Friday, December 28, 2007

Official: Okposo Signed

It's official, Kyle Okposo is a member of the New York Islanders organization. He had an assist in today's 4-2 win over Switzerland at the World Juniors. The full coverage, direct from the Islanders, is all here.

The news is somewhat anticlimactic after the events of last week, but if something more develops we'll have it for you.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Boxing Day Bonus, Continued

We're just back to the keyboard after witnessing a thrilling overtime victory at Nassau Coliseum. Also, as promised, an update on today's late games from the World Juniors in the Czech Republic. So here we go...

Wednesday night's game had been highly anticipated for quite a while in Islanderland because of the return of former star Jason Blake (now with the Toronto Maple Leafs). The Islanders, who celebrate their history and always treat their alumni well, went out of their way to play a short pre-game video tribute to Blake. It was basically a montage of his play on both blue lines and his nonstop hustle. In fact, the video closed with the words, "Jason, thanks for the hustle."

When the game began, the crowd was not as appreciative. While the video did get applause (and many in the crowd sported Blake sweaters), the man himself was booed each and every time he touched the puck. Frankly, this reaction was a bit baffling. Blake was a free agent at the end of the season and at his age the Islanders wanted to commit neither the years and/or money to keep him. He left for a team that was willing to bend to his demands; that's just how professional sports works these days. Sadly, I suppose some will always view him as some sort of "traitor," which is simply not the truth.

The first period featured a wide-open style that we haven't seen much of from the Isles this year. Alexander Steen made the Leafs fans who made the trip happy at 6:13, rifling a shot above DiPietro's shoulder to give the Leafs the lead. Andy Hilbert allowed the Islander fans to shout down the few "Go Leafs Go" chants just 49 seconds later, notching his fourth goal of the year. The way things have gone so far for the Isles' offense to this point in the season, we expected 1-1 to be the score at the break, but we were very wrong.

Mark Bell gave Toronto a temporary 2-1 lead with just under 7 minutes to play in the opening period. However, an inspired Mike Comrie netted his 10th goal of the season and then assisted on Bill Guerin's 9th shortly after. After 1, we stood at 3-2 in favor of the Islanders.

The most noteworthy event of the second period took place before it even started, as the public address announcer let the crowd know that Wade Dubielewicz was now in goal for the Isles. After some scrambling, those of us in the Blog Box found out that Rick DiPietro injured his knee prior to the game, couldn't continue, and will be re-evaluated on Thursday. Meanwhile, the Islanders will call up goalie Joey MacDonald to backup Dubie for that day's tilt in Ottawa.

Fast forward to the third, where Steen struck again for the Leafs, tying the game on a shorthanded blast. Both teams had great chances to win it in regulation (Sean Bergenheim rang the post loudly) but the goaltending was up to snuff, and we went to overtime.

After a miraculous overtime penalty kill (with Wade Dubielewicz standing on his head and Brendan Witt blocking shots with his body), the Isles were able to slip the game winner past Andrew Raycroft. Richard Park, whose game most resembles the style Blake featured during his Islander tenure, stripped said former-hero of the puck and tore down the ice for a shot. Comrie cleaned up Park's rebound chance and earned the game's first star, scoring just 9.6 seconds before a shootout would have taken place. Most of the 15,301 in attendance went absolutely nuts, still standing from the amazing 4-on-3 penalty kill they had just witnessed.

With the two points the Islanders temporarily vaulted into playoff positioning, although, as mentioned, Ottawa is on the docket for Thursday night. Hold on to your hats!

And now, as promised, some World Juniors notes:

* When we last left you, we stated that Islanders prospects had tallied 4 goals and an assist on the day. Well, Lew Serviss, a New York Times editor, left us a very nice note detailing our omission of Tomas Marcinko's goal for Slovakia, making it 5 goals and 1 helper! Thank you very much, Mr. Serviss.

* Team Canada's wunderkinds John Tavares and Steven Stamkos (affectionately called "Wonderboy" and "Young Nasty Man" by us, in case you missed it in an earlier post) are off to a roaring start. Canada defeated the host Czech Republic team 3-0, with Tavares scoring twice and Stamkos assisting on all 3 goals. If your favorite NHL team is at the bottom of the standings, you may want to hope these two stay healthy. Tavares is 2009 draft-eligible while Stamkos will likely go first overall in '08.

