Josh Ho-Sang blasts Islanders, and he’s right

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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.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced Wednesday.

The Knights termed the procedure Tuesday as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested early Wednesday morning in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released later Wednesday on $500 bond.

The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

“Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

“Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

“Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

“Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

“We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

“They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”

Canucks’ Ilya Mikheyev to have season-ending knee surgery

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VANCOUVER, British Columbia — Vancouver Canucks right wing Ilya Mikheyev is set to have season-ending surgery on his left knee.

Canucks general manager Patrik Allvin said Friday night the 28-year-old Russian forward tore the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee in the team’s first preseason game Sept. 25. Mikheyev will undergo surgery next week and is expected to be ready for training camp in the fall.

Mikheyev was originally listed as week-to-week with the injury and played 45 regular-season games, finishing with 13 goals and 15 assists. He scored in his final appearance Friday night, a 5-2 home victory over Columbus.

Mikheyev signed a four-year, $19 million contract as a free agent last summer.