The Islanders‘ offense has been an issue through the first five games of the young season. In three of their five games, they’ve scored one goal or less. They currently sit in 30th, of 31 teams in goals on the season with nine.
The sky isn’t falling in the sense that I think it’s time to hit the panic button and that this is going to be a dumpster fire of a season, but to be ignorant of this obvious issue wouldn’t be smart either.
Specifically, the third line is the one that I wanted to get into. Ross Johnston has played in all five of the Islanders games this year and is averaging 8:34 of ice time per night. He has one shot, and the same number of penalty minutes as hits with 18 in his time this year.
Kieffer Bellos, who was only averaging 8:47 of ice time with a couple of shots, sat in favor of Michael Dal Colle last night. Dal Colle gave the Islanders exactly what everyone figured he would.
In 10:49, he didn’t register a hit, shot, block, takeaway, or a giveaway. He existed on the ice for 10:49 at five on five, and that was that. The now 24-year-old, is what he is at this point, a fourth-liner playing over his head on line three.
Here’s the thing with Dal Colle, if the Islanders didn’t already have Ross Johnston, Matt Martin, or Cal Clutterbuck in the lineup I wouldn’t have an issue with him on line four. Like, in an alternate universe without those guys you could sell me on a Dal Colle – Cizikas – Timashov/Koivula fourth line for the Islanders.
But that’s not the case, we’re talking about MDC on line three, riding shotgun with Ross Johnston and JG Pageau. It’s not like Dal Colle is a PK specialist, for all his flaws I’d almost rather see Leo Komarov on the ice because he can give you something at least on the PK.
Anyway, when looking at a struggling offense with Ross Johnson and Michael Dal Colle on the third line I don’t know how Barry Trotz can run this back game after game and expect a different result.
In 18 of Dal Colle’s 53 games last year he didn’t register a shot on goal. In 25 of the 53, he had one hit or less. What does he do? For a struggling offense, I don’t think he’s the answer. His scoring chances for percentage was 43.47 (and 37.50 after one game this year). Only Ross Johnston and Tom Kuhnhackl were worse last season of qualifying forwards.
In nine games, albeit a small sample size, Oliver Wahlstrom had a 52.63 scoring chances for and a 56.65 expected goals for percentage. If you can’t trust an 11th overall pick going on three years since he was drafted, when can you?
With a struggling offense at five on five and an inconsistent power play, wouldn’t you want to give the player with the highest offensive ceiling the chance?
Here’s one of his scoring chances against Winnipeg from last year.
Playing with Mathew Barzal and Josh Bailey (hey, top-six linemates for a top-six prospect!) he goes right towards the net and gets an excellent chance in on goal. It didn’t go, but this is the offensive chances that we could see from Wahlstrom.
From the same game…when have we see Michael Dal Colle or Ross Johnston do this at the NHL level?
Taking a contested shot, and ringing it off the post as well, instead of playing for a pass? That sounds kind of nice right now doesn’t it, here’s an example of Wahlstrom doing that in his third ever NHL game:
But a scorer like that can’t possibly lay the body to make up the three hits a game Ross Johnston provides right? From the first few shifts of his NHL career:
But can he set up his linemates or is he just a shooting guy? Well, he can, unfortunately in the limited opportunities in the NHL he spent time with Cole Bardreau:
I’ve made my case. It probably won’t change, I’m sure we’ll be subjected to watching Michael Dal Colle and Ross Johnston play with JG Pageau but with the lack of offense put on display early this year, I think that would be a mistake with a player like this just sitting around waiting for his chance.