The NY Islanders have overcome some significant injuries over the past few seasons. Mathew Barzal missed the latter part of the 2022-23 season, and the Islanders still clinched the top wild-card spot thanks to the heroics of Ilya Sorokin. Oliver Wahlstrom missed the second half of last season, but Hudson Fasching stepped up and made his presence felt on the Isles' third line. Heck, even the injuries to defensemen in 2020 led to the rise of Noah Dobson.
The one player the Islanders have not survived without is Adam Pelech. In the 2022-23 season, Pelech missed most of December and January with an upper-body injury. During this 21-game stretch, the Islanders went 6-11-4 and fell far back from the second wild-card spot. Essentially, the Islanders were nine games under .500 without Pelech in the lineup. With Pelech, the Islanders record was 36-20-5, 11 games over .500.
Pelech brings more to the Islanders than anyone gives him credit for.
The reason for this record is simple: Pelech is the clear leader for the Islanders on defense. When Johnny Boychuk retired in 2020, we all wondered who would step up and become the veteran leader. Although Anders Lee is the captain and has earned respect among his teammates, defensemen are coached differently and have separate roles on the ice.
Pelech does not possess the flashiest numbers when on the ice, as he's not that type of defenseman. His hits are way down from his career high in 2020 of 149, finishing with only 77 last season. Pelech consistently has over 100 blocked shots a season, though most Islanders defensemen average the same amount. Pelech does not have an eye-opening amount of points each season the way Devon Toews or Dobson have, but despite not missing his point production, the Isles have severely missed his presence.
On paper, Pelech is viewed as an average defenseman based on his statistics. His numbers are in line with most defensemen in the NHL. However, the record tells a different story, as the Islanders have struggled to win games without him. The intangibles Pelech brings to the ice have not been replicated by any other player on the team. This leaves a simple question for the coaches and players: Who will step up on defense and help the Islanders win games?