Technically, Thomas Hickey hasn’t retired from pro hockey. The longtime New York Islanders defenseman has yet to file the paperwork to make it official.

For all intents and purposes, though, Hickey is retired, and he’s already a few months into a second career, having transitioned to a studio analyst role with MSG Networks following his release from the New Jersey Devils during training camp. He works Islanders broadcasts alongside host Shannon Hogan on the pregame, intermission, and postgame shows.

For a rookie analyst, Hickey, 33, is polished and especially adept at translating on-ice tactics into plain English. His biggest challenges at the moment are learning TV industry lingo and presenting the right body language to the camera. It took a minute, but he has managed to reframe the Isles in his brain.

“I remember saying ‘we’ early on, and somebody was in my ear going, ‘OK, watch the we. You don’t want to say we,'” Hickey, an Islanders player from 2012-2022, said Thursday during a phone interview. “And I know (that’s the proper approach) because I don’t play for the team. … It’s something you try to snap out of.”

After our conversation, the Isles lost 4-2 to the Edmonton Oilers, dropping their record to 22-16-2, points percentage to .575, and goal differential to plus-18. New York, which failed to make the postseason in 2021-22, is the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card team heading into Friday’s games.

“This team is where they deserve to be,” Hickey said, before adding that it’ll be a “fight until the very end” in the Metropolitan Division. The Isles are in fifth place with 46 points, four behind the third-seeded Rangers.

“It’s clear that the bedrock of the team is goaltending, and the team will go as far as the goalies will take them,” Hickey said of Vezina Trophy contender Ilya Sorokin (.925 save percentage) and backup Semyon Varlamov (.919). “Through 40 games, they’ve proven that’s not going to be an issue and that’s something you can rely on. And they’ve also proven they can score, too.”

The Isles are icing essentially the same roster as last season, but first-year bench boss Lane Lambert has installed a less conservative system than that of Barry Trotz, the coach behind trips to the conference finals in 2020 and 2021.

Backstopped by elite goaltending, Lambert’s Islanders are fine with exchanging more scoring chances and goals against for more chances and goals for. The results are promising: The Isles are up to 15th in the league from 23rd last year in goals per game – a 12th-ranked power play helps – while sitting eighth in goals against per game, the same as last year.

To Hickey, the starkest change from Trotz – who he played for – to Lambert, previously an assistant, can be seen in “the aggression in the offensive zone.”