Is Zidlicky Really Helping the Islanders?
Marek Zidlicky’s last go-a-round in the NHL hasn’t gotten off to the best start. The veteran of just under 800 games is turning 39 this February and the Islanders are his fifth team. Zidlicky needs to turn his game around soon to save himself from becoming an extra defenseman.
Like many other players his age, Zidlicky has lost a step both speed wise and playing wise. He was brought in to be a powerplay specialist, but his five on five game hasn’t matched the Islanders run and gun offensive strategy. Zidlicky has been caught countless times being beaten to a puck or on a bad pinch. Sunday night against Buffalo, Sam Reinhart and David Legwand came in and scored the game winner on a two on one which was caused by a bad Zidlicky pinch.
Although he does lead the team in CF%, his defensive game is as bad as advertised. Brought in to help the dismal powerplay, he only has one goal and that came during the first game of the season. He’s put more pucks (two) into his own net than he has on opponents. The Islanders powerplay has been relatively good this year as well, and they have enough talent to role out two solid groups without Zidlicky and even if they don’t bring up Ryan Pulock. Nick Leddy, Frans Nielsen, John Tavares and Ryan Strome are plenty to help with zone entries.
Maybe the coaching staff doesn’t want to do it right now, but changes will need to be made if the slide continues. Thomas Hickey’s injury certainly hurts, but the team still needs to be able to rely on Zidlicky to get the job done on a nightly basis. Rookie mistakes would be better served being made by Ryan Pulock, Adam Pelech, or Scott Mayfield and not by a veteran on his last legs like Zidlicky.
Out of the group above, Pelech has been the best so far in the minors, but Mayfield saw playoff time last year and Pulock is their best defensive prospect. None of them are a bad choice, but if the team is looking at the real problem (defense not offense), it’ll probably be Mayfield or Pelech.