Josh Ho-Sang

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:

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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.

Josh Ho-Sang asks Islanders for trade

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After not making the New York Islanders’ season-opening roster it was expected that forward Josh Ho-Sang was going to open the season in the AHL with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. So it was a bit of an eye-opener on Thursday when it was revealed by Bridgeport head coach Brent Thompson that Ho-Sang was not with the team for its first practice and that he was taking a couple of days to collect himself.

As it turns out, he is looking for a trade.

Islanders general manager Lou Lamoriello told Islanders beat writers on Thursday that Ho-Sang’s representation has asked for the team to trade him. He was placed on waivers on Monday but went unclaimed, clearing a path for him to report to the AHL.

At that point Lamoriello said (via Newsday) that he told Ho-Sang not report while the team explores its options.

If there is no trade to be made, Ho-Sang will at that point report to Bridgeport where he will be, in the words of Lamoriello (again, via Newsday’s Mike Rose and Andrew Gross) a “recallable player.”

[Related: Islanders continue to do things their way — sometimes boldly]

The 23-year-old Ho-Sang has had a rocky start to his career with the Islanders (and especially with the previous front office led by Garth Snow) but has at times flashed the talent that made him a highly touted first-round pick back in 2014. In 53 NHL games he has seven goals and 24 total points. Those are not bad numbers at all (it projects to 40 points over 82 games), especially given the role he has been asked to play when he has been at the NHL level. 

By all accounts he had a very strong training camp for the Islanders. He was one of the last players cut before the start of the season.

One way or another his time with the Islanders seems to be coming to a close, and it always seemed that this was going to be one more make-or-break season for him and the organization. Given his talent, cheap cap hit, and likely low cost to acquire him there should be some interest in him around the league. It would make a ton of sense for a rebuilding team that is short on talent (like Ottawa, Edmonton, Los Angeles, Anaheim as just a couple of examples) to take a chance on a low-risk, potentially high-reward player. If it does not work, it probably does not cost you much. If it does, you are coming out as a big winner.

MORE:
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Islanders continue to do things their way — sometimes boldly

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As much as the New York Islanders’ mantra was “We above me,” Lou Lamoriello’s front office continues to send a specific message: “My way or the highway.”

The demotion of Josh Ho-Sang cements such a thought process, but it’s a motto that reverberates through decisions both big and small.

One could understand why the 2018-19 season would leave Lamoriello, head coach Barry Trotz, and other Islanders people — including fans — feeling almost beyond criticism. After all, even the most optimistic onlookers didn’t see 103-point season and sweep of the Pittsburgh Penguins coming.

It makes their approach to 2019-20 even more fascinating, which is saying something because it was already interesting to see if Trotz & Co. could work their magic for another year.

In the case of Ho-Sang, it’s a bit confounding to think that he wouldn’t offer more to the Islanders than, say, Tom Kuhnhackl or Ross Johnston. Then again, it’s stunning that the winger-starved Edmonton Oilers didn’t claim Ho-Sang off of waivers, not to mention plenty of other teams who could use a burst of creativity, and maybe underrated all-around play.

The past few days indicate that the Islanders aren’t really outliers when it comes to Ho-Sang, but demoting the 23-year-old in a hockey version of “Groundhog Day” is far from the boldest decision this front office made.

Instead, we’ll all be watching closely to see how the Islanders fare in net.

In 2018-19, Robin Lehner authored one of the NHL’s most stunning turnarounds, going from a Sabres castoff with personal issues to a Vezina Trophy finalist, winning the Masterton Trophy and sharing the William Jennings with Thomas Greiss, a goalie who saw an even more dramatic improvement in stats under Trotz.

You’d think that the Islanders would want to bring back the duo that combined for the best save percentage in the entire NHL, but the Islanders are instead betting big on their view of the league, the goalies involved, and above all else, themselves.

In a process that remains a little bewildering, the Islanders let Lehner walk to the Blackhawks, who signed him to a fairly low-risk deal of one year, $5 million. Instead of seeing if the 28-year-old could come close to replicating last year’s breakthrough, the Islanders are betting that Mitch Korn and Piero Greco can resuscitate Semyon Varlamov in the same way they breathed life into Lehner’s career.

