The New York Islanders added two key free agents this past summer: Andrew Ladd and Jason Chimera. The two veterans were signed, in part, to offset the loss of Kyle Okposo and Frans Nielsen who both signed elsewhere after free agency got under way. After 13 games, however, the two newcomers had each scored just one goal and were struggling to adjust to life in Brooklyn.
Ladd Struggling to Find the Net
Ladd split last season between the Winnipeg Jets and the Chicago Blackhawks and scored 25 goals in 78 games. The Maple Ridge, BC, native has been a consistent scorer in the NHL, topping the 20-goal mark in each of the last five complete seasons and scoring 18 times during the lockout-shortened 2012-13 season in just 48 games.
This season, however, Ladd has clearly been pressing as he tries to live up to the seven-year, $38.5 million deal he signed in July. He started the season on the Isles’ top line with John Tavares, but never seemed to develop any chemistry with the captain. Since then, coach Jack Capuano has shuffled Ladd onto lines with nearly every forward in the lineup without results. He also gave the new alternate captain a few chances in shootouts, hoping Ladd would score and end this prolonged drought.
In 14 games with the Islanders thus far, Ladd has scored just two goals and three points and has a minus-two plus/minus rating.
The Islanders have to be discouraged that Ladd isn’t getting as many chances as he has in the past. He’s barely averaging two shots on goal-per-game with 29 through 14 contests. Clearly, GM Garth Snow was hoping for more production when he inked Ladd last summer.
The good news for the Islanders is that Ladd’s goals came in the team’s last two games, a 4-2 win over the Vancouver Canucks and a tough 4-1 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning. There was a noticeable look of relief on Ladd’s face after the puck finally went into the net.
“It’s big for me and Jason [Chimera] just to get that good feeling when you put the puck on the net and it goes in,” Ladd said. “Sometimes all it takes is one and you go from there.”
Chimera Also Struggling
Expectations weren’t as high for Chimera as they were for Ladd. The 37-year-old was expected to contribute as a bottom-six forward, but the Islanders were hoping he would at least come close to matching the 20 goals and 40 points he scored in Washington last season.
Like Ladd, Chimera has struggled to produce offensively since joining the Islanders. In 14 games, he has one goal and four points with a minus-four plus/minus rating. Chimera has also been slow to find chemistry with any particular set of linemates and has spent some time on a trio with the majority of his fellow forwards.
Chimera is also not getting as many scoring chances as the coaching staff would like. He has 21 shots on goal in 14 games. The lack of shots is not just limited to Chimera and Ladd. In fact, the only other forward on the Isles roster averaging more than two shots on net per game is John Tavares. The offense is not clicking on all cylinders and the two newcomers are just part of the problem.
Chimera also finally scored his first goal of the year Monday night against Vancouver. The Isles are hoping this is the start something for both of their free agent additions.
Despite their early-season struggles, both Ladd and Chimera have the support of their new teammates. “Those guys work the hardest and they were pros all the way through,” defenseman Thomas Hickey said. “They were helping other guys out and now they’re going to start coming, I guarantee it.”
Both Chimera and Ladd are proven veterans with resumes that say they can overcome their slow starts and produce the offense the Islanders need to win hockey games. The Islanders and their fans just hope that starts happening sooner rather than later.
Long time hockey writer and author of the new book, “Ice Wars: The Complete History of New York’s Greatest Modern Sports Rivalry.” It tells the story behind every game between the Rangers and Islanders dating back to 1972 and features profiles of more than 80 players from both teams and quotes from more than 50 exclusive interviews from players, coaches and broadcasters from both teams.