Tuesday, January 30, 2007

No Net, But Plenty of Points

A sour weekend just passed as the Golden Gophers were swept by the University of North Dakota FIghting Sioux (is that politically correct?) in their two-game set. The Gophers have now lost three straight Friday games and have fallen to a record of 21-5-3. It was ND's first sweep in Minnesota in over 25 years dating back to February 1980.

One of the bright spots of the weeked for Minnesota was the 4 assist performace of Kyle over those two games (2 assists per night). Okposo failed to tally a goal, though, managing only 5 shots in total, all in the first game. With his recent points surge Kyle has climbed back in to second on the team in points with 29, two behind Alex Goligoski. We here at OkposoNet hold out hope that Kyle will find the net this weekend as the Gophers hit the road to take on the University of Alaska, Anchorage Seawolves.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007


Congratulations to Jason Blake for making the All-Star roster. He is the Islanders' lone representative in this year's star-a-thon, for some reason being played in Dallas. We here at Okposo Net salute Blake (the Minnesota native) for helping to prove that America has talent, just really close to the Canadian border.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Top 5s

It's time to step away from home ice and examine what is going on around the world with ProspectWatch, a look at the Top 5 prospects in the Islanders organization.

1) Kyle Okposo - It's really no surprise that University of Minnesota rookie is on the list. Okposo currently leads the #1 ranked Golden Gophers in goals (15), shooting percentage (.221) and powerplay goals (5). He is also fourth on the team in points (24) while having played 4 less games than most of his teammates due to a stint at the World Junior Championship, the prestigious tournament for hockey prospects. He had 1 assist in his time with Team USA where he was surprisingly relegated to lower line status. All this at the tender age of 18. In fact, Kyle will not turn 19 until April 14th. Without a doubt one of the top names for the future of the Isles.

2) Ryan O'Marra - At 6' 1'', 193 pounds and pale white, the 19 year old Ryan O'Marra is not your typical product of a Tokyo hospital, but if and when O'Marra makes it to the NHL he would be the first non-goaltender born in Japan to play in the big league. Much like Okposo, Ryan played in this past World Junior Championship, this time for the gold medal winning Team Canada. As well, O'Marra has 20 points in only 23 games in split campaigns for the Erie Otters and Saginaw Spirit of the Ontario Hockey League (OHL). He is considered by team scouts to be a commanding presence at Center and, following his final Junior year in the OHL, should join Bridgeport next Fall. He could even forseeably make the cut for the Islanders soon.

3) Denis Grebeshkov - After not agreeing on a contract in the pre-season with new GM Garth Snow, Grebeshkov was granted the option the play a developmental year in Russia. Under this writers' bias that move was a mistake. From the time he was playing with the Islanders late in the 2005-2006 season, after he and Jeff Tambellini were received in exchange for Mark Parrish and Brent Sopel, it was more than apparent that Denis has loads of talent at the blueline. His quick passing ability and soft touch on the puck are a potential asset on any team's attack. At last count Grebeshkov had tallied 3 goals for Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in 23 games as of late December. It should not come as a surprise then to learn that Yaroslavl is his hometown. Time will tell for Denis who will hopefully make it back into an Islanders uniform in the near future.

4) Jesse Joensuu - Forward Joensuu, a native of Pori, Finland, was the 2nd round 60th overall pick for the Isles in 2006. The towering (6' 4", 209 pound) forward has made a lot of progress with the local Assat team in Finland. The proudest moment for Jesse, though, came this winter when he had the chance to strut his stuff for Team Finland in the World Junior Championship, a competition in which his 2 goals and 2 assists in only 7 games left him a future Finnish star-in-the-making. Since Joensuu is a physical forward, fans can only hope he makes the leap to the NHL sooner rather than later.

