Monday, December 29, 2008

Kyle Warm but Isles Lose at MSG

Just a quick few notes about the final Islanders road game in 2008. Kyle scored his fourth goal of the season on Monday (12/29) night, but the Isles again managed to perform a 3rd period fold-o-matic and lost 5-4 to the Rangers.

The Isles took a 2-1 lead after two periods on Kyle's redirection past Henrik Lundqvist just prior to the buzzer. For Kyle it was his fourth point in three games, which of course is the trend that we Isles fans want to see him continue.

Okposo has earned time recently with the power play unit as well, as coach Scott Gordon tries to mix and match in his quest to find things that work. Furthermore, the play of the Comeau-Comrie-Okposo line has been more effective of late; each man scored a goal on Monday night (although Comrie's came with just 0:19 left to play with an extra skater on the ice). Comeau and Okposo look like they are really beginning to get comfortable with their roles on the team and it's starting to be reflected on the scoresheet.

Unfortunately the Islanders still find themselves mired in 30th place overall in the league with a woeful 11-22-4 record. They take on Florida at home Wednesday afternoon (2:00 PM start) for their final contest of 2008.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Guerin Hits Milestone as Isles Break Streak

Boxing Day, a holiday when those in the upper classes traditionally present gifts to those of lower status, held true to form for the Islanders in 2008. The Isles, most certainly residing in the lower class of the NHL this season, found themselves festooned with all sorts of goodies on this particular December 26th. While the Toronto Maple Leafs assumed coming in that they would be the team departing Long Island with an easy two points in their holiday basket, they headed home empty-handed and disappointed.

First off, franchise goalie Rick DiPietro returned from a two month injury hiatus and started in goal. He energized the crowd as soon as the starting lineups were announced and he seemed to do the same for his teammates. The team came out looking fresh right from the opening puck drop and played with that same energy for the entire game, a complete effort that has been lacking in these parts for quite a while.

Kyle Okposo caught Toronto netminder Vesa Toskala off guard at 3:47 of the first period, sending a flukey goal into the net from a tough angle low in the right-hand circle. Nevertheless, it was 1-0 Islanders early.

Much maligned Lee Stempniak evened the score for the Leafs late in the period, but for some reason the Isles seemed to go into the locker room without losing their edge or energy.

In the 2nd period, Lady Luck appeared to smile on rookie Josh Bailey for the first time in his NHL career, as he seemingly scored his first NHL tally. It turned out the lady was an Indian giver, though, as video replay credited the goal to captain Bill Guerin, the 399th of his storied professional tenure.

Guerin added another goal to start the 3rd, and the crowd recognized the achievement, chanting his name and standing in honor of the milestone. Guerin is only the 8th American-born player to reach the 400 goal threshold.

Defenseman Freddy Meyer blasted a shot from the point past Toskala at 8:39 of the 3rd to give the Isles a 4-1 lead and basically wrap up the game. Kyle assisted on it, his 7th point of the year.

Afterward, the Isles seemed in a pretty festive mood, relieved that they had not only broken a 10 game losing streak, but confident in knowing they have their #1 goaltender back between the pipes. While Toronto strolled into the Coliseum having won 5 of their last 7 and expecting a gift by playing the lowly Isles, it was the Canadian squad who received an unwanted, unexpected surprise on this night.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Boxing Day Shocker

Rick DiPietro to start in goal tonight (12/26) versus Toronto. We'll see if he's the elixir that cures the Islanders' ailments.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Tavares Watch: Festivus Edition

And so we've hit the imperfect 10 - with tonight's loss to Atlanta, the Isles have now lost 10 in a row. And lately, it seems like the Isles are playing Amy Winehouse hockey - in other words, an absolute mess.

With the loss, the Isles have taken sole possession of last place in the league. And I'm here to say that I am perfectly fine with it, as finishing 30th this year will guarantee a nice prize at the end of June - either John Tavares or Victor Hedman. With both players considered by far to be the top two in the 2009 draft, the Isles may just need to hit rock bottom this season in order to contend for the future.

Let's face it, the Isles are going nowhere this season. So let Coach Gordon experiment with the lineups to find a line or two that might have potential for '09-'10. Evaluate the talent properly, figure out who best fits or can fit into the system, and get ready for next season, where they will hopefully have either a star forward or a potential franchise D-man to build around.

So as the Isles continue to struggle, I've come to accept that this team is done and am looking forward to seeing what GM Snow has up his sleeve during the offseason. And of course, it would be nice to see the Lighthouse finally approved, but that's for another day...

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Kyle Returns But Isles Still Reeling

Kyle returned from injury this weekend to play against both Minnesota and Nashville, but had little impact on the scoreboard in either contest. The Isles are still winless for the month of December (yes, we're over 20 days in) and there's not much more to say. Injuries have played a major role, but this is about the worst stretch of play we've seen from this franchise in many, many years.

Hopefully this pain will at least reap nice rewards when the season is over.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Trivia Time! Answer

The voting has concluded, and the correct answer to the question on the right is the Colorado Avalanche.

While almost everyone knows Kyle was born and raised in Minnesota (St. Paul, to be precise), not everyone realizes that during his formative years that fine state was without an NHL franchise.

The Minnesota North Stars, at one time this blog's second favorite team, bolted for Dallas after the 1993 season. Kyle was 5 years old at the time. NHL hockey, in the form of the Minnesota Wild, returned to the Land of 10,000 Lakes in 2000.

In the meantime, the outstanding skill of players such as Joe Sakic and Peter Forsberg attracted Kyle to become a fan of the Avalanche, a team who themselves had relocated from Quebec in 1995.

In any case, as a fan Kyle experienced one of the NHL's better (and nastier) rivalries in the 1990's and early 2000's, as the 'Lanche frequently squared off with their rivals, the Detroit Red Wings, in many memorable regular season and playoff games.

