Adam Pelech was never himself for the NY Islanders in 2023-24

Pelech cannot wait for training camp to start this summer.
Apr 11, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (3) skates with the
Apr 11, 2024; Elmont, New York, USA; New York Islanders defenseman Adam Pelech (3) skates with the / Dennis Schneidler-USA TODAY Sports

The NY Islanders struggled on the defensive end of the ice for much of 2023-24. Part of the reason was a down season from 2022-23 Vezina Trophy finalist Ilya Sorokin who had a career-low .908 save percentage. The other reason is a mass unit of injuries that the team saw along their blue line earlier in the season, resulting in Lane Lambert losing his job. Suffice it to say that Noah Dobson and Alexander Romanov could not carry the defense on their own.

*Read our previously Published player report cards: Sebastian Aho | Mat Barzal | Samuel Bolduc | Casey Cizikas | Cal Clutterbuck | Noah Dobson | Pierre Engvall | Hudson Fasching | Simon Holmstrom | Bo Horvat | Anders Lee | Kyle MacLean | Matt Martin | Scott Mayfield | Brock Nelson | JG Pageau | Kyle Palmieri

NY Islanders 2023-24 Report Card: Adam Pelech

When the injuries struck, the most worrisome was 29-year-old Adam Pelech. Thinking back to 2022-23, the Islanders were awful when Pelech missed time. In fact, the team was 5-13 without him in the lineup during their January 2023 meltdown before the trade deadline. This season was no different, as the Isles struggled in January once more without their most trusted defenseman.

This time around, the Isles were able to survive Pelech's absence with the help of waiver-wire acquisition Mike Reilly's heroics as an offensive-minded defenseman. Once Pelech and Ryan Pulock were activated from injury reserve in January, it felt like the Isles were ready to turn their defensive mishaps around.

However, Pelech was never the same even when he returned. In 58 games played, he had a -2 rating with 111 blocked shots and 64 hits. The penalty kill never improved with Pelech at the blue line, an area that must be corrected during training camp this summer. 

On the other hand, Pelech did start to perform better as the season winded down. When he came back from injury, Patrick Roy pulled a Lambert and paired Pelech with Dobson. This would prove to be a mistake as the Isles fell out of a playoff spot by the middle of March. Neither player performed well with the other, including Dobson who went a lengthy stretch of games without recording an assist.

In reaction to this lackluster showing, Roy pulled a Barry Trotz and reunited Pelech with his most trusted partner in Pulock. Once these two were paired in the starting lineup, the Isles played their best brand of hockey all season. They won 8 of their last 9 games which included a penalty kill that was servicable with Pelech and Pulock at the helm.

Given the circumstances surrounding Pelech, it makes sense as to why this was the worst season we have seen from him. Without any quoted evidence and just from watching most shifts, I don't personally believe Pelech was ever 100% healthy. 

As the evidence has shown from the past two seasons, the Islanders lose games when Pelech's not in the lineup. His impact on this team goes much further than his statistics will ever show. Pelech is their leader on defense and deserves every accolade for his past performance. For the Isles to contend in 2024-25, Pelech must have a bounceback season and should be left alone on the blue line with Pulock as his stablemate. 

Final Grade: C