With Devon Toews traded to the Colorado Avalanche can Nick Leddy adequately step into that vacant role on the blue line for the New York Islanders?
We all know that the New York Islanders traded defenseman Devon Toews to the Colorado Avalanche. Losing Toews was a loss the Isles would have wanted to avoid, but with the team being so close to the cap and with few assets to move pricey contracts the trade was necessary.
Stepping into Toews’ role on the Islanders second defensive pair is veteran Nick Leddy. Looking at Leddy’s underlying numbers it’s fair to say the veteran d-man can fill the void left by Toews.
Filling the Void
Just on the surface a Nick Leddy for Devon Toews swap works. Both are left-handed puck-moving defensemen. Both had a relatively similar year on the scoresheet with Toews putting up 28 points in 68 games and Leddy 21 points in 60 games.
So immediately the swap looks like it should work. But as we know not everything in hockey can (nor should it) be measured by points alone. There’s so much else going on during a game aside from who scored and who picked up an assist. And that’s why Toews was (and continues to be) so adored by some.
Toews’s underlying numbers show that he did a lot to help the Islanders even when he wasn’t necessarily scoring points. He was a good puck carrier but he was also pretty darn good at creating shots, exiting the defensive zone and entering the offensive zone with possession, and he was pretty good at protecting the blueline as well.
Those numbers (from 19-20) are absolutely glowing. It’s clear why the analytics community speaks so highly of Devon Toews. These numbers show a player that’s at the top end of the spectrum for just about everything outside of individual shots-for.
We’ve seen it all first hand. We all know that Toews is a good puck mover. We know his contributions to the Islanders transition from defense to offense was key. Losing him was not a good thing.
The question now becomes, can the Islanders put someone in that position who can give them Devon Toews levels of production and impact?
With Nick Leddy playing in Toews’ role, they certainly have a player that can. Leddy’s 19-20 underlying stats look alright. They show a player that is great at breaking into the offensive zone (95th percentile) and alright at protecting the blue line (61st percentile) just like Toews.
If you go back a year you’ll see Leddy’s entry stats explode to the 99th percentile. That’s still a Barry Trotz system where Leddy was playing second pair minutes behind the Pelech-Pulock tandem.
Again, losing Devon Toews wasn’t good. It would have been ideal if the Islanders could have found a way to keep him. But now that he’s gone the team has to find a way to replace what he brought to the table. Nick Leddy is a pretty good replacement for Devon Toews.
The veteran puck-mover can play on the second pair with increased responsibility; because he’s done it before. He can quarterback the powerplay; because, again, he’s done it before. And he can give the Islanders that top-end transition play and protect the blue line because he’s done that too.
He’s not Devon Toews, but it’s hard to see the Islanders struggling with Nick Leddy taking Toews’s spot on the blueline.