Don’t point to the goal scoring as the issue for the New York Islanders recent struggles, it’s the defense that’s really at fault here.

New York Islanders (8-5-3, 19 pts)
Los Angeles Kings (9-6, 18 pts)
Thursday, 10:30 PM on FSW, MSG
Staples Center, Los Angeles, California

By Justin Weiss

Despite what their record may suggest, the New York Islanders have struggled a bit to open up the 2015-16 season. While the offense may have been on hiatus over the past couple of weeks, a striking difference between this season’s team and lasts has been the play of the defense, starting with the top pair and stemming to the third.

Nick Leddy and Johnny Boychuk – who were both integral parts of the team’s success in 2014-15 – haven’t performed up to par. Brian Strait and Marek Židlický – the senior members of the Isles’ blueline – have both struggled immensely from the get go. Lastly, Calvin de Haan has suffered from injuries over the years, but has never struggled like this.

Puck Possession
Rank Defenseman Corsi For Percentage Corsi Relative to Teammates
1 Travis Hamonic 51.3% 2.5%
2 Calvin de Haan 50.1% 0.4%
3 Marek Židlický 49.9% 1.1%
4 Nick Leddy 48.1% -1.0%
5 Johnny Boychuk 47.5% -2.0%
6 Brian Strait 45.9% -4.4%

(All stats as of November 11, 2015)

In 2014-15, the Isles boasted average goaltending, but were helped out by the strong play of their defensemen on both ends of the ice. This was attributed in part to a strong possession game that featured first liners Johnny Boychuk and Nick Leddy both over the 55% Corsi For threshold.

This season, it’s been quite the opposite. Travis Hamonic and Calvin de Haan – the team’s second pairing – have been the only source of positive possession numbers. It may be hard to believe, but Brian Strait’s Corsi has actually decreased from his horrific campaign a year ago.

This has contributed to the drastic shift in shots per game from last season to this. In 2015-16, the Isles have been out-shot more times through 16 games than they were in all of last year’s regular season. Similarly, they have accumulated less shots on goal to start the season than they are allowing each game.

Offense
Rank Defenseman SAT Rel% Points Per Game
1 Travis Hamonic 3.3% .188
2 Thomas Hickey 15.1% .272
3 Calvin de Haan 1.4% .185
4 Marek Židlický -0.3% .333
5 Brian Strait -4.8% .135
6 Johnny Boychuk -2.7% .500

An integral part of the Isles’ success in 2014-15 was the contribution of offensive minded defensemen such as Calvin de Haan, Johnny Boychuk and Lubomir Visnovsky. The power play was bolstered by the blistering slapshots of Boychuk and Visnovsky, while Travis Hamonic, Leddy and deHaan all had nice feeds from the point.

Visnovsky is no longer in the National Hockey League, and his replacement, Zidlicky, hasn’t exactly been as big of a force on the PP. Neither has Boychuk been – but not because of his play, as he is on the bench for a majority of the team’s man advantage opportunities. The Isles seem to believe that he will only weaken a very inconsistent power play.

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But the most striking difference between their last two campaigns is the point per game totals. Nick Leddy was at a .474 rate last season, but has regressed through 16 games in 2015-16. Travis Hamonic’s total has decreased by nearly 300 points, while the blueline is on pace to tally roughly 50 less points than they did last season.

If New York wants to contend in 2015-16, it’s imperative that the defense performs to their potential.

All stats via War-on-Ice, nhl.com, Hockey Analysis, and ESPN.

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Justin Weiss is a staff editor at Elite Sports New York, where he covers the New York Islanders and Brooklyn Cyclones. In 2016, he received a Quill Award for Freelance Journalism. He has written for the Long Island Herald, FanSided and YardBarker.