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New York Islanders

It’s Time: Free Josh Ho-Sang or Move On

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Josh Ho-Sang

Enough, already. The New York Islanders and GM Lou Lamoriello have made their point. It’s time to free Josh Ho-Sang. Play him in the NHL or let the young man pursue opportunities elsewhere.

#FreeJoshHoSang

Tuesday, the Islanders avoided arbitration with Ho-Sang and signed him to a $700,000 NHL contract, or $225,000 in the minors.

It’s been a long fall for the 2014 first-round pick (28th overall).

My hockey career has been as varied as it has been enjoyable. From a syndicated radio show in the friendly confines of the NHL’s largest fanbase to Pittsburgh, then to the minors, back to Pittsburgh, and eventually creating National Hockey Now.

After 20 years, I’ve seen almost every situation.

I’ve had dinner with players who were supposedly bad apples or struggling to adopt the NHL way. They are rarely the people reflected in the public portrayals. Usually, it’s a misunderstanding.

I’ve met young men being drafted and wanting nothing else for their life but to light the lamp in the greatest hockey league in the world.

After their big day, I’ve sat with those same players on long bus rides and in locker rooms. I’ve heard their frustration as organizations heap tough love with a shovel, usually because the player doesn’t adequately cover their own zone or don’t get their nose dirty enough.

Or doesn’t bear the tough love with a smile and a gee golly acceptance.

In his first 43 NHL games, Ho-Sang had six goals and 16 assists, which is .5 points per game. There are a lot of NHL players who cannot boast such totals. And Ho-Sang has more to give.

Despite his initial choice of numbers (No. 66), for which I will forever associate with mine and Ho-Sang’s childhood hockey hero, Mario Lemieux, I root for him to break the stranglehold the New York Islanders have placed upon his career.

Conform or else!

For some players, the answer is “or else,” not because they’re misanthropic or contrarian, but because they know they can help in other ways, and what is asked of them is as foreign as the Chinese alphabet.

Ahem, Phil Kessel. You may have heard from your Pittsburgh Penguins friends that Phil has two Stanley Cup rings?

Until Kessel and his coaches clashed, Kessel enjoyed a rebirth because someone appreciated him and let him be him. The situation eventually soured, because Kessel is a bit of a contrarian, but would either side trade those Cups?

Ho-Sang’s story is, unfortunately, not uncommon. I’ve sat at Denny’s on a Sunday morning after long bus trips and looked at players whose heart weighed 20 pounds because all they want is to play in the NHL, and they don’t truly understand why they’re banished to the minors.

They bounce to the minors, exiled from their dreams until they conform to the visions of an NHL coach or GM who demand something different than they’ve ever been.

It’s the equivalent of those snotty couples on HGTV who “love” the home they’re viewing until the wife invariably lists two dozen changes and hundreds of thousands of dollars of upgrades. You want to scream, “Don’t buy the house!”

He’s Back! Josh Ho-Sang Returns to Islanders on 1-Year Deal

But I can turn the channel, hopeful that I’ll never again be in such a situation.

The New York Islanders bought Josh Ho-Sang, full well knowing they were getting a skilled player with rough edges. Did they think they could miraculously make him someone else?

#FreeJoshHoSang

One player you may remember (but I won’t name), who later became a bit notorious, looked at me over his stack of eggs and pancakes in a tiny ECHL city, shook his head, and muttered a few expletives. You don’t need direct quotes to get the gist.

He bounced around the minors for a couple of years, finally got his shot in the NHL in his mid-20s, punched a few opponents hard enough to get a new contract, and performed well enough to stick around for a few years before cashing in across the pond.

But he never lost that bitterness. It changed his career because his drafting team wanted him to be someone else, and they felt they needed to send him a message.

Three other members of that team were also high-round picks. They too were sent to the minors to receive their tough love.

One soon after bolted to Russia. Another succumbed to personal demons and another exclaimed something similar to, “Take this job and shove it.”

That NHL team sure proved its point, didn’t it?

I’ve met Josh Ho-Sang and players like him. I gravitate towards them because I feel a kinship with fighting the establishment.

The National Hockey Now family, including this coverage outlet, is the birth of raging against an obtuse machine, which didn’t understand the changing world and the wide range of additional skills available to it.

Ho-Sang’s game is clearly changing and not for the better. Years of being told he must change have taken a toll. He’s no longer the strident kid who knew he could play in the NHL. He scored only two points (1g, 1a) in his most recent 10-game stint in 2018-19.

Last season, he was even banished from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers while Lamoriello allowed his camp to facilitate a trade. Eventually, Chris Lamoriello played peacemaker and Ho-Sang was loaned to San Antonio.

Wouldn’t you have a salty ‘tude if you were trapped by a team which neither likes nor releases you?

At 24-years-old, Ho-Sang is no longer a “prospect.” He had 13 points (4g, 9a) in just 22 games split between Bridgeport and San Antonio of the AHL last season.