* Russia defeated Finland 7-4 in the final game of the day. Russia appears to have a very strong team and may challenge Canada for the gold.

* Okposo and Team USA will be off Thursday, but hit the ice on Friday at noon (EST) to take on Switzerland.

Boxing Day Bonus

We lied. We're back early with some results from the just-completed games at the World Juniors. First off, if you're looking for information on a specific team or player, you may wish to check with the IIHF's official site.

Two games have been completed, and two will follow this afternoon (for those of you in US/Canadian time zones). Again, please view the above site for specific times in your region.

Now, Borat jokes aside, the United States team officially opened its tournament against Kazakhstan. While the Kazakhs did hold an early 1-0 lead, it appears this game became very one-sided quickly (we apologize, as there is no video to link to). The US team equalized with 3 seconds remaining in the first period, and then the Islanders' prospects got going soon after.

University of Denver product (and Islanders prospect) Rhett Rakhshani gave the US the lead 4:58 into the 2nd period and the Americans never looked back. Kyle Okposo had one of the assists on that goal, then netted a goal of his own just before the book was closed on a 5-1 United States win. Okposo tallied the 2 points (1G, 1A) on 5 shots and left the ice with a +2. Not a bad day for the US team overall, as there were many solid contributions; you can see the full boxscore here [PDF].

While that was taking place in Liberec, Sweden was taking on Slovakia down in Pardubice. In that game, Swedish forward (and you guessed it, Islanders prospect) Robin Figren was helping his team to a 4-3 victory. Figren contributed 2 goals, raising the overall combined Islanders-prospect total on the day to a hefty 5 points (4 G, 1 A). Not bad if you ask us.

We'll close our abbreviated coverage here, but we'll be back in short order with the rest of the news from what promises to be a busy day of hockey. We'll be checking in to see how Wonderboy and Young Nasty Man performed for Team Canada, and then we'll give you our impressions of Jason Blake's return to Long Island (Leafs at Isles, 7 PM EST). It's a lot for one day, but you already know we don't sleep at Okposo Net.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Random News and Notes

Fans, this will be our last update until at least December 27th, when we'll return with updates on Kyle Okposo's performance in the World Juniors and the return of Jason Blake to Long Island. Until then, here's wishing you and yours the best of holiday seasons, whatever holiday you may celebrate.

Now some random tidbits we've recently cobbled together:

* With a 3-2 overtime win versus Washington on Saturday night, the Isles won back-to-back games for the first time since November 16/19th. The Isles led 2-1 with just under one minute remaining, but Alexander Ovechkin whipped a shot past Rick DiPietro to tie it. New first-liner Richard Park provided the game winner in OT as his defender was clipped by a teammate's stick, leaving Park wide open to net the winner.

* With the win, Rick DiPietro tied Kelly Hrudey with 106 franchise wins, good enough for 3rd place all-time. Rick said he was not aware of the milestone, but was honored since he grew up watching Hrudey. Next up for Rick is Glenn 'Chico' Resch with 157 wins.

* Before the game, Chris Botta (a.k.a. 'The Blogfather') was honored by the team for his 20 years of service. He was presented with a #20 jersey and a Rolex watch. His family was with him on-ice as he received the gifts. Well done, Mr. Botta. The only problem is that Sean Bergenheim wants his number back.

* Congratulations are also in order for Ted Nolan, whose son Brandon made his NHL debut on Saturday night with the Carolina Hurricanes. The younger Nolan wasted no time in making an impact, assisting on a first period goal in Carolina's 4-1 win at Tampa Bay.

* On a related note, it seems that in order to get a question in during Nolan's press conferences you've gotta just jump in and throw caution to the wind. While the rest of our fellow Blog Boxers may think we're big liars, we were about to ask the coach about his son's debut when a traditional media-type beat us to the punch and asked the question practically verbatim. That's at least the second, if not third time this has happened. It looks like we'll have to follow The Outsider's lead during the post game debrief, since he has no problem jumping into the fray.

