There was nothing flashy about Thomas Hickey’s game. He wasn’t the power play quarterback. He wasn’t going to blow you away with a powerful slap shot from the point.
But, that was fine.
As the final minutes tick down on the 2017-2018 New York Islanders season, so do the final days of Hickey’s contract with the team he was claimed by from the Los Angeles Kings on January 15, 2013. The 28-year-old defenseman is set to be an unrestricted free agent come July 1.
“Yeah, I thought about that yesterday and coming to the rink (Thursday),” Hickey said when asked about Thursday’s game potentially being his last as an Islander. “Realistically, any game could be the last if it was the trade deadline or as a matter of staying healthy.”
Since his arrival from the Kings, Hickey was a rock solid defenseman that could be relied on for 18 minutes a game without egregious mistakes. He showed swift stick handling in the defensive zone and jumped into an offensive attack more often than not.
Everything about Hickey’s tenure in New York should be remembered as such. Through the first three years of his career on the Island, each time Hickey was on the ice usually meant his team controlled the puck. He was a 50-plus Corsi For at even strength defenseman. In this day of age, you couldn’t ask more from Hickey.
While he’s seen his defensive numbers drop the last three seasons, Hickey has put up strong offensive numbers which – in a way – cushions the blow of a turnover or penalty taken. In four of his six years with the Islanders, Hickey reached 20 or more points.
He scored on Thursday against the Rangers. It may very well be his last in this uniform.
“We’ll see what happens here,” he said. “There’s going to be time to debrief and for each side to figure out their own thing.”
Thomas Hickey has been the consummate professional.
If the team was down and frustration was setting in, Hickey – at 6’ – stood tall and answered every question asked. He’d showcase his steady personality on the ice and prove why he was a ‘must-have’ interview during an intermission, post game or practice. There was a reason why he is considered as a beloved veteran in the room. He’s a leader and fans should remember that.
They should also remember the numerous game winners Hickey netted (six) and the ‘Super Mario punch’ celebrations that ignited both the Nassau Coliseum and Barclays Center crowd. Don’t forget how big a catalyst Hickey was against the Panthers and Lightning in 2015-2016. He had five points that postseason and averaged nearly 20 minutes per game.
“I’ve certainly loved every moment,” he said. “But, I’m not really opening or closing any doors now. I’m just going to try to finish things out now and circle back in a few weeks.”
Hickey made $3.1 million this season and will likely be seeking the same if not slightly more on the open market. The Islanders, a team in desperate need of a revamped defense, should evaluate that market and see what is waiting in the wings. Johnny Boychuk, Nick Leddy, Adam Pelech, Scott Mayfield and Sebastian Aho are all under contract for next season. With an extension all but assured for Ryan Pulock, that leaves a depth role on the blue line that Hickey could fill.
With that said, Hickey may want to go somewhere with a larger role and the Islanders could still bring back Calvin de Haan or kick tires on Mike Green or John Carlson. So, it’s entirely possible Thursday night was the final home game of Hickey’s tenure.
“Those are the uncertainties,” Hickey said. “If it was it was a good way to go out and if not I look forward to many more.”
Whether it was or wasn’t, Hickey embodied a true professional during his tenure. He was coachable. He never mailed in a game for New York and his personality will surely be missed on Long Island if he walks elsewhere.