The New York Islanders were one of several teams to lose their captain this summer after John Tavares left for the Toronto Maple Leafs, but they’re no longer without a leader. The team today named Anders Lee as the 15th captain in team history, while announcing that Josh Bailey, Cal Clutterbuck and Andrew Ladd will serve as alternates this season.
This announcement follows the news that the Islanders and Lee are discussing a long-term extension, and likely signals that a deal will happen before Lee becomes an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. With the turnover the organization has had on the ice, behind the bench and in the front office, naming a player captain only to see him walk out the door a few months later would be tough to swallow.
Lee, 28, has evolved into one of the best goal scorers in the league in recent years, recording 34 and 40 in the past two seasons. The big winger can do a little bit of everything on the ice, and should be able to ride shotgun with Mathew Barzal for many years at the front of the New York offense. There were few who saw this coming when Lee was selected in the sixth round in 2009, but his fall was more because of the competition he had faced playing in the Minnesota high school circuit than anything he’d done on the ice. Lee dominated in high school and kept that production going through his year in the USHL and a three-year career at Notre Dame, where he became one of the best forwards in the country.
It’s hard to argue with this choice for the Islanders unless a contract isn’t reached, as Lee is an emotional leader on the ice and should be the one head coach Barry Trotz can lean on to spark his team. While Barzal may be the future superstar center for the Islanders, Lee will be asked to lead this team back to the playoffs and try to contend for the Stanley Cup. Ladd, a former captain himself, will be there along the way to help out along with Bailey and Clutterbuck who have been integral parts of the roster for years.
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