Hopefully he will now be able to enjoy a pretty good rivalry as a player during his time in New York, as we're no strangers to blood feuds in these parts either.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Roadblog: Philadelphia

Tuesday night (12/9) found Okposo Net in Philadelphia, enjoying a rare chance to catch the Isles wearing the road white sweaters. Joining us for the evening was our friend Deanna of Marinerds, etc. fame, one of the most informative and well written sites covering Japanese and Asian baseball. Her passion for that sport burns with the heat of 1,000 (rising?) suns, and if you have any interest in baseball or just wish to learn a few new things I urge you to check out her work.

Though she lives in Japan, Deanna is originally from Philly and suggested we start the evening off properly with a cheesesteak from Jim's Steaks. Soon after, we made our way over to SEPTA's Broad Street Line and shuttled down to the Pattison stop, which leaves passengers just a few steps from the front door of the Wachovia Center. We breezed right through the turnstiles with nary a glance from any security people. Had we known there would be no bag check, Deanna would have brought her Nikon D200 (which gives all the boys lens envy) to the game. Oh well, live and learn.

Upon entering the arena, I was struck by the resemblance the place has to Florida's BankAtlantic Center (or whatever the nom du jour is of that building). Having moments beforehand walked past the old Spectrum (slated for demolition within a year), I could imagine what an improvement this building was for Flyers fans, and thought of a day when the Islanders might upgrade from their Spectrum-esque barn. But I digress.

The concourses in the Wachovia Center are constructed of fairly plain gray-ish tile, but are wide and feature doorless restrooms, like one might see in an airport. The Flyers have added some nice touches, placing air hockey and bubble hockey games in various spots. Deanna resisted the urge to play one of the stuffed toy catching games.

As for the game itself, some of the crowd was still filing in to the big, two-tiered arena when Andy Hilbert put a power play goal past Martin Biron at 9:23 in the first. Just 61 seconds later Doug Weight further deflated the crowd, putting the Isles up 2-0 by cleaning up Sean Bergenheim's and Trent Hunter's shots with a backhanded winner. The score was a bit surprising, given that at this point in the game the Flyers had been controlling the offense and out-shooting the Isles.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned to Deanna, Philadelphia has so many offensive weapons that they are hard to keep down, and soon enough Riley Cote smashed Jon Sim into the boards behind the Islander goal, stole the puck, and feathered a handsome pass to former-Isle Aaron Asham, who blasted it past "backup-backup" Yann Danis. It was 2-1 New York at the first intermission.

Riley Cote did some more smashing at the start of the second period, only this time to the face of Mitch Fritz. To be fair, while Fritz did leave the scrum bloodied, it was a pretty even fight. Fritz may have even bested Cote.

Continuing on, Flyers rookie Darroll Powe netted his first NHL goal at 8:09 in the 2nd, and with about 4 minutes remaining in the stanza Jeff Carter netted his 20th(!) goal of the year, giving the Flyers a 3-2 advantage. Carter's goal delighted the woman sitting behind us, who apparently has an unhealthy obsession with the London, Ontario native. Seemingly unaware that players are shifted on and off the ice ("Put Carter in!") and not content with his 20:35 of ice time, if had she been coaching Carter would have logged 58 minutes and gone into immediate cardiac arrest.

Blake Comeau scored his first goal of the season to start the 3rd period; he has been providing a refreshing dose of energy and presence for a team that frequently lacks it. The injury situation is what it is, but Comeau looks as if he belongs in the NHL for good, not languishing in the minors.

Brendan Witt was sent to the box with about 9 minutes to play and it led to a Simon Gagne game winning power play goal. Final score: Philly 4, Isles 3.

The game was an entertaining one, though, despite being unable to tell what was a penalty from our seats high up near the ceiling. We certainly could have used Doug from Official's Outlook to help us spot infractions.

All in all, the experience was pleasant, and despite a few minor annoyances (constant blaring rock music, sticky floors, a curious goal celebration "song," and the loss) the trip was successful. We encountered no hostility despite wearing a road sweater and the arena provides a fun and affordable hockey experience.

While we can't provide a food and drink review like the 7th Woman would, the arena does claim to have "the world's largest arena bar," so that might be something to check out on a return trip. Until then, thank you to Deanna for hosting us for the day and showing us around the 'City of Brotherly Love.'

Okposo Net spares no expense on seats
(Photo: Deanna Rubin)

Friday, December 5, 2008

Injury Setback

Just as we thought Kyle was getting close to making his return to the ice, there's word from our friend Greg Logan about a setback.

Damn.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Still No Okie

Kyle will not play on Thursday (12/4) night in Washington, and there's no firm word on when he'll return to the lineup. The "one week injury" to his wrist/forearm is now in its third week. If there's a bright side to this, at least we know the team isn't being reckless and rushing him back too quickly. With the constant stream of injuries the team has experienced this year, we would imagine some of the decision-makers might be tempted to do so.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

What's the Worst Position for the Isles?

Apparently, the answer is up by three goals. Once again, the Isles blew a three-goal lead, this time losing to the Penguins 5-3 behind an Evgeni Malkin hat trick.

The story was the same as in past games - the Isles looked good for the first 40 minutes, and then it came apart in the third period. As we all know, this team is very much a work in progress, but it doesn't make yet another blown lead feel any better.

On the plus side, rookie center Josh Bailey had two assists, and it would seem that he will not be returning to Windsor on Saturday, instead earning his roster spot. Trent Hunter also looked solid in the first two periods and has played very well during the first quarter of the season.

No word yet on Kyle's injury, but we presume he should be back within the next couple of games.

A Happy Thanksgiving to all of our readers!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Trivia Time!