* For those of you wondering, apparently there is no word in the Czech language for "takeaway." But we overheard Josef Vasicek and Miroslav Satan chatting outside the locker room, and 'Joe' seemed to be proud of his 3 takeaways in the game. As for what else was discussed, we have no idea.

And on that note, we'll catch you later...

Friday, December 21, 2007

Introducing: Blake Comeau

While most of our attention at Okposo Net is aimed this blog's namesake, from time to time we like to say a few words about the other up-and-coming young stars that the Islanders feature.

After Friday night's win in Pittsburgh, perhaps more than just a few words are needed to laud Blake Comeau.

While Comeau wasn't making his NHL debut on Friday (he had 3 appearances with the Isles in '06-'07), he is new to the squad this year. Called up in the wake of the Chris Simon suspension (a topic we have purposefully avoided discussing), the 2004 2nd round draft pick provided 8:10 of energetic 4th line play during Wednesday's loss. On Friday, we were treated to what will hopefully become the norm for the 21-year old.

After falling behind 2-1 thanks to another Andy Sutton/Rick DiPietro mishap, Comeau assisted on a nice goal that featured handsome teamwork with his linemates Tim Jackman and Andy Hilbert, the latter netting the goal (yes, Andy Hilbert can score!). For Comeau, it was his first NHL point, and surely that puck is a keeper for the trophy case.

Midway through the 3rd period, Hilbert and Comeau struck again and put the Isles in front to stay; this time Hibert assisting on Comeau's first NHL goal. Just 37 seconds later Trent Hunter beat Dany Sabourin for his 6th goal of the year, and the Isles were looking good. They killed off the remaining 8:55 and earned a 4-2 win on the road.

While Comeau probably isn't going to become Marian Gaborik, he has the ability and potential to be a Richard Park-type for the Isles, adding hustle, smarts, and a bit of a scoring touch to a team that sorely lacks it right now.

Congratulations to the Isles for having a rare 4-goal night, and to Blake Comeau on his first 2 NHL points and being voted the first star of the game.

Comeau and the Isles will be right back at it on Saturday night, a home affair against the Washington Capitals. See you there!

Thursday, December 20, 2007


In honor of native Long Islander Walt Whitman, we begin a new feature called Okpoetry. If you've got an original work you'd like to submit, drop us a line in the comments section. Here are the first two submissions:

Thunder Storm

That distant clap
The "go pro" slap
We hail to you
Young, yet true
We see in your eyes
A shining surprise
Goals to reverse demise
This island franchise

We bow to the thunderclap
Rainy days, the basement bottom trap
Revive with your hands
Your stick it commands
Assist us oh youthful one
Bring us some new fun
The contract will be done
To your arms we do run

(by Brett Schmitt)

The Dream

Selling the dream
Future becomes present
Oxygen for the dyspneic
Nutrition for the starved
Failure not an option
Women dancing in jubilation
Rhythmic clapping
Marriage proposals?
Silver chalice hoisted
Welcome back, friend

(by Ken Dick)

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Okposo Net the Influence?

One question exists about Kyle Okposo's decision to join the Islanders at the pro level as soon as possible: Was Okposo Net somehow inspiration, or perhaps, the influence that pushed Kyle to this decision? Following the "Light Fuse and Get Away" article on December 16, it was only a matter of days until the Isles and Okposo began negotiating terms to bring the prospect to the bigs following the World Junior Championship.

Let us look at the argument:

Okposo plays RW and Center. The Isles have been bouncing around RWs (Jackman, Bootland, now Comeau) while Satan and Hunter could easily bail following this season. If you picture Okposo as a center a future exists there too. Comrie, Vasicek and Hilbert could all be exiles following the season.

Now, if Okposo knows about this humble blog, which a quick browse of Wikipedia would bring him to, or for that matter word from the organization could have led him here, he could very easily have read said diatribe against the Islanders' current course of action. I am inclined to believe that Okposo sees no better time than now to make that jump to the NHL. With so many spots opening up in the near future why not? It seems to be nothing but a win-win situation for Kyle.

Why the inspiration, you ask? Thanks to NYI Blog Box this site has a nice following and Kyle must know about this blog, it is his namesake for goodness sake. Anyway, those deftly chosen words and a little holiday wishing might just have landed Okposo in the bigs which is then a win-win for everyone, from top to bottom.