[PHT PREDICTIONS: EASTERN CONFERENCE / WESTERN CONFERENCE / STANLEY CUP]

On paper, it’s almost as brave as picking the Islanders to make the playoffs last season.

Varlamov is 31, and not a penny cheaper than the younger Lehner. While both register a $5M cap hit, Varlamov’s runs through 2022-23.

While Varlamov’s enjoyed some nice peaks during his career, things have been dicey recently, for the most part. His .909 save percentage from 2018-19 left a lot to be desired, and while he managed a strong .920 in 2017-18, Varlamov’s .898 save percentage from 2016-17 was especially rotten.

It’s popular to say that “goalies are voodoo,” as the position is mystifyingly difficult to predict. Even by those standards, the Islanders are making an audacious gamble that they’re right, while others are wrong. As much as anything else, the term they handed to Varlamov is what stands out as especially … courageous. Where they took a low-risk flier on Lehner before (and the Blackhawks are doing now), they’re not getting the escape hatch with Varlamov if his 2018-19 season was a sign of bad things to come.

And, again, there’s a theme in play that the Islanders’ experienced front office of Lamoriello and Trotz can get it done, and march to the beat of their old-fashioned drums.

Then again, maybe they’re starting to see things a bit differently?

Back in June, Shayna Goldman detailed NHL front offices (sub required), listing the Islanders as one of the only teams without a dedicated analytics staffer, but a recent update paints an interesting picture.

Lamoriello’s downplayed the benefits of such mindsets before, so this alteration makes for another thing to watch.

Expectations are higher for the Islanders heading into 2019-20, yet many of the same doubts linger, especially after the polarizing decision to replace Lehner with Varlamov. Whether those choices work out, fall apart, or fall somewhere in the middle, it should all be interesting to watch.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

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.

Ho-Sang, DeSmith, Sprong headline waiver wire

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Monday was a busy day on the NHL’s waiver wire as the league’s 31 teams work to fill out their opening night rosters and get salary cap compliant before Tuesday’s 5 p.m. ET deadline.

There were some notable names to hit the waiver wire, including New York Islanders forward Josh Ho-Sang, Pittsburgh Penguins goalie Casey DeSmith, Anaheim Ducks forward Daniel Sprong, and Washington Capitals defender Christian Djoos.

A lot of these players, even the bigger names, will ultimately clear waivers as teams do not want to add another contract to their roster without subtracting another one. Because of that, it opens the door for many of these players to be traded once — or if — they do clear.

Ho-Sang is probably the most notable player on the list simply because he still has so much potential and is such an intriguing talent. It has not worked for him in New York, but that does not mean it can’t or won’t someplace else.

The Penguins’ decision to put DeSmith on waivers means they are going to start the season with Tristan Jarry as the top backup to Matt Murray, a move that is largely (if not entirely) based on salary cap savings. DeSmith is starting a three-year contract that pays him over $1.5 million per season, while Jarry is still on his entry-level deal.

Sprong is a big talent but has yet to to take advantage of any of his opportunities in Pittsburgh or Anaheim, but he is young enough and skilled enough that you have to think someone else tries to see if they can help him reach his potential.

Here is the complete list:

Daniel Sprong, Anaheim Ducks
Sam Carrick, Anaheim Ducks
Peter Cehlarik, Boston Bruins
Casey Nelson, Buffalo Sabres
Curtis Lazar, Buffalo Sabres
Scott Wilson, Buffalo Sabres
Remi Elie, Buffalo Sabres
Alan Quine, Calgary Flames
Anton Forsberg, Carolina Hurricanes
Gustav Forsling, Carolina Hurricanes
Clark Bishop, Carolina Hurricanes
Carl Dahlstrom, Chicago Blackhawks
Marko Dano, Columbus Blue Jackets
Brandon Manning, Edmonton Oilers
Sam Gagner, Edmonton Oilers
J.T. Brown, Minnesota Wild
Steven Santini, Nashville Predators
Miikka Salomaki, Nashville Predators
Matt Tennyson, New Jersey Devils
Josh Ho-Sang, New York Islanders
Thomas Hickey, New York Islanders
Tanner Fritz, New York Islanders
Cristoval Nieves, New York Rangers
Casey DeSmith, Pittsburgh Penguins
Luke Schenn, Tampa Bay Lightning
Kevin Gravel, Toronto Maple Leafs
Garrett Wilson, Toronto Maple Leafs
Nicolas Petan, Toronto Maple Leafs
Kenneth Agostino, Toronto Maple Leafs
Nicolay Goldobin, Vancouver Canucks
Alex Biega, Vancouver Canucks
Sven Baertschi, Vancouver Canucks
Nelson Nogier, Winnipeg Jets
JC Lipon, Winnipeg Jets
Eric Comrie, Winnipeg Jets
Christian Djoos, Washington Capitals
Michael Sgarbossa, Washington Capitals
Liam O’Brien, Washington Capitals