As long as Kyle's not going to be playing for a few games, we'll break out the first installment of "Kyle Trivia." It's time to prove how much you know about this blog's namesake. The question can be found on the right hand side of the page. You can find the correct answer in the comments section below after you've voted. Good luck and no cheating!

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Kyle Injury Update

Okposo Net just returned from an Islanders Booster Club meeting where we were the guests of Gary Harding and his lovely wife Claire. Many thanks to them and their associates for creating a fun and festive time for all those in attendance.

Kyle was the featured speaker for the evening, and he appeared at the dais wearing a small, black wrist brace. When a youngster queried him on how the injury happened, Kyle was only willing to say that he became "tangled up with another player" at some point during the Vancouver game and injured himself.

When we had a moment after the event to chat, Kyle played down the severity of the injury, seeming confident that it is minor and believing that he won't be missing very much time.

While we're not orthopedic specialists, we're confident in saying that the injury appears to be some sort of wrist sprain rather than a fracture.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Okposo Out for One Week

According to B.D. Gallof, Kyle Okposo's injury in last night's 2-1 win over Vancouver will cause him to miss about a week. The injury is to his arm, but per new Islanders injury policy, exactly what the injury is will remain unclear. In order to find new and creative ways to not tell fans the medical status of certain players, Islanders management was recently huddled around a table with the game "Operation." No word on whether the patient's nose lit up red.

The injury occurred in the third period and prevented Kyle from taking part in the shootout, where he likely would have been one of the 3 shooters. If the Isles aren't downplaying the extent of the injury, he should miss 2-3 games at most.

As an aside, this injury policy really needs to go away. I realize that the NHL is OK with the lack of disclosure, but given the DiPietro situation earlier this year, you are doing fans a disservice by hiding information from them most of the time. At a time when NHL teams should be bending over backwards to be fan-friendly considering the economy and their reliance on gate revenue, this is one easy way to be straight with the fans.

Kyle to Appear at Booster Club Meeting

If you are interested in asking Kyle a question (or maybe even scoring an autograph), you'll want to attend the next Islanders Booster Club meeting at the Long Island Marriott. That will take place this coming Wednesday (11/19) at 7:30 PM.

We've been told that admission at the door will set you back just a measly fin ($5), so peel yourselves away from the keyboard for a few moments and come out for a fun, interactive night.

A more official-looking release can be found here, courtesy of the team website. If you need directions (it's next to the Coliseum!) please follow the links from that page as well.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Kyle Scores; Isles Win!

Thursday night saw a refreshing change for the Islanders; Kyle scored a power play goal and the Islanders won the game! While the underground lair at Okposo Net was empty all Thursday night (hence we didn't get to see the game), the recap details the goal, noting that youngster Josh Bailey assisted on the play.

Kyle had the presence of mind to retrieve the puck and toss it to Bailey (first NHL point) as a keepsake. Nice move, Kyle.

Hopefully Kyle will exhibit some more nice moves on Saturday night when the Isles again take on Ottawa, this time in New York. Okposo Net promises to be there and not miss a shift!

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Bailey Debuts; Isles Lose

Tuesday (11/11) marked the 90th anniversary of the end of World War I, commonly remembered these days as Veterans Day. The Islanders played a special 2 PM game versus Philadelphia to help mark the day. While retired General Colin Powell and many uniformed military personnel were on hand, once again the Islanders' guns fell silent in a 3-1 loss.

Prior to the game, Islanders fans learned that 2008 first-round draft pick Josh Bailey would make his NHL debut in it. Though he recorded no shots in 12:30 minutes of ice time, it was refreshing to see the youngster finally get into an NHL game. Unfortunately, he took two costly penalties which highlighted his inexperience at the NHL level.

Other than the Bailey debut, there wasn't too much to excite the midday holiday crowd. While the Islanders outshout the Flyers 36-32 (with Bill Guerin leading the way with 7 SOG), there was no third period lead to blow this time around. Daniel Briere and Mike Richards netted goals against Isles goaltender Joey MacDonald, and even though Trent Hunter put a puck in for the Isles with 3:40 left to play, that was as close as they would get. A Philadelphia empty netter sealed the deal and sent the fans on their way to the parking lots.

The power play, a source of concern with the Islanders, went 0-for-8 in the game.

Kyle Okposo played on a line with Richard Park and Andy Hilbert, recording 2 shots on goal. Kyle has just a solitary goal so far in 15 games, and if this keeps up we may have to do the unthinkable and de-banner him at the top of this page. Don't let it come to that, Kyle!

Sunday, November 2, 2008

After One Furlong...

The Isles played their 10th game of the 2008-2009 season on Saturday night, which means they've now completed about 1/8 of the regular season schedule (for those of you who didn't spend your youth at horse racing tracks, a furlong is 1/8 of a mile).

After dropping a three (3) goal lead in the third period to Montreal in said 10th game for a 5-4 loss, the Isles also dropped into their worst start in franchise history, at 2-7-1.

While 10 games is a small sample size, we've seen a lot of things this season that are trending very poorly for the remaining 7/8 of the season. While most of you are quite familiar with everything negative that has swirled around this club recently, we'll try to quickly highlight a few of the positives we've noticed so far.

First off, the play of Mark Streit has been as good as advertised. With 9 points (4 goals) and around 26 minutes of ice time per night, the Swiss d-man has held up his end of the bargain. Not too long ago we were ridiculed on the TSN forums for defending this signing as being affordable and sensible; so far we feel vindicated. Streit has brought a booming shot and a power play presence to the team not seen since the Aucoin/Hamrlik days. Worries about Streit's defensive inadequacies have been mostly quieted as well.

