The New York Islanders have tried everything to get their offense going except giving Joshua Ho-Sang an extended chance in the lineup. It’s time for him to get one.
For all intents and purposes, the New York Islanders have been a good team so far in the 2018-19 season. Sure, they’re probably relying a bit too heavily on Valtteri Filppula having the most hilarious shooting percentage of all-time (28 percent!). But if you told Islanders fans they’d be sitting in third place in the Metropolitan Division in December, they’d happily take it. And that’s precisely where they are.
This isn’t to say the Islanders aren’t a flawed team. They are quite flawed. The Islanders have the ninth-highest team shooting percentage at 10.5 percent. But every team above them is either extremely skilled (Washington Capitals, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Columbus Blue Jackets, Colorado Avalanche, and Winnipeg Jets) or are the Ottawa Senators. The Islanders’ shooting percentage has already begun to regress and it will most likely continue to do so.
However, their biggest flaw has been their power play. Last season, it was an outstanding strength of theirs. This season, the Islanders power play has literally cost them games. The Islanders have tried numerous solutions and all of them have failed. Joshua Ho-Sang is a guy who the Islanders should turn to and could help alleviate some of these issues.
Say what you want about Ho-Sang’s turnovers or questionable defensive decisions. The guy drives offense and the Islanders generate more scoring chances when he’s on the ice. Guess what the Islanders need more of? Scoring chances.
And, despite his defensive woes, the Islanders have always had better possession numbers with Ho-Sang on the ice. Corsi isn’t everything, but the Isles could certainly use someone who can drive offense like Ho-Sang. It’s better to take a chance on him than let someone who stifles offense continue to play.
The Islanders also tend to struggle at zone entries. They struggle to get the puck cleanly into the offensive zone with possession of the puck. Ho-Sang is in the 95th percentile as far as zone entries are concerned, so he’d be a huge help there.
Ho-Sang’s passing is probably his best ability. Specifically, his shot assists numbers are off the charts. And I mean that in the best way possible – he’s in the 95th percentile there as well. Ho-Sang sets up great chances for his teammates, which could help the Islanders maintain a relatively high shooting percentage.
In the AHL this season, he’s had his best run as a professional player. In 26 games, he has 22 points, including an eye-popping 20 assists. Ho-Sang’s game finally has that confidence he’s been lacking. The Islanders called him up recently and made him a healthy scratch against the Pittsburgh Penguins. But considering how much the Islanders offense needs help and what Ho-Sang can bring to the table, it makes no sense to keep him in the press box.
The Islanders power-play desperately needs help. It needs playmakers who can set up good chances. Ho-Sang has developed his passing to the point where he’s a pretty lethal weapon with a man advantage. In fact, his nine power play assists so far in the AHL this season are tied for seventh.
It’s up to head coach Barry Trotz to find a way to work Ho-Sang into the lineup. He’s obviously not an ideal fourth line forward, or at least not by the way Trotz utilizes his fourth line. Ho-Sang will need to be sheltered with offensive zone starts. But unlike most players who are sheltered with offensive zone starts, he has the ability to make the most of those sheltered minutes.
The Islanders have tried just about every other option to get their power play and offense going. So what do they have to lose by subscribing to Occam’s Razor and give a playmaking forward like Ho-Sang an extended chance in the lineup?