Jumping the Gun

Kyle Okposo has left the University of Minnesota, that much is for sure. As for having actually signed with the New York Islanders, it seems as if the sides are close, but nothing official has come out yet.

The Islanders' homepage is currently featuring a "COMING SOON: Kyle Okposo" item which says the team is negotiating with Kyle.

Barring anything concrete, it is our sense that Kyle and the Islanders have agreed verbally to terms or are at least very, very close. It seems unlikely that Kyle would announce his leaving the UM squad, travel for two weeks overseas with the USA U-20 team, and return to the States without a solid commitment from the Isles.

Our guess is that sometime after the new year (depending on team USA's performance) Kyle will be officially announced as a New York Islander. He will likely be assigned to their AHL affiliate, the Bridgeport Sound Tigers.

As of this posting, the Isles trail Buffalo 1-0 in the first period. And Okposo is on the screen right now on the home broadcast! Blake Comeau is playing tonight, so if nothing else, at least the Islanders are getting younger. But with the current scoring doldrums, Kyle can't get here soon enough!

Breaking News: Okposo signs with Isles

There has been a 5 PM press conference called regarding Kyle Okposo's decision to leave the University of Minnesota. He will become a New York Islander before he leaves for the World Juniors in the Czech Republic this evening.

We will bring you full coverage of the details as they unfold.

(Picture courtesy of University of Minnesota)

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Light Fuse and Get Away

After the 21st straight game (21 freakin' games!) of three goals or less, I think it's time to discuss the long-term plans of the Islanders - namely, do they continue with their mix of mostly veterans with a little youth sprinkled in (after all, a hot streak puts them right back in the playoff mix), or is it time to cut bait and completely retool?

As it stands right now, I do not see this team grabbing anything more than a 6-7 seed, and that's if they get hot. While the Eastern Conference remains thoroughly mediocre this year, without a large infusion of offense soon, it's going to be up to DiPietro every night to keep the Isles in games. And as much as DiPietro continues to play well, you can't ask him to carry the team constantly, especially if he's going to have to face 35-40 shots a night. Unfortunately, as the team is presently constituted, I don't see from where the instant offense is going to come.

Could the Isles pull off a Ryan Smyth-like trade this year to get things on track? Not going to happen - the farm system is barren. Mad Mike's Reign of Terror continues to have a terrible impact on the Isles, and while GM Snow is giving it a decent run, he has little with which to work.

In my opinion, this team cannot contend for a Cup. So unless the Isles can pull it together very quickly, it's time to scrap everything and start over. As any Isles fan from the 90s can tell you, that's not a good thing.

But it is the right thing. The Islanders need to have a 3-5 year plan in place instead of signing unrestricted free agents to short-term deals. And in order to have this plan in place, the Isles need to stockpile draft picks, draft wisely, and let the prospects develop (what a concept, eh Mike?). Okposo is a good start, but there needs to be a lot more along those lines.

Now the problem with this plan - once it happens, attendance will drop like a rock at the Coliseum. This is not what the team needs while the Lighthouse project is being debated. If the Lighthouse fails to gain approval in Nassau, and if Pilgrim State is not a possibility, you could not blame Charles Wang for selling the team to an outside ownership group in Hamilton, Kansas City, Yellowknife, or wherever (OK, maybe not Yellowknife). With Nassau taking its time, the team really is in a bit of limbo - if the Isles knew a new/remodeled arena was on the way (or if Pilgrim State became a viable alternative), it could start the youth plan right away. Further, as a first-class arena comes close to completion, the Island may finally once again be a destination for free agents, which could perfectly coincide with a youth influx. So do you keep a borderline playoff team together for the next couple of years trying to keep attendance up for the Lighthouse to hopefully be approved (with little to no shot at a Cup)?

No. I can't speak for anyone else, but I'd like to see a Cup contending team sometime in the near future. Right now, I don't see it, nor do I see it happening anytime soon.

