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He Can Make Us Better: How Josh Ho-Sang got sent to the minors and how he can get back to the Islanders

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An in-depth look at a shift gone very wrong.

New York Islanders v New York Rangers
Josh Ho-Sang posing for Bruce Bennett.
Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images

Here is a timeline of events surrounding the demotion of Islanders rookie forward Josh Ho-Sang:

Thursday, October 19

  • After blowing a two-goal, third-period lead, the Islanders earn a 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers in MSG. The home fans are very well-behaved on this night, clapping respectfully when the Islanders gift their team a point, like the docile and lame assortment of degenerates that they are.
  • Ho-Sang receives just one shift and one minute of ice time in the third period after pissing off his coach, Doug Weight, earlier in the game:

“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...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.”

I watched all 12 of Ho-Sang’s shifts from this game and found the one that Weight was referring to here. We are going to watch that shift in just a moment.

Saturday, October 21

  • Ho-Sang is scratched from the lineup in the Islanders’ 5-3 win over the Sharks. During this game, Josh Bailey accidentally scores a beautiful goal, prompting me to lose my shit.
  • Earlier in the day, team owner Jonathan Ledecky mingles with some lowly peasants on the LIRR. He tells them tall tales before vowing never to take public transportation, ever again.

Ledecky: Hey, Driver

Driver: Yes, I'm a driver whose name is Driver.

Ledecky: Taking the LIRR? That was a terrible idea. I vow never to do it again.

Driver: It was your idea, sir. You've actually never spoken to me before this conversation right now.

Ledecky: Talkative are we? Please roll up the divider thingy.

[Sound of divider thingy rolling up.]

Tuesday, October 24

  • Ho-Sang is again scratched from the lineup in the Islanders’ 5-3 win over the Coyotes. It’s his second straight game watching from the Barclays Center press box.
  • Keying the Isles’ win is captain John Tavares, who scores a hat trick on three tip-in goals. After his third goal, one fan throws his shoe on the ice as a sacrificial offering to the captain to get him to stay with the Islanders. In homage to Mike Milbury, Jonny takes the shoe and beats him with it.
  • After the game, Doug Weight gives a press conference, during which the following exchange with Yays-and-Boos star Stan Fischler takes place:

Stan Fischler: When does Ho-Sang come back in the lineup?

Doug Weight: I...I don’t know. Maybe Thursday.

Stan Fischler: What has to happen?

Doug Weight: I have to...put him in the lineup. [Pause.] I’m not afraid of putting Josh in. I think he, uhhh, I think he earned this time out of the lineup. Not in a bad way, not in a behavioral way. I think it’s important to his development. Every kid is developed a different way. Umm and uhhh I think it was really good for him to watch those two games and we’re gonna talk again tomorrow and we’ll figure it out. But I am completely confident in Mr. Ho-Sang in my lineup, but uhhh, I felt this was the best way to go.

  • So on the night of Tue., Oct. 24, Weight says that Ho-Sang could be in the lineup for the team's next game in Minnesota on Thu., Oct. 26.

Wednesday, October 25

“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.

“I don’t think we’re as good a team as we can be without Josh on the ice. He can make us better and there’s some areas he wants to address...he wants to find out how to be better at those things.”

  • So as we can see, on Oct. 25, Josh Ho-Sang becomes the first person in world history who "couldn't be more excited" about getting demoted.
  • Later in the day, Alan Quine is sent to Bridgeport on a conditioning stint. This move requires that Quine be activated from the IR and take up an NHL roster spot.

So that's the timeline.


Now let's take a look at the Rangers game.

Please note any times referenced herein represent the time remaining in (and not the time into) the period. Ho-Sang hops onto the ice for his 11th shift of the game with 3:35 remaining in the second period; he gets back to the bench at 2:14. There were no whistles in between so this was 1:21 of continuous play, which is an absurdly long shift.

Keep this in mind as you watch: Josh hadn't seen the ice since mid-way through the period, having already been benched by Weight after taking several long, minute-plus shifts, during which he passed up several opportunities to change. Here’s just one quick example from the first period.

So you can practically see the kid's frustration grow throughout the shift as one mistake compounds into another, seemingly the result of his trying desperately to make something happen. Let’s watch them and then laugh at him together.

I counted three clear mistakes Ho-Sang made on this shift.

MISTAKE 1: SHOOT THE PUCK

So first, that’s a good pass by de Haan. He exploits some sleepy Shattenkirk defense, thanks him for coming here, and hits Ho-Sang in stride.

Second, McDonagh plays Ho-Sang well, ultimately taking away the pass and impeding his shooting lane too. But Josh has gotta find a way to get this puck on net, even if it’s on a backhand attempt. We know he’s obviously a pass-first player, but I don’t think he’s passing up this shooting opportunity (and others like it) in search of a highlight-reel assist. I think he just lacks confidence in his shot, and in his ability to even get that shot off.

Third, Lee, being the third forward in the zone, and having just watched de Haan jump up into the play in front of him, should be covering for him back at the point. He doesn’t, and the Rangers get an odd-man rush because of it.

MISTAKE 2: OH YEAH, DEFENSE

Thankfully, the Rangers do not capitalize on Lee’s mistake here (like they do later off his brutal third-period turnover). As the play continues, we see the traitorous Michael Grabner move the puck back to Marc Staal at the left point.

This is where Ho-Sang commits the cardinal sin of leaving his own zone while the opposing team still has the puck. There is no other way to put it: this was inexcusable.

Ho-Sang needs to close out on Staal here and take the body. This wasn’t the first time he’s done this, either. Ho-Sang’s got a little bit of cherry-picker in him and he needs to suppress the urge when it arises.

