After a four-year stint as an assistant coach with the Toronto Maple Leafs, Jim Hiller was a late addition to the New York Islanders’ coaching staff after Scott Gomez did not return for the start of the 2019-20 season. Before that, they had Doug Weight running the man advantage and, despite that both players had tremendous NHL careers, neither had any success in charge of the Islanders’ power play.
One of Hiller’s main responsibilities is working with the team’s man advantage, which was one of the biggest concerns last season when they finished at 15 percent, ranked 28th in the league, and scored just 33 goals.
One of the biggest problems was that the Islanders lacked depth on their second unit, and they featured players like Cal Clutterbuck and Valtteri Filppula on the second group. This year under Hiller, they don’t necessarily have a top power-play unit.
On one of the power plays, the Islanders use a much different look. Hiller uses two defenders on one unit, Ryan Pulock and Nick Leddy. For most of last season, Gomez would only use one defender on each power play. Derick Brassard, Anders Lee, Mat Barzal are the other three players on that power play.
The other unit consists of two of the team’s best scorers in Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson, along with Anthony Beauvillier, Devon Toews and rookie Oliver Wahlstrom.
Neither of the units feature Jordan Eberle, who is currently on injured reserve. When he is healthy, he will likely fill in for either Brassard or Beauvillier to bring more offense.
One thing the Islanders did extremely well during the playoffs last season and have done well so far in 2019-20, is move the puck quickly while getting everything directed toward the net. They need to continue to do that and get looks for Pulock, who has one of the hardest shots in the league. Also, they have one of the best play-makers in Barzal to set up goals.
While the power play has been poor the last few seasons, they continue to have one of the best net-front-presences in the league in Lee. He uses his size to get in position in front of goaltenders and is good at deflecting shots or picking up loose rebounds around the crease. While Lee has yet to get going on the power play, Hiller continues to put him in a position to score.
Success in Toronto
Hiller has had success in the past, especially last season with the Maple Leafs. While Toronto drew the fewest penalties in the league, they did convert on 22 percent of them with Auston Mathews, John Tavares and Mitch Marner.
Hiller spent four seasons coaching in Toronto after a season with the Detroit Red Wings. Prior to that, he spent eight seasons as the head coach in the Western Hockey League with both the Chilliwack Bruins and Tri-City Americans.
He had a relatively short NHL career playing in only 63 games, but had 116 penalty minutes as he was not afraid to drop the gloves.
The Islanders have had lots of time off lately to work on their power play before facing the Arizona Coyotes on Thursday night on Long Island in their 4-2 win.
While they are technically in the top-five on the power play at 31 percent, they have drawn only 13 penalties in nine games. The Islanders have definitely felt like they have drawn more, but haven’t got the the calls from the officials this season. They should have plenty of new plays set up by Hiller for when they start to get some opportunities to build on their early season power-play success.
Matt Rothman is a 2018 graduate from Florida Gulf Coast University receiving his bachelor degree in journalism. Originally from Long Island, he moved to Parkland shortly after high school. Matt worked as the assistant sports editor for his school paper, eaglenews.com in college becoming just one of nine students in his graduation class to serve over 1,000 community service hours. His goal is to travel to every Major League Baseball stadium, and has been to multiple US Open finals.