Secondly, the play of the veterans. We're thinking specifically of Bill Guerin and Doug Weight here, but you can throw Trent Hunter into the grouping as well. While the first two are 37 years old (Guerin will be 38 next week) and will be free agents next year, neither has mailed it in despite the team's dreadful start. Sitting atop the offensive leader boards, both Weight and the captain have led the way for the "kids" as designed by GM Garth Snow. Just because their leadership and scoring knowledge has not yet "trickled down" to the younger prospects is not their fault. As an added bonus, Mr. Guerin is always good for a post-game quote or two.

As for Hunter, with 7 points he has gotten off to a nice start, numbers reminiscent of his 2003-2004 campaign. If he can keep or accelerate this pace, his recent 5 year/$10 million deal will look brilliant.

Next, kudos to coach Scott Gordon for having the mettle to play Kyle Okposo on the top line recently. While Kyle's production has been somewhat lacking, one cannot question the aggressiveness and desire he brings to every shift. He has been physical and has had a multitude of scoring chances this season. He will just need repetition and the increased comfort level of more NHL experience before those chances are converted into points for himself and his teammates. But we applaud Gordon for seeing what we have seen from Kyle and rewarding him for it.

Lastly, the crowds have not abandoned this team (yet). This one comes with a few caveats, though. While the Isles have averaged over 13,500 fans per game so far that number still puts them dead last in league attendance. Also, as a few people have mentioned in various other places, a significant share of those in the building on some nights have come to root for the opposition (Rangers, Montreal, etc.). While we don't mind taking their money, let's also keep in mind that even if the Islanders sold out all 41 home dates in a season it would still only place them at 20th in league attendance (due to the Coliseum's 16,234 seating capacity). However, at times last season we recall paid attendances of 9,000 or fewer, so we'll see if the Isles can stave off that situation again. So far, so good.

There's also one other positive we're fond of mentioning around here, even if it runs counter to our principles of being Islanders fans. There is a pretty nice reward potentially waiting for us at the end of the season if things keep up. His name is John Tavares.

See you all (hopefully) at Monday's game versus Columbus!

(P.S. - Nice move on the "new" third jerseys. We haven't encountered a fan yet who doesn't like them).

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Kyle Scores...Widespread Panic Averted!

Monday night debuted another season of Islanders-Rangers skirmishes; games both players and fans always get charged up for.

The 217th all-time meeting started with a whimper rather than a bang for the Isles, as it took the visiting Rangers just 56 seconds to bank a goal. Despite the setback, good things were in store, though, as Kyle had several excellent scoring chances in the first period and the Isles did not seem too concerned about playing down one goal. On one attempt Kyle nearly scored off of a Nikolai Zherdev turnover but came up empty.

And that's where Kyle's story would have ended most nights this season: close but no cigar. Except that with just 8 seconds remaining in the first stanza Kyle took a pass from Richard Park and fired it past Henrik Lundqvist for his first goal of the year!

Admitting in his post-game conference that he had felt "a bit snakebitten" so far this year by continuously coming up empty, he was relieved to get the first one out of the way. Coach Scott Gordon also expressed a sense of relief for Kyle after the game and extolled his contributions to the team. Not mentioned was the fact that it was Kyle's first NHL goal on home ice.

The game remained highly competitive (on the ice and scoreboard) through the first two periods but the Isles let the game slip away in the third. The atmosphere became increasingly hostile somewhere around the midpoint of the game as fisticuffs broke out both on the ice and in the stands. The final was a 4-2 Rangers win.

Apart from Kyle having an excellent (his best in the NHL?) game against his team's biggest rival (1 G on 7 shots, +1 rating), the other Islanders bright spot would have to be the play of goalie Joey MacDonald. The Rangers tested Joey Mac frequently but he was up to the task, saving 35 shots and handling the puck flawlessly. With starter Rick DiPietro out for an undisclosed period of time, Joey is quietly gaining the confidence of his teammates and the fans as a very capable netminder.

Despite stumbling out of the gate at 2-6, progress and development are the names of the game this season.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Tavares Watch - October Edition

Because it's never too early to look forward, and because we are very much realists here at Okposo Net...

John Tavares has scored 14 goals in 13 games thus far for the Oshawa Generals of the OHL. And as of tonight, the Islanders are officially in last place in the NHL. This means that 76 games from now, if the Isles are in the same position, they will be guaranteed at least the #2 pick in the 2009 NHL Entry draft.

This has been your Tavares Watch for October. Okposo Net - always with one eye on the future.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Horror Show

The Islanders put on another home horror show for their Thursday night (10/23) fans. We would imagine the Isles will be seeing Dallas' Mike Ribeiro in their sleep tonight, who torched them for 5 points (1 G, 4 A). The scoreboard showed a 5-3 final in favor of the Stars, but the game never really felt competitive for the Isles.

Plenty of blame could be assessed after this latest misfire, and even Kyle cannot be excused. Just two minutes into the affair Okposo took a needless roughing penalty on Public Enemy #1, Sean Avery. Not only did this lead to a Dallas power play goal, but it seemed to suck the positive energy right out of the Isles. Kyle later had a chance to make amends, but sent a blast over Marty Turco's glove that missed. Dallas corralled the puck and started their own rush which led to a goal, all while the Islander defense spectated.

Before the first period was over, Dallas led 3-0 and were well on their way to Victoryland.

Though they tried with several shots that hit posts, the Isles squandered a long 5-on-3 power play in the 2nd period that was their only real opportunity to get back in the game. With that chance bypassed, things became bleaker for the slim (10,163) crowd. A Bill Guerin goal was answered by two from Dallas, and the 3rd period was reduced to a formality.

Compounding the misery was a "lower-body injury" to defenseman Brendan Witt when he went knee-to-knee with Krys Barch early on. He will be re-evaluated tomorrow. We would suggest the same for the Islanders' game plan before Saturday night's tilt against Carolina.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Florida Split

Fresh off a 4-3 overtime win over Tampa in which each team tried to underperform the other, the Isles skated Saturday night on Florida's east coast. While Rick DiPietro finally got his season moving forward, the rest of the Isles seemed to be stuck in neutral.