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.

Previewing the 2019-20 New York Islanders

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(The 2019-20 NHL season is almost here so it’s time to look at all 31 teams. We’ll be breaking down strengths and weaknesses, whether teams are better or worse this season and more!)

For more 2019-20 PHT season previews, click here.

Better or worse: The answer to this question depends on how much you think they can repeat what they did a year ago. They are bringing back largely the same team, with the one notable exception being the swapping of Robin Lehner for Semyon Varlamov in goal. If Varlamov can step in and replace what Lehner did, they have a shot to be pretty good again. If he fails to do that, it could mean a significant step backwards. If they are better, it is hard to see them being significantly better. If they are worse, they probably won’t be much worse depending on what Varlamov does.

Strengths: The Islanders have one of the league’s best, most successful head coaches in Barry Trotz and that is always a bonus. The combination of his structured system and some great goaltending made the Islanders the toughest team to score against a year ago. They also have a franchise player in Mathew Barzal who is quickly becomimg an all-around force.

Weaknesses: It is the offense. The good news is they were able to bring back all of their key unrestricted free agent forwards, re-signing Anders Lee, Jordan Eberle, and Brock Nelson. But this was not a particularly dangerous team offensively a year ago and was one of the worst offensive teams to make the playoffs. Barzal should be more productive this season, but they are still going to have to win a lot of close, low-scoring games.

Coach Hot Seat Rating (1-10, 10 being red hot): You can never be too sure of what Lou Lamorieillo is thinking with his head coaches, but after the turnaround the Islanders had a year ago Trotz would seem to be as secure as any coach in the league. We will put him as a 1.5 out of 10. Normally for a coach in this position it would be a 1, but we are allowing the possibility of Lamoriello doing something bizarre just because … hey … it has happened with him and coaches before.

Three most fascinating players: Barzal, Devon Toews, Josh Ho-Sang

Barzal just because he seems destined to have a bounce back year offensively. His point production regressed in year two but he showed a lot of improvement in other areas and is becoming an outstanding all-around player. If he can get back to an 80-90 point player that would be a huge help to what was an otherwise dull offense a year ago.

Toews did not make his NHL debut until he turned 24 years old, so you could definitely call him a “late bloomer.” He made the most of that opportunity once he finally was able to show what he can do at the NHL level. His quite underlying numbers and ability to move the puck are an asset to the Islanders’ blue line and he could be on the verge of a nice breakout season.

Ho-Sang just because this seems to be the latest make-or-break year for him and the Islanders in what has been a career of make-or-break years. He has talent, the Islanders need difference-makers up front, and he has always produced reasonably well given the lack of minutes he gets when he plays for the Islanders. There is still a chance he can be a long-term part of this team.

Playoffs of Lottery: This is a tricky one because they could easily fit into either group. Some regression should be expected, they did not do much to their roster over the summer, and the goaltending is suddenly a bit of a question. While all of that was happening, a lot of non-playoff teams around them managed to get a lot better on paper. Give the strength of the division around them they seem to be a bubble team, but I am going to say they just barely fall on the wrong side of it due to the lack of offense and the team maybe not being as good at goal prevention as it was a year ago.

MORE:
• ProHockeyTalk’s 2019 NHL free agency tracker
• Your 2019-20 NHL on NBC TV schedule

Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.