I'd rather take the pain for the next couple of years with a chance to watch a Cup winner down the road than have to watch the NHL's version of the L.A. Clippers.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Isles and Okposo Agree: Scoring Is Boring

Another quick update this time around because, frankly, what can be said here that isn't being said elsewhere? The scoring totals for both Kyle and his future team continue to be anemic.

Last weekend Minnesota split a weekend series with North Dakota, and Kyle continues to be consistent, delivering his standard 1 point for the pair of games. He is still up among the scoring leaders on the UM squad, but that isn't carrying the weight it may have in years past. If you don't know by know, Minnesota is having a thoroughly mediocre season, currently at 5-7 in the conference and 9-8-1 overall.

However, misery loves company, and the Isles are providing their fans with plenty. As the schedule seemed to ease up a bit for December, the team's effort did also. Before the current road trip began, we here at O.N. (as the kids call it) predicted amongst ourselves a 6 point (of 8 total) road trip.

And the grand total: 3.

I guess getting out on the road and re-bonding didn't help? Nor did having the dads on the Florida portion of the trip either. Oh well.

With the Isles sinking like a stone in the Eastern Conference (now 11th) we offer some hope. If any coach is going to make this team's non-functioning parts (and there are a few -- more on that another day) function, it's Ted Nolan.

If you haven't read Roy MacGregor's wonderful piece on Ted Nolan yet, stop reading this and click over to it NOW. It kinda puts things in perspective.

On the docket, things stay quiet for Okposo as UM isn't scheduled to play again until the Holiday Classic on December 29th. Maybe some downtime away from hockey and celebrating (Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa/other) with friends and family will re-energize him. We know, we're grasping at straws. Allow us that much, please.

No rest for the weary as the Isles make the short 1-hour flight back from Buffalo and take on Wayne Gretzky's Coyotes on Long Island Thursday night. It's not a must-win, but at this point we consider it a "should win," but who knows.

What we do know is that the Isles will get hot again, Okposo will turn it on, and all will be great in the world. And we know this because, dammit, we are not gonna let Scott Burnside be right about something.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Okposo Not For Sale

With the Islanders in a bit of a downcycle and fans looking for quick-fix answers to the team's scoring woes, the Islander hype machine has turned its focus towards Kyle Okposo. And while he's nowhere near ready to play with the big club, it is nice to see some attention from the parent team going his way.

An added bonus is that we don't have to do our jobs today; you can read all of the press directly from the source(s):

First off, Newsday's Greg Logan captured GM Garth Snow's thoughts on Kyle here. The part about Kyle is toward the end of the column, and I think Snow gives an honest assessment of KO's season so far.

If that doesn't whet your appetite for Kyle media coverage, Dee Karl (the 7th Woman) alerted us to a new video clip recently posted on Islanders TV. From the Islanders homepage you'll want to select Multimedia on the top tool bar, click on Islanders TV from the drop-down menu just below, and proceed to Islanders Insider on the right and then finally Isles Files. You should see a video entitled "I on the Future - Kyle Okposo," and it's an interview with the man himself. It runs about 4 minutes.

Speaking of the man, he and his Gophers will travel to Grand Forks, North Dakota to take on University of North Dakota Friday and Saturday nights. They should be two highly competitive contests.

As always, check back with us for the results of Kyle's weekend.

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

World Juniors Time

Some of the team rosters for the 2008 World Junior Ice Hockey Championships have been announced, and we're pleased to report that Kyle Okposo has been selected to the U.S. team.

This year's tournament takes place in the Czech Republic and begins on Boxing Day (December 26th for non-Commonwealth readers). This is the second consecutive World Juniors team that Kyle has been named to. Astute readers will remember Kyle's dismal single point performance last year in Sweden. Here's hoping that 2008 treats him better. If experience is the best teacher, he has hopefully learned from it and will exhibit improvement this time.

