700 900 comments in our morning Bits post, 400 600 of which are probably about this topic, this article is more for posterity and book keeping than probably anything else.
But, nevertheless: the Islanders assigned Joshua Ho-Sang to Bridgeport of the AHL this afternoon. The 21-year-old forward had been a healthy scratch in the team’s last two games after posting four assists in six contests.
Whether because of his electric skill set or his unorthodox personality, Ho-Sang has become a fan favorite beyond just the Islanders echo chamber. People want to see him play. They don’t want him scratched. They sure as hell don’t want him in Bridgeport, no offense to Brent Thompson and his guys up there.
But we’re not the coach, who makes line-up decisions. Ho-Sang was scratched for the season opener, then played six straight games. After a sloppy, turnover-filled game against the Rangers that the Islanders won in a shootout, Doug Weight cited a slew of issues that got Ho-Sang a seat in the press box for the following game at home against San Jose.
Ho-Sang, a healthy scratch on opening night in Columbus, might be the one to return to street clothes. “We talk about rolling lines over. The shifts were a little too long and, full disclosure, I didn’t like that he came out to the point, did a couple circles and it doesn’t look like it’s his guy [getting a scoring chance], but it is,” Weight said of Ho-Sang. “There’s habits you’ve got to break. It’s not about him not caring. He just loves to play and he got himself carried away a little bit.”
After that game, Weight continued to monitor the kid, but chose to sit him again for last night’s 5-3 win over Arizona.
Weight was in the stands watching Ho-Sang and the extras skate this AM. Looked like he was watching his own kid on the ice.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 21, 2017
So maybe this shouldn’t have been such a surprise. But after the Coyotes game, Weight was asked when Ho-Sang would be back in the line-up and said it could have been as soon as tomorrow night in Minnesota. You can see it in the video below at the 8:30 mark.
So between the time Stan Fischler asked that question and about noon today, the decision was made to send Ho-Sang to the AHL.
In his mail bag article today (that was probably hastily edited to add all of this stuff), Arthur Staple tried to answer a question from our own Bleuchz about what the coach could be thinking with this.
1) I think he’s not looking to make examples of the young guys and I think you need to believe Weight when he says that there’s no underlying issues with Ho-Sang, who was sent down to Bridgeport on Wednesday afternoon. This is a young man who most people find difficult to dislike – he has a lot of personality and it’s a different one than most young NHLers, but he’s not looking to get under people’s skin. When Ho-Sang and Weight say that Josh just loves playing hockey, they mean it – he really, really loves it and while he’s a confident person, he genuinely seems to enjoy the fact he gets to do this for a living.
Of course, Weight means it a little differently than Ho-Sang does. Weight wants the pure joy and creativity that comes from that love, but also the other parts that aren’t so lovable – skating hard without the puck, being in the right spots on the forecheck and backcheck and coming off the ice when your 40 seconds are up. So there’s still work to do there, but truly nothing about Ho-Sang being a distraction or a pain.
On Twitter, Alex Novet of Hockey Graphs tried to make rational sense out of it from a systems point of view, because he is a smart person and not a tired, frustrated old man like me. A sample:
3.He can be a neutral zone force, but system needs to work with that. Otherwise he does it all but has no support & loses the puck (see PP2)— Alex Novet (@AlexNovet) October 25, 2017
Staple’s gut feeling is that this is a temporary gig. At first, I hoped this was a week in which the Sound Tigers had three games, but it turns out it’s only Friday at home and Saturday on the road.
However long it is, Staple feels it’s up to Ho-Sang to make the best of it.
I can’t imagine it’s more than a few days. I couldn’t have necessarily pictured the move happening at all when camp began, but things are always changing. And the important piece for Ho-Sang is to not take this too hard. If he does, there’s trouble ahead. If he takes it in stride, plays well this weekend and comes back ready to grab a spot and not let go, then all is well.
I’d like to think that’s the case, but I can’t right now. We didn’t expect Ryan Pulock to be in Bridgeport for long last season. Then he spent the entire season there and is still fighting to crack the line-up today. Anthony Beauvillier was scratched earlier this season and is now back in, but the bottom of the roster - made up almost exclusively of veterans - is struggling with possession so far this year (Brock Nelson’s and Casey Cizikas’s okay scoring numbers not withstanding).
It’s hard to see anyone grabbing a spot when you don’t know where the open ones are, even if the glaring issues get fixed. Things might get even more complicated as time goes on.
Nothing official from #Isles yet, but believe Quine is headed to BPT on a conditioning assignment. Which means he's on active roster.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) October 25, 2017
When Ho-Sang spent time in Bridgeport last season, beatwriter Michael Fornabaio wrote that he could have been the team’s MVP. That’s after he found himself healthy scratched by Thompson, too. That turnaround is great and all, but we all want to see a little more than that from the 2014 first round pick.
The whole thing is frustrating and disappointing, despite the fact that Islanders have won three straight games. I hope Ho-Sang is taking this better than I am.
UPDATE: Arthur Staple has quotes from Weight and more info in his article about Ho-Sang’s assignment. In his assessment of their discussion, Weight says the player took the move as a positive:
“He did or he’s a damn good actor,” Weight said. “We’ve had great talks. It’s never easy, whether it’s a conversation about being scratched or something like this. It was lengthy, good, healthy and from what I take from it, he couldn’t be more excited to go down, prove to himself and the organization that this isn’t going to go on anymore, that we do need him and he’ll come back and help us here. I suspect the way he’s taken this he’ll be pushing to get back real quick. Nothing is negative about the relationship — people will read into it but there’s no failure in it.”
He can make us better and there’s some areas he wants to address,” Weight said. “He wants to find out how to be better at those things. We’re all in a good place with this relationship, it’s on the right path.
Give Weight credit for one thing: the man knows that #IslesTwitter is (or maybe just the hometown fans are) watching and ready to strike at a moments notice. He REALLY wants us to know that everybody’s cool, man. It’s all good. It’s just, ya know, we gotta chill for a while. Aight?
Additionally, Staple expands on the above tweet, saying that sending Alan Quine on a conditioning assignment to Bridgeport required activating him from the injured reserve list. With 23 players already on the active roster, that meant either Quine needed to be placed on waivers or someone had to go. And with no Eric Boulton to “get hurt” in practice and go on the IR, they chose someone without the need for waivers to get sent down.
Does any of this make anyone feel any better? Maybe, maybe not. In any event, let’s hope Josh is back with the Islanders soon. Let’s also hope that Alan Quine doesn’t become J-F Berube 2018, avoiding waivers like Aquaman avoids the desert.