Garth Snow

Joshua Ho-Sang AHL
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Islanders on Ho-Sang returning to organization: ‘It’s in his hands’

The New York Islanders confirmed what Joshua Ho-Sang announced via, um, Eminem: Ho-Sang is back with the organization.

Granted, a return to the Islanders isn’t guaranteed, if Ho-Sang manages it at all in 2019-20. Instead, Ho-Sang is reporting to the Islanders’ lowly AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

Regardless, Ho-Sang announced his hockey return with style:

View this post on Instagram

Time to play hockey 🙊

A post shared by josh ho-sang (@66jhosang) on

 

Mutual benefits

While the Islanders boast a mighty 22-7-2 record, Bridgeport ranks as one of the worst teams in the AHL and its lowest-scoring squad.

This sets up a situation where all parties could gain if things go well, as The Athletic’s Arthur Staples explains (sub required). Bridgeport could use the scoring and the parent club might benefit from some injury insulation. Meanwhile, Ho-Sang must prove himself to revive his professional hockey career.

“It’s in his hands”

The Islanders make it sound like the world is Ho-Sang’s oyster, although some might read a bit of a … parental tone into GM Lou Lamoriello’s remarks.

“He just has to go there and do what he has to do as a player and conform to the environment and they’ll be no issues,” Lamoriello said Tuesday, via the team website.

“He was the last cut going down to the American league, so he did have a good training camp. Where he’s at right now physically and mentally, we’ll just have to wait and see. But from our end of it, he’ll have a clean slate. It’s in his hands.”

Barry Trotz implies that it might take some time before Ho-Sang changes minds.

“Right now, he’s got to get back and get back playing before he’s even an option for me,” Trotz said.

So, it’s good that the Islanders are saying the right things. Don’t blame Ho-Sang and others for remaining frustrated, though.

The case for Ho-Sang as an NHL player

Certainly, from here, it’s maddening to see the 23-year-old fail to make a full-time NHL impact.

Seemingly from the moment he was drafted 28th overall by the Islanders in 2014, Ho-Sang became a polarizing presence. While Ho-Sang made missteps along the way, particularly being late to training camp in 2015, he’s argued for his presence with blinding skill.

For quite some time, the answer seemed to be that maybe Ho-Sang should simply be playing for a different NHL team. Instead, the situation’s dragged on and on. Honestly, you could argue we’ve been waiting for some closure since Garth Snow was Islanders GM.

The rest of the NHL absorbs some of the blame, mind you. Ho-Sang passing through waivers right before the season began still leaves me scratching my head, honestly.

No, Ho-Sang isn’t perfect, but it’s hard to believe that he isn’t good enough to land a spot as one of 12 starting forwards on one of the NHL’s 31 teams.

Just about every objective sign, including this heat map from Hockey Viz, argues that Ho-Sang could benefit plenty of teams. Frankly, his defensive flaws might also be exaggerated:

Ho-Sang ultimately asked for a trade after barely failing to make the team out of training camp. The Islanders failed to “consummate” a trade, and Ho-Sang left the Islanders organization altogether since Oct. 1 … until now.

The Sound Tigers play their next game on Wednesday, but it’s unclear if Ho-Sang will be ready. Eventually, we’ll see if Ho-Sang runs with this opportunity, though — assuming the slate is truly clean.

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.

Isles’ ownership ‘evaluating all aspects’ as Snow, Weight stick around, for now

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EAST MEADOW, N.Y. — Underneath the staircase, just outside the New York Islanders practice facility locker room sat a blue and orange team bag with “SNOW” printed on the ID tag. The bag may have been packed but the general manager who it belongs to is apparently not going anywhere.

On Monday, as the Islanders finished up the second day of exit interviews before beginning their off-season, owner Jon Ledecky sat next to GM Garth Snow and head coach Doug Weight and read from a prepared statement that did not definitively say one way or the other that changes were coming in those positions.

“We are committed to long-term success. Any decisions we make are for the long-term success of our hockey club. We win and lose together as an organization, not as individuals,” said Ledecky. “Missing the playoffs is beyond disappointing. At the same time, we believe we have a strong core of players that will be the basis for our success on the ice. Obviously our definition of long-term success is competing every year for the Stanley Cup and eventually winning a fifth ring. 