Unable to register a goal against the Panthers' Tomáš Vokoun, the Isles lost 2-0. Florida's Nick Boynton put one behind DP only 24 seconds in; Corey Stillman added an insurance goal in the 2nd period to complete the night's scoring.

Sadly, the Islanders have not beaten Florida since December 9th, 2006. Worse off, three of the past five encounters have resulted in an Islander shutout. Ouch.

Just as he did in Tampa, Mr. Okposo recorded four (4) shots on goal but netted no winners. From our observations, though, he is playing well with his linemates and is creating scoring chances, so it seems that we'll be reporting an Okposo goal fairly soon.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bringin' on the Heartbreak, Part 2

Monday was Kids Day, complete with team mascots running wild in the crowd and post-game puck shoots and concerts galore.

Frankly, children should not have been allowed to watch whatever it was the Islanders were doing on the ice. Final score: Buffalo 7, Isles 1.

We don't even feel like recapping the game. Providing details of that effort would just be wasting your time. Just know that the themes repeated in the post-game conferences were a) the execution from just about every Islander was poor, b) the final score was not all goalie Joey MacDonald's fault, and c) the Isles took a lot of meaningless, bad penalties but d) stuck up for their teammates in the fight-filled middle period.

Rick DiPietro was on the bench; his true condition is anyone's guess. Anyone with sense is not really buying the story of him being fit to play after today's debacle, despite Coach Scott Gordon's insistence that he's not a believer in pulling goalies.

Every positive lesson learned from Saturday's performance was thrown right out the window by Monday's. That and the fact that Buffalo makes opponents pay for their mistakes in areas that the weaker St. Louis team does not. Monday made it clear that while the Islanders can handle the lesser teams in the league they have a long road ahead of them before they can compete with the stronger outfits.

Compounding the bad feelings of the day was news that New York Rangers prospect Alexei Cherepanov collapsed and died while playing in Russia. The Rangers are our on-ice rivals, but everyone dreads hearing a story like this. Our condolences go out to Alexei's family and all who knew him. He was only 19 years of age.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Bringin' on the Heartbreak

Some whimsy for you fellow NHL fans, no f-f-f-foolin' (sorry).

Apparently earlier this week, Def Leppard took part in the NHL Faceoff festivities in Detroit. Now, it's bad enough that the NHL found a band whose last good album was 21 years ago (don't talk to me about Adrenalize, that album sucked and was the beginning of their downfall - their first four albums ranged from good to great). I realize music mostly sucks right now, but I'm sure there has to be a good and relevant rock band out there that the NHL could have found. I digress.

In any case, here is the Youtube highlight of this concert. What's wrong with this picture?

Nice Win On Home Opening Night

Saturday night (10/11) featured everything good the franchise can offer: a sold-out arena, an excited crowd, a complete effort on offense, great goaltending, and a win.

The pregame festivities featured band Seven Mary Three (named in honor of the 1970's show CHiPs) playing on a levitating stage above the ice. When the Isles hit that same ice, their spirits and energy were elevated. Four first period goals gave the Isles a somewhat comfortable lead. Netminder (and first star) Joey MacDonald did the rest as the Isles sailed to a 5-2 win over St. Louis.

The winning effort included contributions from five (5) different goal scorers (Comrie, Hunter, Bergenheim, Hilbert, and Guerin) and some splendid saves from the aforementioned MacDonald. He saved 24 shots, several in spectacular fashion, as the Isles treated their fans to a really nice early-season win.

Kyle assisted on Comrie's goal for his first point of the season.

Afterward, coach Scott Gordon received the "game puck" from captain Bill Guerin after banking his first NHL win. If it were possible, nearly every Islander deserved one.

They'll try to keep the good vibes flowing on Monday afternoon against Buffalo. Okposo Net will be there; please stay right here for details shortly following that game.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Hit The Lights!

A new season of Islanders hockey dawned tonight (10/10) as the Isles opened their regular season schedule in New Jersey. The New York area version of Friday Night Lights featured all three area teams in action, but of course we only care about how the Islanders fared. And while there were bright points, we can't say the opener was a rousing success, especially since they lost 2-1.

Coming in, we figured scoring would be at a premium against the legendary Martin Brodeur, and we were right. Without being too verbose, we'll just highlight the important points of the game.

First off, the surprise of the night was seeing Joey MacDonald starting in goal in place of Rick DiPietro. Apparently coach Scott Gordon wanted to give "The Rick" some more time on his road back from injury, and it's unclear if MacDonald will start again tomorrow night. We're sure that decision will be revealed by any number of outlets soon after it is made. Nevertheless, MacDonald performed nicely between the pipes, saving 27 shots while allowing 2 goals.

It should be noted that the Islanders had about as many scoring chances as the Devils, so that was a positive sign. Also, new addition Doug Weight gave the Isles an early lead on a deflected shot, so congratulations to him on his first goal as an Islander.

For us, however, the most exciting moment came in the first period when Kyle was hauled down from behind in the act of driving to the net and was awarded a penalty shot. Astute fans will remember Kyle's first goal NHL goal came against Brodeur, and he now had a chance for a second. It was not to be, though, as Okposo went high glove side on Brodeur and was stymied.

Despite the loss, the Isles were competitive throughout the contest and had a fine chance to salvage a point near the end of regulation, but failed to convert. We'll see how they respond tomorrow night when they open at the Coliseum.

Hope you'll be there!

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Roster News

The final tune up in Florida didn't quite go as planned; the Isles lost 6-0. However, coach Scott Gordon apparently saw the things he needed to see from several players, namely Josh Bailey, and the roster has been pared.