Now some of you read this blog for many different reasons. We get not only Kyle's fans, but Islanders fans, Gophers fans, general hockey fans, and everything else. So here are, broken down by affiliation, those who will be playing in the 2008 World Juniors:

(as of December 26th, 2007)

Islanders' draft picks:
Kyle Okposo (US team)
Rhett Rakhshani (US team)
Rob Figren (SWE team)
Stefan Ridderwall (SWE team)
Tomas Marcinko (SVK team)

University of Minnesota Golden Gophers:
Kyle Okposo (US team)
Cade Fairchild (US team)
Mike Carman (US team)
Ryan Flynn (US team)
Jordan Schroeder (2008 UM letter of intent) (US team)

Canada's squad will be announced after their selection camp on December 10th-14th. While no future Islanders or current Gophers are eligible, it will be noteworthy to see if John Tavares (a.k.a. "The Next One") is selected.

If we've missed anyone please let us know by dropping a line in the 'Comments' section below.

Climate Change

At Okposo Net, we don't sleep. And we're information junkies. So when trawling the major Internet news outlets for fresh tidings late, late last night (or more accurately early, early this morning), we were a bit taken aback when we saw the following on CNN's main page:

"Ho, what's this?" our sleep-deprived mind wondered. An Islanders story? On the main page? And why would they go to a climate meeting?

But before even clicking on the link, we knew that this had nothing to do with our New York Islanders. As the eyes scanned the headline again, we could already tell it was just a tale of Papua New Guineans seeking relief from the adverse effects of global warming.

However, and of more relevance to us, is the lack of change in the climate currently surrounding the Islanders hockey club. Still no offense. Still no media coverage.

The latter is a constant, so let's deal with the former. After the latest whipping at the hands of Boston (a team that hadn't won on Long Island in 10 previous tries, mind you), the Isles were still searching for answers.

Despite shuffling lines and calling up Jeff Tambellini, coach Nolan still hadn't brewed a magic elixir potent enough to wake up the sticks. He could only offer hope that things would turn positive once the team got out on the road for the upcoming contests. He reflected on missed chances in the just-completed game (3-1 Bruins, by the way) and believed that things would start clicking sooner rather than later.

More of the same was echoed by captain Bill Guerin, who opined that getting the team back on a winning track isn't like splitting the atom. That said, his recent on-ice production during the current drought has been equal to that of Enrico Fermi or Robert Oppenheimer. In other words, zilch.

But there's plenty of blame to go around, and it's unfair to lay it at the feet of the always-quotable Guerin. It's a team-wide slumber. Passes that were hitting sticks a month ago have inexplicably missed their marks. Potential goals have slid past empty nets. And right now as fans we just feel like griping about it. Throughout the final period boos were heard and an unflattering chant reared its head.

But we want to add that from what we observed in the crowd, the fans are still behind this squad. We know everyone at Okposo Net is. So let's hope that as the Isles embark on a southern swing this week (the first three are at Atlanta, Florida, and Tampa) the offense will thaw and the seasonal outlook will again brighten.

Monday, December 3, 2007

Weekend Update (without Tina Fey)

Quick and random thoughts after a busy weekend:

- Kyle Okposo scored a goal and an assist on Saturday night for the Gophers. After being held pointless on Friday in a loss to Michigan Tech, he contributed nicely and salvaged the split for UM. Kyle's season line stands at 6-4-10 through 16 games. We're still waiting for KO to have that huge breakout game (hat trick?) which really gets his season into gear.

- The Isles did not even show up on Saturday night versus Atlanta. Wade Dubielewicz finally got a start in goal but the team was unprepared for the Thrashers. The Isles allowed a goal in the first minute of play and sleepwalked to a 4-0 drubbing.

- As first noted by The Outsider, the New York Times has jumped on the hockey blogging bandwagon with a feature they're calling Slapshot. If their first week of Isles coverage is any indication of what's to come, it's looks like you won't need to bookmark it.

- The Islanders were one of four teams to vote against reducing the number of intradivision NHL games next year. It's easy to understand why the Isles would want to protect their lucrative dates against the Rangers, Devils, Flyers, and Penguins, but we think this is an overall positive change for the league. It will be nice to see a Calgary or Phoenix in town more than once every 3 seasons. It hurts the Islander wallet, but improves the integrity of the game.

- Jeff Tambellini is back! The Isles take on Boston tonight at NVMC. 7:10 PM start like usual!

- Lastly, as predicted (ha!), the Jets manhandled the now 0-12 Miami Dolphins. Jets, you may now commence tanking the rest of the season in order to secure that #2 draft pick.