How the Islanders can be the best version of themselves

Welcome to a weekly feature where we have some fun with underlying numbers. We highlight a couple of trends, then dig beneath the surface to get a better sense of what these trends ultimately mean, what’s causing them and how likely it is that they’ll continue. Think of these as bite-sized deep dives.

This week, we’re going to focus on how the Islanders could improve their lineup, and what the Western Conference elite have to play for in the final weeks of the regular season. Data referenced in this piece is courtesy of Natural Stat Trick, and is up to date through the conclusion of Wednesday night’s games.

Stranded on an Island

There’s something weird brewing on the Island right now. A team playing it safe with their young players and giving minutes to their veterans ahead of them instead is nothing new in the NHL, but watching the Islanders stubbornly keep Josh Ho-Sang and Michael Dal Colle buried in the AHL until recently, despite a growing mountain of evidence that they shouldn’t be there, gets stranger with each passing day.

There’s so many layers to this story, none of which makes the decision-making process any more defensible from the team’s perspective. Part of what makes it so confounding is who the Islanders are currently giving regular minutes to instead of Dal Colle and Ho-Sang. The combination of Leo Komarov and Valtteri Filppula has been absolutely caved in this season when playing together — except for when they’ve played with one of Dal Colle or Ho-Sang:

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