Our friend Michael Schuerlein of Islesblogger.com has done all the legwork on who is staying and going, and sampled some other bloggers' opinions while he was at it.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Final Tune Up

Monday night's (10/6) tilt versus Florida will be the final preseason game for the '08-'09 Islanders. While the game may be a last chance for some borderline Islanders to make good impressions on the coaching staff before the roster is set, you know, we know, and Kyle himself knows that he'll be with the big club come next week. For him the game is virtually meaningless. In fact, we can assure everyone that Kyle went directly to bed right after the team plane landed in Fort Lauderdale around 10 PM on Sunday (the computers in the Okposo Net underground lair can track up to 60 simultaneous Islander player movements, FYI). Kyle certainly has no interest in cavorting around South Beach, especially since he's still shy of the legal drinking age. We kid, of course, but Kyle really does seem like a good citizen of the NHL, and we wouldn't want to suggest otherwise...

He hasn't played in every preseason game, but unless we've missed something he has tallied only one assist so far. A goal tonight would put a nice capstone on his first full NHL camp. The game is of note for another reason too, it's been widely reported that this guy is going to play.

Good luck to all involved, and we'll know the final product by Wednesday.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Joshua Bailey Signed

The 9th pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, center Joshua Bailey signed a 3 year entry level contract with the Isles on Thursday. Coincidentally enough today is Bailey's 19th birthday. We wish Joshua the best as he makes the leap from amateur player to pro now.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Too Much Thinking?

We're back from Nassau Coliseum for what was the first (and last) preseason game of the year in that building. The Islanders took on their other area rivals, the New Jersey Devils. After lots of talk about good team chemistry, "overspeed," new systems, and general love, peace, and harmony, we were eager to see the product hit the home ice. Well, you know we don't pull our punches here at Okposo Net, and by the end of the game our hand-written notes contained three bold letters scribbled on the bottom: SOI. Same Old Islanders.

Speaking of punches, they were certainly flying early. The sparse crowd of 9,701 (most dressed as seats) witnessed more fights in the first period than they did all of last season. Okay, perhaps we exaggerate a bit, but the pugilism enthusiasts amongst them were treated to three (3) separate bouts of flying fists. The Devils' Bryce Salvador tangled with bruiser Brandon Sugden, soon followed by a Tim Jackman/Sheldon Brookbank tilt. The fight card continued after New Jersey winger Mike Rupp dumped our man Kyle near the benches, but found out that every action has an equal and opposite (and quite possibly painful) reaction courtesy of big Mitch Fritz. Somewhat lost in this was a horrendous communication breakdown between defenseman Jack Hillen and goalie Joey MacDonald in their own end which led to an unassisted, shorthanded Zach Parise goal that gave NJ a 1-0 lead. Had Vice Presidential candidate Joe Biden been there to see the own-end shenanigans he would have surely commented, "That's not change, that's more of the same."

Fast forwarding, when the dust settled the final result was 3-0 Devils. To be fair, though, the scene wasn't all bleak, it just felt that way. Despite only generating 16 shots on Marty Brodeur, the Islanders limited the opponents to 22. Right from the start we noticed that this Isles squad was more readily giving up their bodies on defense than last year's version, and on offense they were moving their feet better. Unfortunately, the problem of not creating traffic and screens in front of the opposing crease has not been rectified. And once again the power play was powerless, netting nothing in four tries. These areas are going to need major amounts of work if the Isles hope to improve last year's dreadful offensive numbers.

Coach Scott Gordon had a few things to say after the whitewashing, explaining that the team is still in a learning phase, but he praised the work of his defense. He felt the team played tentatively in the Devils' zone, and feels that his playmakers, Kyle especially, need to shoot more.

Kyle acknowledged this point when we finally met up with him in the locker room, saying that he made some poor decisions with the puck and needs to think less and just shoot. Linemate Mike Comrie echoed this sentiment as well, stating that Kyle is quick, big, and strong and thinks that it'll just take some more repetition before the goals start flowing.

Their next chance will come on Friday (10/3), this time on the road against New Jersey.

Bettman: Lighthouse Progressing

As we wait for the start of the real hockey season, Gary Bettman spent a few minutes earlier this morning talking with Boomer Esiason and Craig Carton on WFAN. I know, I'm as shocked as you that there was actual hockey talk on the FAN.

In any case, Boomer asked Bettman about the current situation of the Isles. Bettman praised Charles Wang's ownership and noted that fans shouldn't worry about the team as long as the Lighthouse project is approved, and he mentioned that the town and the team are progressing well. But he made sure to mention that the Isles very much need a new or renovated arena soon.

Now, what Bettman said is probably no surprise to most Isles fans, but it underscores what needs to happen to keep the Islanders on Long Island. With the Atlantic Yards facility in Brooklyn looking very unlikely right now, the Lighthouse project would appear to be the last opportunity for the Isles. Should the town of Hempstead kill the project (and assuming the rumor of Pilgrim State in Suffolk as an alternate site is merely a rumor), the great likelihood would be that the Islanders would move into a lame duck format until out-of-town ownership purchases the team and moves it off the Island.

The Lighthouse project and the progression of the youth will be the two main storylines as the Isles open up their 2008-09 season next week. While no one expects the Isles to contend for a playoff spot, many fans will be content if new coach Scott Gordon can turn the young Islanders into a potent force by the end of the season. And if the Isles can get the Lighthouse approved, then in spite of what is almost sure to be a terrible record, it will be a productive year for the Islanders franchise.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Okposo Assists in Isles Win

The preseason got off to a good start for Kyle and crew Tuesday night with a 2-1 overtime win against Boston. Kyle had a hand in the season's first goal, assisting on Jon Sim's 2nd period power play tally. Unfortunately, only a certain other team's game was televised in New York, so you'll have to settle for a text recap of the Islanders' tilt here.