“Our season has just ended and as an organization we will be evaluating all aspects of our hockey operations and then we will make decisions based on what is best for the future of our club. I’m not here today to talk about any specific individuals including players coaches and the general manager.

“We believe that it is essential to our success to have a thoughtful evaluation to look at the past and more importantly assess the future of our team on and off the ice.

“As for the past season, as owners, we have failed. We sincerely apologize to our fans. We want to express that our ownership group is totally committed to winning and providing the resources to do just that.”

[NBC’s Stanley Cup Playoff Hub]

At that point, Ledecky, who spent several nights during the season greeting fans inside Barclays Center and on the Long Island Rail Road, got up and stood in the back of the room and did not take questions as Snow and Weight tried to explain away another disappointing year.

A second straight season without the playoffs, which was derailed by a second half skid and an inability to keep the puck out of their own net, now transitions to a defining summer for the franchise. Captain John Tavares can enter the unrestricted free agent market on July 1, and as of Monday, he hadn’t begun to think about what direction his future will take him.

“This is where I hope to be. I’ve always stated that,” Tavares said. “But obviously I have some time to think about my situation and go from there. I’ve loved it here and people have really embraced me, the team and organization have been first class since I’ve gotten here. Obviously, some great talent and some great things ahead. Definitely a lot of positives and I’ll have to take some time and figure out what I want to do and go from there.”

Tavares has consistently expressed his love for the organization and the Long Island area, but after nine years and three playoff appearances, the lure of moving on to an annual contender remains an option. 

The loyalty factor could come into play, as well. Aside from his affection for the team and area, Snow drafted Tavares first overall in 2009 and the captain spent his first two years in the NHL living with Weight and his family. It’s the only organization he’s ever known and it’s clear both sides have told one another about how much they desire to bring a championship back to Long Island.

“I think they know how bad I want to win and I think I know how bad they want to win,” Tavares said. “I don’t think they’re here not trying to win and trying to do the best they can on a daily basis and give it everything they have, and try to get the most out of our group and continue to have success and have an opportunity on a yearly basis to play for the Stanley Cup. I don’t think that’s any question, their commitment to having a winning team.”

During 16 minutes he and Weight spoke, Snow said he wants to see Tavares “retire as an Islander” five times. There were the usual quotes of wanting to be better next season and putting in effort to not be in the same situation a year from now, but the confidence the fan base has in the leadership of the team has diminished over the last few years, which resulted in billboards being put up in Brooklyn calling for the GMs dismissal in February.

It seems pretty clear that Snow and Weight will be back next season. What more do Ledecky and co-owner Scott Malkin need to evaluate after before deciding to officially retain the pair? The draft and free agency periods are coming up and there’s the Tavares contract situation to sort out. Someone has to be in charge of those things and that’s been Snow’s job for the last 12 years. If you were going to change it, wouldn’t it have happened already?

It’s a crucial off-season for the franchise and with relatively new ownership and a new arena coming, the winning days need to return quickly for the franchise. And for Snow, the work is already underway.

“We’ll go through the process of reviewing the entire organization,” said Snow. “The first part, the exit meeting with the players is step one. Obviously, the draft is the end of June and those meeting will start picking up here in a few weeks to see where we sit with the lottery. It starts again [Tuesday] morning for Doug and myself and that review process.”

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

#MelnykOut billboards go up in Ottawa as Senators fans urge change

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The billboards in Brooklyn want the general manager out. The billboards in Ottawa, which went up Monday morning, are calling for the owner to sell.

As the dissatisfaction with the state of the franchise continues to intensify, Ottawa Senators fans have come together to purchase four billboards calling for Eugene Melnyk to get “out.”

The campaign was started by Spencer Callaghan, who raised $5,000 in the first 24 hours after the GoFundMe page was opened.

“What I want to accomplish mainly is for people to just start asking questions, like why is this organization in such turmoil,” Callaghan told CTV News in February. “It’s at the point where if we need a change of ownership to get this organization back on track then that’s what we need to push for.”

According to the Ottawa Citizen, the four billboards will be up for two weeks and a fifth will go up for one week on April 2.

