NY Islanders fans went crazy on Monday night after a video posted by Isles Fix on X went viral of captain Anders Lee beating the NHL's fastest skater, Connor McDavid, in a foot race. But, that's about the most notable thing that the winger has done all season. Fans are starting to become irritated by Lee's lack of production over the course of the season.
Lee has never struggled with production, always hunkering in "his spot" right in front of the net. Everyone he plays with knows; just shoot, and Lee will tip it in. Always one for stealing goals, Lee will fight for space against any opponent. Lee tore his ACL on March 21, 2021, and missed the remainder of the 2020-21 season. Returning just seven months later, and despite looking like himself again, he had 28 goals and 18 assists in 76 games during the 2021-22 season. Lee always bounces back, but this season, without injury or illness, looks so bleh.
"Bleh" might not be the most eloquent way to put it, but as someone who grew up watching Lee throw every big hit, never back down from a fight, and take every goal he could, it's just sad to see what's become of him. This season, Lee has only one goal and one assist in 15 games played and has looked almost invisible in every shift he's taken. For someone who's known for making an impact, seeing him be essentially useless so far is disheartening, not only for fans but for the players too. Many fans are even calling for Lee to be scratched in place of newer and younger players like Hudson Fasching or Julien Gauthier, who have been in and out of the lineup despite showing up more than Lee has every game.
The biggest question in all of this is why Lane Lambert continues to put Lee on the first and second lines when he hasn't proven he can play at their level anymore. Yeah, he beat McDavid in a foot race, but Lee has seemed slower, less aggressive, and all-around older this season than he ever has. He's losing net-front battles that teammates expect him to win and can't seem to stay in "his spot," which he has never struggled with before. Fans are even starting to refer to Lee as a "line killer" as he continues to be circled through the top 9 while playing like a fourth-liner.
All of his struggles may not be entirely Lee's fault. If a player, especially your captain, is struggling the way Lee has, one would expect a coach to move him down the lineup, but Lee hasn't even touched a fourth line, desperate for a change. You can't expect players like Bo Horvat and Mat Barzal to be successful when they're flying up the ice looking for the best pass on the play when their left winger is still at center ice or struggling to get to the front of the net. How can you expect Lee to succeed when he's playing with skaters who are faster and stronger than he is? If Lee can't keep up, demote him.
Lee is a leader on the ice and in the locker room, but lately, his play has reflected his ability to captain this team. While we don't know what happens behind closed doors, it can't be easy for the team to see their captain struggle like this. Lee needs to step up his play soon, or he needs to face the consequences of underproduction. Lambert claims he wants to hold players accountable, benching Pierre Engvall being the only example this season, and Lee needs a wake-up call soon. It's painful and saddening from a fan perspective to see someone who used to get the Barn rocking every night look invisible and struggle to play like himself.