Not this time. No way. That was, essentially, what Anders Lee took into the offseason. Sure, he led the Islanders in goals last season, but his mind wandered back to that glacial start that had his ice time dwindling drastically by early November.
“I just knew I didn’t want to be in the same position again,” the winger said Wednesday before the Islanders took on the Flyers at Barclays Center.
“Things have gone a little bit better. You work extremely hard to make sure things like this happen,” he added. Where I was beginning this time last year, I was playing a little less time each night and you get less opportunities in those situations and you’ve got to work your way out of it and prove yourself to the coaches and the team again that you deserve everything you’ve gotten, and I think I was able to do that and earn my way back into it.”
He’s underplaying it a bit. Lee had registered only two points by this time last year, but rather than an encore of those ice cold two months, he’s both built off the campaign he put together down the stretch and provided a consistent presence on the first line with John Tavares and Josh Bailey, both of whom are more likely to garner headlines on any given day.
Going into Wednesday, he had 10 goals and 11 assists. He has 44 goals in the last calendar year, third most in the NHL.
“The anonymity, I think that happens to certain players for whatever reason,” coach Doug Weight said of Lee. “Every time he’s on the ice, it’s with a purpose and he’s just tremendous at what he does. He knows his strength. He’s a big body. He’s a strong player. He doesn’t get cute out there. He makes simple plays. He’s very predictable for John . . . He has a talent with his coordination and his will that is unmatched [in front of the net] as far as I’m concerned.”
Dennis Seidenberg and Scott Mayfield replaced Thomas Hickey and Ryan Pulock as the third defensive pairing Wednesday. “We have eight D on this team that I feel can play in the league,” Weight said. “It’s imperative that I keep them involved . . . I think these guys can play so there’s going to be a little revolving door once in a while.”