New York Islanders fans have enough issues with their team to fill two billboards, but one of the more puzzling situations revolves around how they’ve mishandled Josh Ho-Sang.
While it must have been puzzling to see the skilled scorer fail to score a point in six straight games before his AHL demotion, Ho-Sang showed serious flashes of brilliance with the Isles this season. It’s tough to shake the mental image of Ho-Sang supplementing a skyrocketing Mathew Barzal and an always-dangerous John Tavares, yet the Islanders instead focused on Ho-Sang’s mistakes.
Ho-Sang couldn’t help but vent about the way this season shook out to The Athletic’s Arthur Staple (sub required).
“I love those guys, I want to make that clear,” Ho-Sang said of his former Islanders teammates. “I know they’re working hard. But I got sent down for defense and what are they in goals against in the NHL? I only played (22) games up there this year. I don’t think it’s my fault. They really painted it like it was my fault at the beginning of the year and I didn’t like that.”
Ho-Sang makes a fantastic point, adding that he was frustrated “especially in terms of the rope that other people were given.”
Plenty of blame to go around in Brooklyn
The Islanders’ defense has been in shambles for some time, prompting PHT to take deeper looks in February and December. Whether you prefer your stats fancier (easily the NHL’s worst at high-danger chances allowed, via Natural Stat Trick) or standard-issue (a league-worst 35.7 shots allowed per game), this team has been disastrous in its own end.
While Ho-Sang admits he has work to do to become a better all-around player, the Islanders haven’t exactly flourished defensively with him roughing it in the AHL.
After all, Ho-Sang wasn’t on the roster when Washington Capitals forward Andre Burakovsky uttered some comically candid remarks about all the room he enjoyed against the Isles on March 15, via the Washington Post’s Isabelle Khurshudyan:
“The Islanders just gave us a lot of room to skate from the beginning,” Burakovsky said. “I mean, my first three shifts, I was just skating around and around and around with the puck and making plays. We didn’t really expect that out of them.”
Back in January, Islanders coach Doug Weight described a lack of Ho-Sang call-up amid injuries a “crying shame” while the organization continuously speaks of “accountability” when explaining why the skilled forward hasn’t received another chance. Weight provided some interesting phrasing to Staple (then with Newsday) back in January:
“Whether our view of the world is wrong is something we can argue later,” Weight said. “But the fact is, we need to be able to look at how some guys are laying it on the line [in Bridgeport] and he’s a healthy scratch. So to go from that to the first lineup here, where is he learning from that? That’s a big, big part of this.”
A warped view
This summer seems like a logical time to argue about whether the Islanders’ “view of the world is wrong.”
You wonder if there’s some confirmation bias happening with Ho-Sang, and it’s likely something that happens frequently in many organizations regarding talented players with imperfect games. While limited veteran players might be “beyond lessons,” teams feel like they need to harp on mistakes to send a message to Ho-Sang and other developing players.
While it’s understandable that a team would want to get the most out of talent, you also wonder if there’s a point where you’re doing more harm than good.
Whether he stays or goes …
Most directly, it’s tough to imagine the Islanders being worse this season with Ho-Sang than they were without him. Staple notes that the Islanders were 17-12-3 when Ho-Sang was demoted and have suffered a 15-23-7 record since that demotion.
Even if the Islanders want to eventually part ways with the 22-year-old, they’re going about it in a way that does them little favors. After all, how many GMs are going to pay full value in trading for a player you’ve buried in the AHL?
You can look at the mismanagement of Ho-Sang as a microcosm of the Islanders’ many flaws as an organization, or merely view it in a vacuum as a single case of shaky development. Either way, it’s difficult to argue that they’re pushing the right buttons here, and it’s also tough to deny that Ho-Sang has a point about the way he’s been treated.