From what we read, though, the energy was high, Coach Gordon was pleased, and Kyle made some scoring opportunities for himself. A good beginning for the boys.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Hey, Hockey's Here!

Hockey is finally back! It's been 172 days since the Isles last took the ice for a (somewhat) meaningful NHL game, but that clock will be reset come Tuesday when they take on the Boston Bruins. Sure, we know you're probably hesitant to get excited over a preseason game, and perhaps your enthusiasm for the coming season has been tempered by some of the grim forecasts out there. But this will be our first look at the "New Islanders," if you will. Plus, talking hockey with your buddies and co-workers is certainly more fun than rehashing the latest baseball bullpen breakdown-du-jour, right?

The game will be played in Moncton, New Brunswick and apparently will not be aired on local television in New York. So, if you need something to pass the time with until the result and boxscore are posted, you can listen to Scott Gordon (courtesy of ITV). He certainly has some unique ideas; we'll leave it at that.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Botta Bing!

Training camp opens on Friday, and we promise we're going to have some real news and more frequent updates once the ball (puck?) gets rolling. Until then, we're pleased to report that our good friend, mentor, and Blogfather Chris Botta is officially back in the fold! While his many loyal readers have been checking his informative site all summer, he'll once again be featured as an Islanders blogger beginning September 25th.

This is great news, because as a former Islanders insider he has been able to bring the public stories and angles that you just will not find anywhere else. His league connections and status allow him to provide a unique insight into the workings of the organization, and moreover he conveys his thoughts clearly on even the toughest hockey subjects. For that, we say welcome back, Chris.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Not Necessarily (Islanders) News

Finally, the Brian McCabe-to-LI rumors can be put to bed. Clearly not part of "The Plan," McCabe was shipped elsewhere on Tuesday. We know Brian enjoyed his time as an Islander, and we wish him the best as he earns his pay playing for a different kind of New York crowd.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Introducing: Scott Gordon (New Head Coach)

Our friend Greg Logan is in the business of hearing things first, and yet again he does not disappoint: Scott Gordon has been hired as the new head coach of the New York Islanders.

GM Garth Snow took roughly one month to find his hire and interviewed a host of candidates, as you all know. Finally, the decision has been made.

Islanders fans are always hard to please, but it is our belief that most of you out there in fan-land will be happy with this decision. With previous experience in the Bruins system at the AHL level, Gordon will now cut his teeth as an NHL coach with the young Islanders. In fact, just yesterday ESPN.com's E.J. Hradek opined that Gordon should be the Isles' man. Well, now he is.

The Islanders will formally introduce Gordon at a Wednesday press conference.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Meet Some New Isles

A quick note for the hardcore fans among us...

The always enthusiastic Corey Witt e-mailed me today with a brief promotional note. On Saturday, August 9th (10 AM-noon) the Islanders will be hosting an "open house" meet and greet featuring two new roster additions, Josh Bailey and Doug Weight (well, one's a certain roster addition).

Bailey is 18 years old and was this year's first round selection, while the ageless Weight (actually he's 37) was signed to impart his owl-like wisdom upon the suddenly youthful Islander squad. Despite the age disparity, the promotional flyer made no mention of whether Weight will be dispensing some fatherly-like advice to Bailey. You'll all just have to show up and find out for yourselves.

Read all about the upcoming event here, courtesy of the Isles' homepage.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Nielsen Locked In

The Islanders announced on Monday that they have locked center Frans Nielsen into a 4-year deal worth $2.1 million or $525K per year. The announcement coincides with a string of new extensions that indeed seem to imply that the Isles are dedicated to youth. Last week the team signed contract extensions with Bergenheim, Tambellini, Colliton and Walter. Locking in these core young players to relatively low impact contracts means the team has more money in the future to pursue high end free agents as the team becomes more competitive or so one might imagine.

The 24-year old Nielsen, the first Danish national to play in the NHL (not to be confused with the first Danish born player, defenseman Poul Popiel), has played in 31 games over the last 2 seasons notching 3 G and 2 A for 5 points. Nielsen has a career -1 rating and 1 GWG with a 9.1% scoring rate. We look forward to seeing Frans wearing the Orange and Blue for years to come.

On a side note, you have to love the fact that the Isles are open about contract terms. It has become cliché to read time and again that a team "per team policy" has not released the terms of contracts. I applaud the Islanders for not falling into that trap. Real hockey fans do not judge teams for the reasonable price tags often associated with the signings of "everyday" players. What makes us upset is the ridiculous contracts that turn heads and make us wonder WHY? How come I have to wait a week to find out the Vancouver Canucks are paying Rob Davison $560K for next season but I know instantly that Atlanta is paying Ron Hainsey the GDP of Lesotho? For the sake of reporting the NHL might want to make the contract info a little more carte blanche and a little less smoke and mirrors.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

How Kyle Spends His Summer

While it was a typical steamy July day outside, it was cool and relaxed inside today at Iceworks in Syosset, NY as Okposo Net visited Islanders prospect camp. It was a chance for us to get our first up close and personal looks at players like (2008 1st rounder) Josh Bailey, Jesse Joensuu, Tomas Marcinko, and Blake Kessel, but we also wanted to check in with Kyle and see what he's been up to.

As it turns out, Kyle is just like you and me (well, without an NHL contract, mind you). He's been spending his free time with friends, playing golf, and generally relaxing (no mention if that includes hours of PS3 time). He assured me that it's not all fun in the sun, though, as he has been working hard to improve his skills at the University of Minnesota's hockey facilities. He mentioned his quickness and speed as areas that he's focusing on (even though he looked plenty quick and agile to our untrained eyes as he darted across the ice in a white #21 sweater during the scrimmage). Improving his "first step" burst is an important factor to him in upgrading his game in order to excel at an NHL pace. With the uncertainty that currently surrounds this team, I suppose all he can do is make sure that he's in the best possible shape and preparedness come what may this season.