Trust me, the NHL conformity standards are brutal. In hockey circles, it’s OK to break a player until they conform. It’s time for that to end.

The young man of color already has a harder road than most, just to get to the NHL. It doesn’t need to be any harder. The New York Islanders should finally decide. They can promote the best of Ho-Sang and let coach Barry Trotz work with the worst, or they can punish him for the worst and live without the best.

Either way, whether it’s NHL ice, or free agency, it’s time. For Josh Ho-Sang and for the New York Islanders. #FreeJoshHoSang

Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.
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Jason Morey

By all that is sacred, you take the cake. What in the world do you mean that the NHL, or any other business for that matter, has to just accept people being A-h@les?! There’s a standard that everyone should aspire to. If that means playing defense and not turning the puck over 5 times a night, and having a -2 rating even though you managed 3 pts, then you play defense and you stop crying like a baby. Grow up! Life is hard, so sorry your teachers coddled you and led you to believe that “everyone is a winner”.

FUJT

You do realize that lou set him free and not 1 team claimed him . jhs has 1 last chance to take advantage of it

[…] It’s Time: Free Josh Ho-Sang or Move On […]

New York Islanders

Rosner: Play of Jean-Gabriel Pageau Integral in Islanders Victory Over Devils

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Jean-Gabriel Pageau

The New York Islanders did not put their best skate forward in their 2-1 victory over the New Jersey Devils last night. Goaltender Semyon Varlamov was brilliant and Oliver Wahlstrom shined yet again.

But the play of a center Jean-Gabriel Pageau caught my attention.

Whether it was winning a defensive-zone faceoff, laying a hit, or scoring a big goal, Pageau seemed to always do something that positively impacted the game for the Islanders night in and night out. Pageau has been red-hot as of late and that trend continued on Tuesday.

The 28-year old forward finished the game with an assist, four shots on goal, four blocks, and one steal to cap off his impressive performance. Pageau helped the Islanders get on the board first when he helped spring Wahlstrom with a pass that led to the game’s first goal.

Unfortunately, Pageau’s outlet pass did not make the highlight reel. What also failed to make the cut was his positioning in his own zone. It allowed him to pick up a loose puck following a Nick Leddy mishandle before feeding his linemate with ease.

On that goal, Jean-Gabriel Pageau recorded his 100th career NHL assist, which came in career-game number 457. His ability to make simple plays such as that pass makes him the perfect linemate for Wahlstrom, who currently finds himself on a five-game point streak.

After the game, Wahlstrom was asked about the growing confidence he has displayed over the last couple of weeks. He attributed that boost to his teammates.

While he did not specifically mention his linemate, we all know how integral Pageau’s play has been to his growth at the NHL level.

“I’m kind of falling in love with the details of my game, the little details,” Wahlstrom said. “I feel like that’s helping. It’s bringing me more enjoyment to the game, and I’m thinking less about production and everything. I’m just focusing on the little details.”

The big takeaway is that Wahlstrom is thinking less. I attribute some of that to the ease that comes with playing alongside Pageau. When you can rely on a linemate to make those big plays to get you the puck or cover back on defense when you make a mistake, it allows you to focus on your game.

Wahlstrom does not have to worry about every little detail when he is on the ice with no. 44.

New York Islanders Proving Patience Works with Young Stars Wahlstrom, Dobson, Sorokin

Besides dishing pucks to his teammate, Jean-Gabriel Pageau had opportunities to score as well throughout the contest. All four of his shots on New Jersey netminder Aaron Dell came in-tight, with three of them being considered high danger scoring chances. But Dell answered the call with his glove each time.

The Ottawa native contributed to 54.57-percent of the Islanders scoring chances when he was on the ice according to Natural Stat Trick.

Even though he only won 47.6-percent of his draws tonight, Pageau was called upon to take nine defensive zone draws. While that percentage is not available, it shows how much his coach believes in him to come up with those big wins. And in a tight game, like we saw last night, key wins in the defensive zone are monumental to the result on the scoreboard. Pageau won 40-percent of his offensive draws, which matched his highest mark over his last eight games.

Jean-Gabriel Pageau is not just an offensive player by any means.

Many questions loomed following his arrival about his ability to fit into the defensive system head coach Barry Trotz had in place. However, Pageau’s style has fit perfectly into the system due to his awareness and positioning in his own zone.

New Jersey did not generate one high danger chance on Varlamov when Pageau’s skates were on the ice.

Being a penalty killer was a notable trait for Jean-Gabriel Pageau before joining the Islanders and that skill was on display last night in the win. It has been on display this whole season.  He helped the Islanders kill off three of the four Devil power plays, as he would have been out there for the fourth power-play opportunity had he not been the one serving the two minutes.

Pageau played 1:07 minutes on the penalty kill tonight.

