Among several New York Islanders that have caught the ire of fans this year, none has been as surprising as Scott Mayfield. The defenseman, in his seventh season, has gone through a bumpy 2020-21 campaign which has seen him have to adjust to a new D partner and new responsibilities.
When this season rolled around, the expectations were even more magnified with the departure of Devon Toews via trade in November and Johnny Boychuk ending his playing career that same month. What has occurred since then, as Mayfield has tried to fill the shoes of Boychuk, has been a season that on the surface hasn’t matched what has come to be expected out of the defenseman.
“It’s definitely been an adjustment,” Mayfield said. “I think switching up partners after me and Toews played quite a bit of games together. That I think has been some growing pains with that. Just as far as the communication and just how me and (Nick Leddy) read off each other.”
Now 48 games into the season, the numbers certainly back up what people have been viewing in terms of the growing pains for Mayfield and his partner Nick Leddy. This season the pairing has a Corsi For percentage of 46.83 during five-on-five play and they have an xGF percentage of 48.57, according to Natural Stat Trick.
Compare that to last season when Mayfield was paired with Toews, their Corsi For percentage was 48.25 and their xGF was 49.64. percent. There was an improvement in the xGA category, which is at 20.49 for Mayfield and Leddy compared to last season when Mayfield and Toews had an xGF of 25.97.
On an individual level, Scott Mayfield has made some noticeable errors on the ice that have cost the Islanders. Mayfield’s attempted pass into the neutral zone was intercepted on Saturday early in the game and led to Garrett Hatheway’s opening goal for Washington.
In the first game against the Boston Bruins the week prior, errors by Mayfield led to two Boston goals in the Islanders’ loss.
“There’s some games I’ve made some mistakes or some reads that just didn’t work out,” Mayfield said. “That’s going to happen. They seemed heightened right now as far as the scoring chances against or goals against. That’s going to happen during a year, during a season, so you just have to put that behind you and move on. Make sure you’re getting ready for every game.”
That’s true as well when you examine some of Mayfield’s other stats. The number of turnovers that the defenseman has averaged per game this season is down from the 1.04 turnovers he had during the 2019-20 regular season to 0.73 turnovers per game this season.
Not to mention that Scott Mayfield has been a part of a penalty kill unity that has been strong this season, going 24-for-26 in the month of April and their PK ranks second in the NHL during that span.
Most importantly, Mayfield hasn’t lost the trust of the person it matters most. That would be Islanders head coach Barry Trotz.
Trotz has said on several occasions that when he first arrived he wasn’t sure if Mayfield would be playing with the Islanders or down in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. Since then Trotz has seen massive growth from Mayfield’s game.
The 28-year-old had curried a lot of favor heading into this season after three successful years under Barry Trotz, which saw Mayfield see his responsibilities and time on the ice grow drastically. Mayfield averaged 18:44 in Trotz’s first year behind the bench and by the end of the second year, that ice time jumped to 19:57.
During the Islanders playoff run last summer, he was averaging over 20 minutes.
“He’s a defender, a hard guy on the defensive side of the puck number one,” Trotz said. “And then he does contribute offensively at a pretty reasonable rate pace for what I would consider a defender type of guy. He’s just grown his game on the ice and then off the ice he’s extremely well respected by his peers and his teammates. He can play the game in a physical way and he can play the game against the top skilled guys in the league and feel comfortable.”
What it comes down to is that regardless of how fans feel about his play at times, Scott Mayfield remains an important cog in the Islanders blue line. And one that won’t be coming out of the lineup, even when Trotz has indicated changes would be afoot.
The Islanders’ defensive unit has remained intact for most of the season, with the lone exceptions being injury and Braydon Coburn taking the spot of Noah Dobson. Trotz has been hesitant to take out his more experienced players, while holding his younger guys on a shorter leash.
New York is down to the final stretch of the regular season with the Stanley Cup Playoffs on the horizon. If they’re going to build off the postseason success they had last summer, Mayfield will need to be at his best when the time comes.