Temperatures plunged to minus-40 and worse in Nick Leddy’s home state of Minnesota last week, matching a negative benchmark the defenseman reached on the ice last season.
Plus-minus often is considered a misleading statistic, but Leddy ranked last in the NHL in 2017-18 at minus-42. Under since-fired coach Doug Weight, the Islanders allowed an NHL-worst 293 goals, the most any team has allowed since 2007.
“I tried to block it out as much as possible, but for me, the whole year was very frustrating,” Leddy said after practice Monday in East Meadow. “When you’re up there for top in the league — or the bottom, I guess — especially as a defender, it’s tough to digest that, because I knew that wasn’t me.
“As soon as another one goes in, you’re down about it. It’s always in the back of your head. But this year for sure, I’ve really tried to hone in on my defensive responsibilities. After going through that, I really wanted to get back to where I was before.”
Leddy is back in the black this season under Weight’s replacement, Barry Trotz, carrying a plus-3 rating through 51 games into Tuesday’s visit to Boston. And the Metropolitan Division-leading Islanders, who have registered at least one point in eight straight games (6-0-2), have gone from worst to first in goals against, allowing only 125 (2.45 per game) in a dramatic one-season reversal.
“I think it’s just as simple as structure,” Leddy said. “Everybody’s bought into it, that all six guys on the ice need to be held accountable and are accountable for that. We’re just not as much in a track meet every night this year . . . I think when you play consistent five-man team defense, it frustrates teams.”
Leddy, 27, in the fourth season of a seven-year, $38.5-million contract, has scored only one goal after netting at least 10 in three of the previous four seasons. The Islanders will live with that.
“I wasn’t here, but I just think he’s gotten back to defending well,” Trotz said. “Hopefully, we are playing more structured as a group, but I just think for him, we fixed a little bit of his battle areas, where I felt he was relying too much on his skating. You still have to put a little skin in the game in terms of getting pucks back and getting cycles stopped.
“I think he’s done a much better job of engaging in that initial battle. And because of that, with his ability to skate and to move, he’s been able to get a lot more of those pucks and break up a lot more plays.”
Notes & quotes: Trotz joked that he didn’t want to tick off New York sports fans, but he was pulling for the Patriots in the Super Bowl. “It’s like when they won four Stanley Cups here. It’s so hard to win . . . and that’s something to appreciate. What they’ve done is really hard to do,” said Trotz, who won the Cup as Washington’s coach last season . . . Left wing Andrew Ladd (recovering from what is believed to be a foot/ankle injury) and defenseman Thomas Hickey (recovering from what is believed to be a head injury) were full participants in practice, but Trotz said they’re still “a ways away.” He thinks Hickey, out since Dec. 17, is “closer” to a return to the lineup.