The New York Islanders continued their slow start Tuesday, falling 3-2 at home to the San Jose Sharks. Three of their four games have been decided by a single goal, but the Islanders are just 1-3-0.
Although it’s obviously too early to jump to any forgone conclusions, it would certainly help the mindset of this club if one of the big free agent signings stepped up and played a more vital role for this team. With New York parting ways with winger P.A. Parenteau before the season even began, that man who elevates his game has to be wing Andrew Ladd.
Just like the Islanders, Ladd is off to a slow start. He doesn’t have a point through four games, and his chances have been few and far between. Ladd had just one shot on goal Tuesday versus San Jose, bringing his total number of shots on net to eight in the first four games.
His Corsi For Percentage is a healthy 52.2 percent, for what that’s worth in just a week’s amount of games, but Ladd has largely been invisible on the ice. Overall, he’s attempted just 15 shots in 78 minutes of ice time. Among Islanders forwards, only John Tavares has more ice time than Ladd does, and Tavares has nearly twice as many shot attempts.
Considering the full season is 82 contests, a four-game slump isn’t all that long. But if we can call it a mini-slump, it’s still disappointing. The Islanders agreed to fork over $38.5 million over the next seven years in order to sign Ladd. This meant winger Kyle Okposo was let walk, signing with Buffalo for virtually the same amount of money ($42 million over seven years). By the way, he already has a goal and an assist in two games.
It’s really disappointing because Ladd had such a great end of the season last spring, so it was easy to expect big things from him immediately.
After the Blackhawks acquired him at the trade deadline last season, he scored eight goals and 12 points in just 19 games. Ladd cooled off in the postseason, but in his final 22 regular season games with Chicago and Winnipeg combined, he had 12 goals and 16 points.
Interestingly, Ladd really didn’t average more shots on goal during that stretch. He recorded 50 shots on net in those final 22 regular season games for an average of about 2.3 per game. So perhaps the 2.0 shots per contest rate he has right now isn’t all that unusual.
His 24.0 shooting percentage that he posted in the final quarter of last season was very unusual, though, and is a percentage that simply is not maintainable. Maybe he’s simply falling back to earth early this season?
As much as the team wants him to score, the Islanders are fortunate that Ladd can provide a lot of other aspects to their hockey team. He has a 53.3 Corsi For percentage, 1.0 Relative Corsi For percentage and a plus-36 rating in his career. Not to mention, he’s also a great penalty killer.
In many ways, Ladd is actually replacing Frans Nielsen rather than Okposo. Sure, he has taken Okposo’s place next to Tavares, but Ladd is a very defensively responsible player like Nielsen. Okposo is more of a pure goal scorer.
However, that isn’t how New York coach Jack Capuano sees it. Through the first four games, three-quarters of Ladd’s zone starts have been in the offensive zone, and he’s played just 18 seconds on the penalty kill.
Ladd’s shorthanded minutes did go down after he was traded to Chicago, New York did have a top five penalty kill unit last season, and the Islanders are 14-for-15 killing penalties this season, so it’s hard to fault Capuano for omitting Ladd on the PK, but it just puts more pressure on him to score.
Last season in Winnipeg, Ladd was on pace for 20 goals and averaged 2:00 shorthanded minutes a night. It’s an adjustment only being able to contribute to one area, and placing extra pressure on oneself to come through definitely comes into play.
That could be exactly what Ladd is going through at the moment. Given more time, he should start to adjust and begin to score, but with the Islanders apparently content regulating Ladd only to even strength and power play minutes, he better start finding the net or the pressure will continue to mount.