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Islanders mailbag: Goalies, ownership, Josh Ho-Sang and more

Jaroslav Halak #41 of the New York Islanders

Jaroslav Halak #41 of the New York Islanders replaces Thomas Greiss #1 during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Barclays Center on Tuesday, Nov. 1, 2016 in Brooklyn, New York. Photo Credit: Jim McIsaac

Islanders beat reporter Arthur Staple took questions from Twitter followers this week ahead of the New Year.

Here are 10 answers for this week:

@flanoddo: Ledecky/Malkin have owned an NHL team before yet they seem perplexed on how to run the isles, what gives?

Staple:‏ Well, Jon Ledecky owned a piece of the Caps, Scott Malkin did not. And if I’d spent $400 million or so on something, I’d make sure I knew every way to approach the problems with owning that thing before I made a decision that could affect it for many, many years.

It’s easy to be impatient when it ain’t your dough. Coming in fairly cold as they did, without knowing many people on the hockey operations side around the league, you can’t fault them for doing as much work as they can before making any major moves.

I’m sure they thought the team would be playing at a higher level while they did their background work, but that didn’t work out the way they wanted. To say they’re incompetent or don’t care are huge assumptions based on zero information.

I can pretty safely say there will be some changes to the Islanders organization, most likely after this season. To what extent or exactly who’s coming or going – only the owners know that now.

‏@goislanders_hut: Do you think Josh Ho-Sang will ever play a game for the Islanders?

Staple:‏ I still do, despite the bumpy first pro year he’s had. I don’t think fans can know what’s at the heart of the healthy scratches but people who watch Bridgeport play regularly see a super-talented player that still does what he wants too much of the time – 31 shots on goal in 24 games isn’t the number you want to see from a truly elite playmaker and scorer.

The off-ice stuff is always looming in the background and, frankly, it’s hard to imagine it will go away until Ho-Sang has had a couple of uneventful years. Last year’s oversleeping incident was the last straw, not the first; fair or not, he didn’t begin this season with a clean slate.

But Ho-Sang did everything right, on and off the ice, in this year’s camp. That means he’s got the ability to play in the league and the Islanders want to see him there.

‏@lou_seda: If the isles win a few more games and inch closer to a wild card spot do you see a trade coming to improve the team?

Staple:‏ If there was a trade out there to be made, I bet Garth Snow would have pulled the trigger already. The lack of trades around the league has been pretty consistent this season, even with the occasional rumor popping up. So many teams are near the cap, so few want to give up on their good young players or surrender futures, it’s a logjam. Matt Duchene could certainly be had but the price would be enormous; I believe the Isles already investigated that one a few weeks ago and got some sticker shock at the cost.

Perhaps if the Isles win more and can legitimately contend for a wild-card spot, then Snow might be willing to gamble on an upgrade. But that’s six or seven wins away.

‏@tgrosso9: Could the Isles look to buyout Grabovski this summer? Still have Kulemin’s $ to cover Tavares’ raise year after

Staple:‏ Grabovski would have to be healthy to be bought out and he is not healthy now. The assumption after he wasn’t cleared in training camp is that he would never be cleared to return to play. He’s back on Long Island from what I understand, hoping to get back on the ice and start taking steps to play once again, but that’s a great unknown right now.

@knightvine: Cappy keeps saying whichever goalie gets hot plays. greiss has clearly outplayed halak but he wont give 1 the starting job why?

Staple:‏ The dynamic among the goaltenders is fairly apparent to those not in the Isles room – Greiss and Berube may be unhappy with the situation but they never show it and Halak is unhappy with the situation and shows it from time to time. Halak is far more temperamental than the other two, so I think there’s more leeway to give Halak a chance to seize the No. 1 job since he’s done it before and he’s the only one signed for next year.

Now, that said, I’m sure with this same front office making decisions this offseason, they’d love to have Greiss back and dump Halak’s last year at $4.5 million. But now the team needs wins, so they’ll keep trying whatever they can.

‏@jonnywax: Big if - but if team continues to win, who will sit for 53? Any rumors on the three goalie situation?

Staple:‏ Good question, one I honestly don’t think there’s an answer to yet. Cizikas won’t likely be back until after the five-day break next week and sometimes these things have a way of sorting themselves out with injuries or a dip in play. I wouldn’t speculate with two more games to come, but if Cizikas were ready today, my guess would be Shane Prince or Anthony Beauvillier would sit for a brief spell.

And the three goalies are still the three goalies. No movement there.

‏@RobGunther: What do hockey coaches actually do? Like, what does a superstar like JT need from a retired player on the bench?