It’s been a strange year in Senators land. They went from being within a goal of reaching the Stanley Cup Final to having their owner threaten to move the team to then having him walk that back a few months later to now looking at the NHL draft lottery and coming to the realization that captain Erik Karlsson may be dealt in the off-season.

So you can see why they might be ready for some change.

Meanwhile, it will be a very interesting off-season for the New York Islanders. They are going to miss the playoffs for a second straight season and have to worry about whether John Tavares will decide to re-sign with the organization. Fans upset with GM Garth Snow’s lack of progress with the franchise put up their own billboards in February calling for his removal. Head coach Doug Weight doesn’t seem to have any answers, so will ownership decide to clean house and start fresh as the franchise begins to split games between Barclays Center and a renovated Nassau Coliseum next season as they wait for their new home to be built near Belmont Park?

If the campaigns in Ottawa and New York succeed by reaching their ultimate goals, how much of an inspiration will they be for other fanbases who are sick and tired of the lack of direction with their teams?

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

‘Snow Must Go:’ Islanders fans raise money to protest GM

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Be sure to visit NBCOlympics.com and NBC Olympic Talk for full hockey coverage from PyeongChang.

OK, look: it’s always a little awkward to note when a group of people are calling for someone’s head. It’s not that far from “Frankenstein” territory.

That said, if there was ever a time when fans should really make their voices heard, this would be it.

Around the NHL, teams are sending mixed messages: they’re acknowledging a need to rebuild, while at the same time handing polarizing GMs contract extensions. With that in mind, it makes it easier to wrap your head around the New York Islanders civil revolt regarding their perceived need to get rid of longstanding GM Garth Snow.

It already began last night, as fans chanted “Snow Must Go” after the Islanders dropped an embarrassing 4-1 loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets, showing porous defense once again by giving up 51 shots on goal.

Rather than showing up with paper bags on their head (possibly with increasingly creative faces), an enterprising group of Islanders fans decided to buy a strategically placed billboard to voice their displeasure about Garth Snow. To do so, they put together a Go Fund Me account, and that drive basically only took about an hour to hit the $2,725 goal.

Here’s what the ad looks like:

Here’s part of the message:

It’s time to send a clear message to Islanders owners Jon Ledecky and Scott Malkin. Fans will no longer tolerate the culture of losing surrounding this franchise. Help us send a message and tell ownership that “SNOW MUST GO” on a poster board within a half mile of the Barclays Center.

Whether you believe that keeping Snow in place is the best way to retain John Tavares or that management needs to show more urgency with a playoff spot on the line, you have to give Isles fans credit for creativity here.

Considering the fact that Snow has been GM since 2006, it’s also difficult to deny that his fingerprints are all over the Isles’ issues at this point. Plenty of fans think there needs to be a change, and they’re going the extra mile (or 10’6″ x 22’99”) to express their beliefs.

Apparently such an effort worked out for New York Jets fans, too, and they feel like spiritual cousins to Islanders fans (and of course, in many cases people are fans of both teams).

Will they get their wish? We’ll need to wait and see. Either way, it’s tough to say that they don’t have a point.

Stick-tap Greg Wyshynski of ESPN

UPDATE:

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.

Isles to Ho-Sang: Cut the bull

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Sensory details and reactions continue to pour in regarding Joshua Ho-Sang’s debacle of a first (and only) day of Islanders training camp.

None of them depict the polarizing prospect in a particularly positive light.

The harshest words come from GM Garth Snow, whose comments via New York Newsday’s Arthur Staple have been sanitized for innocent hockey viewers:

“Enough with the bull[blank],” Snow said. “It’s time to grow up.”

Head coach Jack Capuano’s message was simple: this slip-up was “unacceptable.”

It also may not have been the 19-year-old’s only mishap with the Islanders, although precise infractions weren’t shared. Staple did unearth some specifics about yesterday’s tardiness situation and his punishment beyond being demoted prematurely, however:

Three hours? That can’t be right, can it?

Regardless, as Jason mentioned on Friday, incidents like these do little to dissuade critics from believing that his plummet down the 2014 NHL Draft was justified. Those people may believe that he’s just not worth the trouble.

He’s young enough that this story is far from over, though you have to wonder if the Islanders “chapter” is perilously close to its conclusion.