5) Rhett Rakhshani - It is not everyday than a South Asian-American from Orange County, California makes a name for himself, but Rakhshani has already started. Number 100 overall in the 2006 draft Rhett showed off for Team USA in the World Junior Championship Under 18s with 5 goals and 1 assist in only 6 games. Playing for University of Denver the freshman Rakhshani leads the team in assists (20) and is third in points (25) in 26 games. He has shown a lot of promise in only his first season of college level play and fans can look forward to a future from this talented Asian hockey player from Southern California.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Shining in the Shadow of the Rangers

Gone are the days of free-spending, free-wheeling NHL franchises. The dawn of the salary cap era has seen more balanced competition, even-handed star power and yes, parity. Gone also are the days of teams like the New York Rangers spending nearly $70 million to dress lineups that couldn't find their way to the playoffs. Instead we have seen the dawn of a new New York Rangers that can make the playoffs, but essentially accomplishes the same task, for a whopping $20 million less. Last night's game against the Islanders was a great example of how there really are two hockey teams in New York. Last night the better team shone brighter than they had in nearly the last decade of this rivalry.

Every aspect of last night's game speaks a tome about the disparity still around the league. Each team spends around the same with different results. Teams like Buffaslug and Carolina rack up the wins through hard work and comraderie, some win because of solid blue line work like Anaheim and others scrake by on bloated salary lines like the Rangers, a team I love to skewer. Last night the once-surprise Isles, on the heals of a six game losing streak, came out with underdog fire and exposed the weaknesses of poor spending. Granted Jagr clicked another 3 points onto his career total. Granted Brendan Shanahan scored on the Islanders, again. Granted Blair Betts, Marcel (the bad) Hossa stayed off the scoresheet while Lundqvist and his Swiss cheese acrobatics were the Isles saving grace. But the story was really about teamwork.

Where does one begin? Is it Miro's ability to slam one in, finally? Or was it Sillinger's scrappy play and quickness on the rebound? Could it be 5 guys with multi-point games? Or simply Shawn Bates' not playing that is acting as a breather for the average fan? I'm not sure. I'm not sure anyone is. Even the players themselves are uncertain as to their good fate versus the Rangers as of late.

After winning 5 in a row against the Rangers (dating back to last season), three games in the Garden in one season, and an unprecedented start to the season series this rivalry has the fire it deserves. "For whatever reason we seem to play really well against the Rangers this year," is what Sillinger had to say last night on the team's blog. "For whatever reason." Interesting choice of words for a team flip-flopping between good and bad, exciting to watch and cringe-inducingly bad, playoff-worthy competitors and median-level hasbeens. We all hope for the better of those choices. Now, only if the Islanders could figure out which of those choices they prefer.

Friday, January 5, 2007

A bronze, maybe

In our humble opinion here at Okposo Net, Kyle can't get back to Minnesota quickly enough. We came into the World Juniors thinking that Kyle would be a major force on a good (but not great) U.S. team. Well, Kyle has not been a force and the U.S. team has disappointed. They'll play Sweden today for a bronze medal...and even that may be out of reach.

Kyle, meanwhile, as far as we can tell, had been relegated to the 4th line, and in 8 games has 1 (one) assist. No goals. One assist.

The idea of him playing superior competition is nice and helps his development, but the tournament just disappointed from beginning to end on all levels.

Thursday, January 4, 2007

Step It Up

I am starting to doubt the Islanders right now and that is bad considering I have very few good memories to fall back on when it comes to this team. I came into the season with so much hope: Miro was back, Sillinger had scored 32 goals last season, Brendan Witt was strong on the blueline and Blake was still in orange and blue. Then it happened - the whomping that was the first 3 games. Hope was waning.

Then the season picked up pace. Things were looking up. The Islanders were battling for 1st in the Atlantic Division, nay, they led the Atlantic Division! Now what? As the season begins spiraling out of control the fans are left gaping hoping this is a fluke. Four losses in a row! It's just a fluke, right?

I am starting to believe we have seen the best this corps of 30-somethings has to offer. Dipietro is a great goaltender but a puck-stopper does not a team make. Blake is the best stick we have on the ice. Arron Asham is the best post and crossbar nailer in the game.

But I remain hopeful. Let's not give up just yet. Let's see if the the Long Island boys can turn it around. With a little more positive thinking, a little more team play and a little more fire, maybe, just maybe they can turn this ship around and get it on course again. Maybe.