Staple:‏ I admit I rolled my eyes a bit at this one, but Rob seems like he has a real question in there beneath the snide veneer. Coaches break down video to show to the players, they design plays and drills to mimic the style they want the team to play, they put out fires in the locker room, they motivate – though so, so much less than you think at the pro level -- and generally do quite a bit so that Tavares and all the other players can focus on just playing.

The assumption in this question is that a great player like Tavares can see the whole game at all times and deal with a goaltender, the defense, the power play, the penalty kill, the refs, communicate with the coach in the press box, cue up the video from that coach and show it between periods and then also play his responsibilities.

So, no – he can’t do that. No one can. Not even one or two coaches can do that before, during and after a game. That’s why there’s half a dozen of them on every team.

Some of them were never even players – can you imagine how insulting that is to a guy like Tavares?

‏‏@whendogsdream: Has Bailey ever mentioned his thoughts on being scapegoat? He’s having a good year yet still fans hate the guy. #StapeChat

Staple:‏ I think you can get a sense of what sort of person Josh Bailey is by watching warmups. Even if he gets booed by his own fans when his face is flashed on the big board, he’s still tossing pucks to kids – I doubt a player who paid attention to the criticism online would do that.

Some players are certainly more sensitive to that stuff than others and I can tell you that if something gets said on Twitter often enough, the guys will hear about it. But Bailey is a very even-keel sort and has always, even as a teenager, been able to block out the noise.

His Dad, Chris, on the other hand, is an excitable guy who is an avid hunter. So be warned if you talk too much trash about Josh and keep your ears peeled for a duck call outside your front door.

‏‏@nickybellantese: Should the isles ask 55 to waive his no move clause to protect more defensemen? Doubt Vegas would want his salary.

Staple:‏ That’s a possibility, but I’m unclear now on what waiving his no-move would mean for Boychuk after the expansion draft. If he waives it once and it’s restored immediately after, then it’s worth it. If it’s waived once and then gone, there’s no chance he’ll agree, and rightly so. My sense tells me once he waives it the protection is gone for good, so I doubt this scenario happens.

‏‏@Steve_Lafleur: Any chance Matt Barzal gets another trip to Brooklyn after the Juniors?

Staple:‏ He’s certainly playing like someone who deserves another crack at the NHL, but I tend to think that will wait until next training camp. It’s hard to say whether Barzal getting more of a chance to play during his month up with the Isles would have changed their fortunes this season – I don’t think so, given the many areas the team has fallen off – but hey, it couldn’t have hurt.

So I think it’s better for him to come off a successful World Junior tournament, dominate the WHL and come to rookie camp in July possibly with new coaches to get a fresh start.

‏‏@MattWatling99 trade a dman on the roster for a forward (make room for Pulock/pelech/mayfield) or does roster stayput?

Staple:‏ That question will loom larger and larger as the season draws down. The Islanders are sure to leave at least two of their regular six D-men, likely Calvin de Haan or Thomas Hickey, unprotected in the June expansion draft. Should they trade one of those two for futures now? It would seem like a decent gamble, since the Isles are so far out of the playoff chase, but then you’ve lost a defenseman who could easily fit into the future of this corps.

It’s hard to gauge where the Islanders will go with this, given the looming changes in the front office. For my money, de Haan is someone you keep. He’s a smart player who perhaps blocks too many shots, but he can drive possession on a team where that’s nonexistent.

I could see Las Vegas taking Hickey and perhaps making him a captain of their expansion squad. He’s one of the sharpest minds around and the fearless way he plays lends itself to leading a disparate group. We’ll see how it all unfolds.

@nyillini311: slightly outside the normal box, but recommendations for where fans should go if want to see hockey on the road #stapechat

Staple:‏ My perspective is a bit skewed by sitting in the press box and working during games while the fans are having a good time, but here’s five places I’d enjoy sitting in the stands and seeing a game: St. Paul, Montreal, Chicago, Tampa, Winnipeg.

The first four are great cities with a lot to offer and great buildings where the game is presented in a terrific way. Winnipeg has slightly less to offer as a city, but the atmosphere in the building is the most unique in the league. It’s more like a popular college team than a big-time pro team.

‏‏@adicandilo: Do u think this team as it is is what their record says they are, or are they underperforming (a little or a lot)?

Staple:‏ I think any team at or below NHL .500 these days is underperforming, especially one that has enough talent and pedigree to be better like the Islanders. For all the fatalism online about this team – and one that has such poor possession numbers and meh goaltending numbers should bring some unhappy comments – they have been in just about every game, save those three against the Lightning.

Losing games that are tied going to the third period or tied late in the third is not a structural component of the way this team plays – it’s a fixable thing. So, to paraphrase the late Dennis Green, the Islanders are what their record says they are until they improve in a lot of areas.

Keep up with #StapeChat and @StapeNewsday on Twitter all season for more Islanders news and mailbags.

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