By the way, I feel like there’s some subliminal messaging going on here. Do you see it too? Yes it’s very subtle but that’s messed up, right? Propoganda and the man and what have you. OK anyways, let’s continue on with this shift.

MISTAKE 3: NOT GOING OFF ON A CHANGE

After Ho-Sang goes for a stroll outside the zone, Shattenkirk shoots the puck wide and it wheels around the boards and out of the zone. Staal could easily have gotten called for interference or tripping against Ho-Sang but there was no call as the referee was looking the other way, which is totally cool, just try harder next time.

The puck slides through the neutral zone as Ho-Sang pursues it. His decision to stay on the ice here is inexplicable, considering the following:

  1. Ho-Sang has been out on the ice for nearly a minute already when he enters the neutral zone;
  2. The Islanders are clearly looking to change here. We see three forwards standing up, a few of them with a foot hanging over the boards, getting ready to hop onto the ice. I’d even venture to guess the coaches/players were verbally calling out to Ho-Sang to get off the ice at this moment; and
  3. This is the second period, when the bench is on the opposite side of the defensive zone and the long line change is in effect.

In the middle frame, it’s doubly important to get off the ice when you have an opportunity to do so and your 40 seconds are up. And most coaches do want to limit shifts to 40 seconds because that’s the point at which a player’s performance starts to decline. This 40-second marker is specifically cited by Arthur Staple in his latest Islanders mailbag on Ho-Sang so I’d have to assume it’s one he’s heard the coaching staff make reference to, or at the very least, it's a common standard he has no specific reason not to cite in relation to the team he covers.

Remember, Ho-Sang had already sat for nearly half a period before getting this shift. He already fucked up not shooting it when he had a clear chance to shoot. He already fucked up by flying the zone and not playing defense. He’s getting benched after this shift and he knows it. So he avoids the bench to milk every last fuckin drop out of this shift. Anyone who’s ever played knows that don’t-turn-your-head-towards-the-bench-as-you-skate-by move.

Watch here as Ho-Sang’s shift comes to an end and he heads to the bench. You can see Weight wasn’t happy with Ho-Sang. Yes I am sure that is Doug Weight (from the tie) making these angry hand gestures in Ho-Sang’s direction.

Doug Weight’s got good reason to be angry. He already benched Ho-Sang for staying out on the ice for too long earlier in the game. So for the kid to do it again (after floating out of the defensive zone the way he did) was just inexcusable. There is no more appropriate word to describe it.

I completely understand why Weight benched Ho-sang for what was basically the rest of the game. However, it should be noted that Weight dressed seven defensemen and eleven forwards for this game (rather than the traditional 6D/12F split). In so doing, Weight left himself far less leeway to take such disciplinary action against one of his forwards, since he was already short up front. Combined with his deciding to barely play his seventh defenseman, Ryan Pulock, in the second half of the game, he put himself, and his team, in a really tough spot. No doubt part of the learning process for the rookie head coach.

Here’s video of the shift tied together, in better quality than the animated GIFs.


Finally, let’s look at the decision to send Ho-Sang down to Bridgeport, taking the above timeline and Rangers game into consideration. The rationale behind the decision was for Josh to “get better at” certain things, presumably those things Weight cited from the Rangers game (like “playing defense” and “getting the hell off the ice”).

But if that was the case, why would they first sit Ho-Sang for two games as a healthy scratch, and then send him down? Why not just send him down right away? The Rangers game was on the 19th; the Sound Tigers had games on the 20th, 21st and 22nd. Ho-Sang could’ve played in at least two of these three games. Why wait until the 25th to send him down?

I can’t help but wonder: was Ho-Sang really sent down to “get better” at certain things that Doug Weight himself would probably be better suited at coaching him through? Or was he sent down merely to make room for Alan Quine?

If it’s the latter, then I’m not sure why Staple, in his aforementioned mailbag, says that he’d expect Ho-Sang to be back in a few days. If the team wasn’t willing to pass Quine through waivers to get him a conditioning stint, and preferred instead to send Ho-Sang down, then why would they be willing to put Quine on waivers in a few days to get Ho-Sang back up here?

So Why Open Old Wounds?

In order for Ho-Sang to get the call-up, the Islanders would have to put someone on waivers, be it Quine, Seidenberg, Chimera or Kulemin, all of whom reside at the bottom of the team’s CF% chart.

Ho-Sang has certainly made his fair share of mistakes, but this is a spot where a young NHL-caliber player with immense talent should be up in the NHL helping his team while working through his issues with the NHL head coach.

If the reason that’s not happening is the team is afraid of losing Quine on waivers, then that is stupid. If it’s to avoid putting one of the underperforming vets on waivers, that is stupid. This isn't a case of a player who’s struggling to keep up with the speed of the NHL game. He puts points up when he plays and creates offensive opportunities out of thin air.

Also, since Ho-Sang’s been gone, I’m pretty sure I’ve seen Brock Nelson’s face on a milk carton. It feels like we’re missing two players, not one. Brock’s got four goals in the six games he’s played with Ho-Sang and just one goal in the eight games he’s played without him.

Doug Weight said it himself: this team is better with Josh Ho-Sang in the lineup. There is absolutely no doubt about that. For the Islanders to willingly go into what has now been a handful of games with a lineup they’ve openly admitted to being sub-optimal, after missing the playoffs by one point last season (and having presumably learned of the value of every single game), well, that is almost incomprehensibly arrogant.

Josh Ho-Sang is an NHL rookie with dynamic ability. It’s time the team waive one of its lesser players and bring the kid back up here so it can field its best lineup, and not leave points on the table because of something within its control.

Bring the kid back up here so the team can put forth three dangerous scoring lines.

Bring the kid back up here and let the coach do some coaching.

Bring the kid back.

#FreeHoSang