New York Islanders Anders Lee
ESNY Graphic, Getty Images

New York Islanders captain Anders Lee is trying to lead his team to the playoffs but is struggling to put up points this season.

Before the season was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, the New York Islanders were fighting for a playoff spot. With 80 points, they’re currently just one point behind the two Eastern Conference wild-card teams: Carolina Hurricanes and Columbus Blue Jackets.

Captain Anders Lee surely felt the pressure of improving his team down the stretch. Lee was selected by the Islanders in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL Entry Draft and became the team’s captain before the 2018-19 campaign. This came after his predecessor John Tavares signed with the Toronto Maple Leafs.

In July 2019, Lee signed a seven-year, $49 million deal to stay on Long Island.

In his inaugural season as captain, Lee played a role in leading the Islanders to become one of hockey’s biggest surprises. During that campaign, he set a career-high in assists with 23. Fans expected him to improve this season and help establish the Islanders as a team that’s here to stay.

And while Lee isn’t having a particularly bad season thus far, the 29-year-old should be performing better. He’s recorded 43 points in 68 games this year, coming in the form of 20 goals and 23 assists. He’s on track to set a career-high in assists, once again, whenever the season does resume. These numbers should be better though.

The fact that he’s playing on the top line with guys like Mathew Barzal and Jordan Eberle makes defending his overall production even more difficult. Barzal has 60 points on the year so far and Eberle has 40. Nonetheless, the latter has played in ten fewer games than Lee. There’s no reason for Lee not to be able to score at least 30 goals, especially considering he’s scored more than that in the past.

The fact that the Islanders don’t have much going for them offensively also makes it more difficult for Lee. His biggest strength by far is using his size as an advantage in front of the net.

At 6-foot-3, 231 pounds, Lee always seeks to use his build to record points. But players who rely on posting up in front of the net tend to struggle when they don’t possess much offensive talent around them.

Lee’s numbers should still be better though since he’s playing on the most offensively productive line on the team. It’s even more concerning that Lee was ice cold in the 16 games leading up to the season’s suspension. Over that span, he scored just three goals.

The Lee of 2019-20 better not be the Lee the Islanders are going to employ for the next seven years. If that’s the case, then the team is in for some trouble. Lee is a top-6 winger on any team in the league. But the mistakes he’s making this year — bad passing and low ability to recover loose pucks — pose the dilemma of whether he should be demoted to the second line.

If the Islanders are unable to maintain a playoff spot whenever the season does indeed resume, coach Barry Trotz may look to switch things up and move him.

The veteran displays all the characteristics of a captain: he works hard and is a great leader. But that hasn’t been enough for Lee during a year when his team really needs him to produce. This break, regardless of how long it may be, could end up becoming beneficial to the Isles captain.

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