Nick Leddy will have to step back up for the New Islanders after Devon Toews was traded. What can we expect from the veteran blueliner?
With the Devon Toews trade, Nick Leddy will move up the New York Islanders depth chart to regain a role he previously held. Sorta. Leddy will now become the team’s number-two left-handed defenseman, premier puck-mover, and power-play quarterback.
The ten-year NHL veteran will also get some of the ice-time he lost over the last two years with the emergence of Devon Toews. Luckily for the Islanders, Leddy isn’t some rookie taking on more responsibility than he’s ever had previously. This is a vet who’s had success with even more responsibilities on his shoulders in the past.
But that success was a while ago. We haven’t seen than 40+ point Nick Leddy in a while now. Can Nick Leddy step into Toews’s role and succeed?
I wanted to start by looking at what Nick Leddy did in last season and compare it with what Devon Toews did over the same stretch (which was his only full year in the NHL). At 5on5, how good were the two at putting up points, getting shots on net, and creating offense? I leveled off the playing time by keeping this at per 60.
*All stats from NaturalStatTrick
It’s clear that Toews was the better player here. He beats out Leddy in every single category from points per 60 to expected goals-for per 60. But Leddy wasn’t too far back. He performed well enough when looking at his underlying numbers after leveling-off ice times.
It’s clear that Leddy can be productive with the role Devon Toews had over the last season and a half with the Islanders. Leddy’s 21 points in 60 games had him on pace for a 29 point season over a full 82 game season this year.
Barry Trotz clearly loves Nick Leddy. Trotz consistently praised Leddy’s play in the regular season and through the playoffs. Leddy checks most of, if not all, the boxes of a good NHL defender in Barry Trotz’s eyes.
In September, The Hockey News’s Ryan Kennedy asked Barry Trotz what are the key qualities for a defender in his system. Trotz broke it down into four categories:
- Good breakout habits
- Protect the blueline
- Strong in your own end
Leddy’s play in his own end was perhaps his open biggest weakness, which is why Trotz had the veteran blueline focus on his defensive play (subscription required) in his first year with the team.
As a 10-year vet, Leddy has the experience to get himself, and his team out of trouble, when he needs to. He makes mistakes when under too much pressure, but being placed on the second pair should suit him well in terms of quality of competition. He won’t be out there against the opponents best on a nightly basis.
Leddy’s ability to break out the puck is second to none on the team now that Toews is gone. And his ability to protect the blue line is underrated.
At 5on5, Nick Leddy should have no issues stepping up. But what about the power play?
The Islanders power play has been a weakness ever since Barry Trotz arrived. They held a 14.5% efficiency in 2018-19 and 17.3 % efficiency just this season. After Mathew Barzal and Anders Lee, Devon Toews had the most ice time on the PP this season with 154:24. Nick Leddy had about half that with 70:43
*All stats from NaturalStatTrick
Devon Toews was the better player under most of these categories. Toews was clearly able to create opportunities on the power play. The data speaks for itself on that. Leddy has him beat in the points/60 department, which of course matters a lot when it comes to the power play.
While Leddy should be fine at 5on5 with Toews gone, that may not be the case on the power play. He doesn’t create as well as Toews did and doesn’t get enough pucks on net. Two things the Isles were in short supply last season.
Of course, that is assuming that the playing staff remains the same and that they contribute at the same rate as they did in 2019-20. Both seem unlikely for 2020-21.
Lou Lamoriello has to know he needs to bring in more goals in the offseason, specifically on the power play. Second, assuming Anders Lee shoots at a 7.14% on the power play (his average is 17.7%) is absurd. Lee will bounce back on the power play in 2020-21.
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Can Nick Leddy succeed as the team’s number-one puck-moving defenseman and power-play quarterback? Probably. Again, he shouldn’t have any issues at 5on5. It’s on the power play where my confidence wains. Leddy just doesn’t create enough to mitigate Anders Lee having another off-year (however unlikely that may be) or the lack of goal support on the team.