To end the game, Pageau took the final faceoff at center ice after the Devils scored with 14 seconds remaining on the clock to make it a 2-1 game. Due to his awareness and hockey IQ, he pushed the puck forward to eliminate any chance of a puck coming into the Islanders’ zone.

It was a beautiful way for him to end a strong showing in New Jersey.

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New York Islanders

Islanders’ Special Teams Delivers Again in Win Over Devils

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Islanders and Devils

In what was an overall low-event hockey game, the New York Islanders’ gritted their way to a 2-1 win over the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday night at Prudential Center.

Goals — and shots — were both at a premium and the Islanders were up to the task even after New Jersey grabbed control in the second period.

While the Islanders’ power-play thrived in February and now has them 12th overall in the league (24.6 percent success rate), it was the penalty killers that staved off the Devils barrage in the middle period.

It was subsequent minors to Ryan Pulock and Cal Clutterbuck that put the Islanders in a precarious 5-on-3 situation in a then-scoreless game. Just off those two penalties New Jersey generated six shots on net, all saved by netminder Semyon Varlamov. But it was Varlamov who took a rare penalty with a tripping halfway through the period and put the Islanders a man short for two minutes.

In that stretch, Varlamov didn’t have to do much work, making one save on Damon Severson from the right circle before the penalty expired.

Even with all of the time on the penalty kill, the Islanders limited the number of Grade-A chances from New Jersey during those sequences. In fact, New Jersey did not register a single high danger chance for at all through the first two periods of the game and only could muster one entirely over 60 minutes.

“Oh it’s huge,” Nick Leddy said of the penalty killing unit. “[The PK] have been great all year. I try and do my best that I can when I get in, but they’ve been a huge staple for us all year and it creates momentum — I believe — for us and takes a little bit of momentum away from the power play.”

Islanders-Devils heat map

As you can see from the heat map from Natural Stat Trick, the Islanders did a good job protecting the net and crease areas and largely contained New Jersey to the perimeter. Even despite the total Corsi disadvantage, the Islanders held a 7-1 edge in high danger chances. Thanks to all the power plays and total chances, the Devils had an astronomical 88.09 expected goals percentage. But thanks to a few key saves by Varlamov and a general lack of wide-open looks, the Islanders penalty kill remained intact.

“How you manage their best, it might be for half a period, it might be five minutes, it might be a couple of shifts, if you don’t manage them very well you probably give up too much,” Barry Trotz said. “Then you’re chasing the game a little bit. We’re learning to manage our not-so-good moments and we’re taking advantage of our good moments.”

It was much of the same on New Jersey’s last power-play try in the third, which actually resulted in the Islanders getting the only shot on goal during Jean-Gabriel Pageau’s tripping minor.

For a team that’s not going to generally get into a track meet, the Islanders bread-and-butter game comes down to good positional play and being opportunistic on special teams. Since they’ve found a groove this year, that’s been the tried and true formula. After Tuesday’s night’s near shutout, the Islanders rank eighth in the NHL in PK percentage (82.8) and seventh in PK net (86.2 percent)

It was two power-play goals that lifted the Islanders to a win Sunday against the Pittsburgh Penguins, but it was the other side of the coin that helped get them a win in New Jersey.

Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.
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New York Islanders

CAUSE FOR CONCERN? Islanders React to News Crosby Placed on COVID List

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Sidney Crosby vs New York Islanders

While the New York Islanders were holding their pregame media availability on Tuesday, word was spreading that Sidney Crosby would be placed on the NHL COVID protocol list.

The Pittsburgh Penguins also canceled their morning skate on Tuesday as part of the COVID-19 protocols. They are still scheduled to face the Philadelphia Flyers.

The Islanders hosted Pittsburgh on Sunday at the Nassau Coliseum, where they defeated their Steel City rival 2-0. Michael Dal Colle was the only Islanders player made available to the media prior to their game with New Jersey on Tuesday and had been unaware of the developments prior to stepping to the podium.

“That’s news to me. I wasn’t aware of that,” Dal Colle said when asked by a reporter for a reaction to the news. “Obviously with the COVID protocols, I don’t know if the league is going to step in or something like that. We can only focus on what we’re doing here. We’re ready for a game tonight and it’s a big one.”

Being placed on the COVID protocol list does not mean that a player has tested positive and there are a variety of reasons why one would end up on the list.

The Islanders have managed to keep their team COVID free since the start of the season. Josh Bailey was briefly placed on the COVID protocol list last month after his son received a false-positive result.

The only direct impact that the virus has had on the team this season was in February when a pair of games against the Buffalo Sabres were postponed and rescheduled due to an outbreak on Buffalo.

Welcome to your new home for New York Islanders breaking news, analysis and opinion. Like us on Facebook, follow us on Twitter and don't forget to subscribe to NYHN+ for all of our members-only content from Christian Arnold and the National Hockey Now network.
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