seidenberg. They should be getting the puck and they should be shooting it with the exclamation – beware all ye who standeth in front of the net!

Listen. Last season, Travis Hamonic played more on the power play than Boychuk. Granted it was only 59 seconds more, but still more. I dig Hammer as much (sometimes more) than the next guy, but there’s no universe he should have more time on the power play than Boychuk. Yes, I will beat this horse to death before I’m through. And probably disclaim that no actual horses were harmed during my unrelenting protests of JB’s lack of power play time.

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The Offense

John Tavares. That is all.

Okay, not really, but sometimes, yes, that is all. The Islanders too often begin and end with Tavares. It’s not always a bad thing but even Superman had his Kryptonite and Tavares has his nemeses.

P.A. Parenteau and Andrew Ladd are both capable, smart wingers for the power play. Anders Lee is a net front presence. Ryan Strome has a lot to prove to regain power play confidence and please, for the love of Mike Bossy and all the Isles gods, leave Brock Nelson on the bench.

I’m going to throw Cal Clutterbuck’s name out there because of that wicked wrist shot of his and the fact that his shooting percentage was pretty gosh darn good last season. He scored 15 goals in 77 games on a fourth line, with fourth line minutes, and no one is scratching their heads wondering if that’s utilizing his strengths?

Finally, there’s the phantom. Not yet on the team (and probably going back to Seattle), Mathew Barzal has the skating ability and skill to change the face of this power play and be the playmaker. Of course it’s all could be, should be, but there’s no will be without the shot.

A lot of this is tongue-in-cheek, but the gist is pretty clear. One of the biggest stock answers when it comes to keys to success is ‘keeping it simple’. The Islanders are too keen on passing and maddeningly looking for pretty at the expense of a shot. That doesn’t play to their overall skill level, nor does it garner a high rate of success.

Next: John Tavares Should Produce Points a Plenty

At the end of the night, it doesn’t get any simpler than getting pucks to the net – that other annoyingly overused stock answer that rarely sees a follow through.