Other than the scrimmage and our brief chat, it was a pretty laid back and fan-friendly atmosphere, as these events usually are. Kyle and many other players took time to informally sign autographs, answer a few questions, and take pictures with those who wished. I noticed a few youngsters even came away with pucks, which goes farther than you can imagine in building player-fan relations. It's good to see the Isles do right by their loyal fans who have stayed with them through, frankly, a lot of rough road.

Before we head out, a few loose ends that didn't quite make their own blog entries:

Thanks to the ever-resourceful Greg Logan of Newsday, we recently learned that Sean Bergenheim and Jeff Tambellini re-upped with the Islanders. Please be sure to check out Greg's blog when you're done here.

Also, we meant to ask this at the end of last season, but we finally asked Kyle which rivalry, Islanders-Rangers or Gophers-Badgers, was more intense for him to take part in. He gave the slight nod to Isles-Rags, but acknowledged that the crowds at UW's Kohl Center can get pretty intense too.

Remember, keep checking this page as we learn who will lead the Islanders in 2008-2009 and for more interesting Kyle tidbits. As always, thanks for reading.

Monday, July 14, 2008

BREAKING: Nolan Out as Coach

Greg Logan breaks the story a little more than an hour ago. Ted Nolan is no longer Islanders head coach, as Garth Snow and Nolan "agree to part ways". The article mentions nothing about a buyout, so it would appear that since Nolan still needs to be paid for the final year of his contract, this was essentially a firing by Snow.

I'm sure Ken will be in with more details and opinion later today; perhaps I will expound more later when I have the time. Early candidates according to Logan include John Tortorella, Bob Hartley and Paul Maurice; Bryan Trottier is not considered to be a candidate as of right now.

Never a dull moment with this franchise.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Free agency: Isles sign Weight

TSN is reporting that the Islanders have signed Doug Weight to a one-year deal worth $1.75 million. Weight had been long rumored to be headed to the Isles in the offseason, and it seems the rumor was true.

Overall, the signing will eventually be measured in what Weight is able to teach the young Islanders. As long as Weight does not restrict the youth movement and takes an active role in helping shape the future, the signing should work out OK. Plus, the contract is fairly unobtrusive - it helps the Isles to get to the salary floor and does not lock them in for the 2009-10 season.

In terms of a signing that will propel the Isles into playoff contention - not likely.

This has been Breaking News from Okposo Net. Sorry we don't have a cool siren or anything.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Free agency: Isles sign Streit

After spending the whole day watching other teams load up, finally a blurb came across the free agency wire:

8:06 PM: New York Islanders sign defenseman Mark Streit to a five-year contract worth $20.5 million.

Not a bad opening salvo from Garth Snow, who had gone on record as saying that the Islanders were "not going to be very active" in the free agency market.

We like the move. Streit is not too old (30), is a power play quarterback that this team can sorely use, and his stats are pretty solid.

It's sensible moves like this that will speed along the rebuilding process.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Tavares Watch Begins!

That may seem like a controversial title, but I've come to praise the Islanders, not to bury them. OK, not necessarily praise, but I couldn't resist the Shakespearian reference. Do you get this kind of hockey talk and high culture on other blogs? I think not!

In all seriousness, after Friday night, I was ready to rip the Islanders severely for letting Filatov and Schenn go. Not just for passing them by, mind you, but by proxy, putting a massive amount of pressure on Josh Bailey. The kid shouldn't have to worry about being compared to those two players, but as a result of the draft, it will inevitably happen.

But I slept on it. Saturday came, and the Isles made what appear to be some savvy picks in the later rounds, winning fairly rave reviews around the league. XM's The Hockey Show went so far as to call the Islanders the winner of the draft (I don't know if I'd go that far). While your estimable co-bloggers discussed the goings-on last night over some Mexican brews (seriously, why do none of the bars we go to have Canadian beer?), I decided to give it another night before posting my thoughts.

And so, after giving it measured thought, I think the Isles did a decent job in the draft. With that said, Tavares Watch can officially begin, because I think the 2008-09 version of the Islanders has good potential to be terrible. And frankly, that's not such a bad thing.

Let's be realistic - with the current version of the roster, the Isles are in no position to pull a Celtics and trade their way to a Stanley Cup next season. At best in my opinion, as currently constructed, the team could hang around for about a half season before inevitably falling toward the cellar. Free agents are not going to come to the Island right now unless the Isles overpay them, especially given the lack of adequate facilities available to them. So rather than fight for mediocrity yet again, the Isles are going full bore into rebuilding. This is a good thing.

In order to do that, the Isles needed to gain depth from this year's draft. They appear to have done so. More importantly, next year's draft will supposedly be even deeper. Unless the Isles surprise next year, it is very likely they will be contending for John Tavares or another potential franchise player. Plus three second-round draft picks will provide further depth for the farm team, which will essentially be barren after Tambellini, Walter and Nielsen get their shot in the big leagues this season.

In other words, Isles fans should set their sights on 2009-10. And frankly, so should the Isles - in other words, play the youth and play them often. Let's see if they're keepers or they don't fit. And in order to help that process along, Ted Nolan's contract should be extended an additional two years for two reasons - 1. He's done as good a job with this team as possible in my opinion; 2. Without being concerned about being a free agent coach after 2008-09, he can fully buy into the youth movement.

So to sum up this long post, there does appear to be hope for long-suffering Isles fans (are there any other kind besides long-suffering at this point?). But it's still at least 15 months away from actually being on ice. Thus, Isles fans should have at least one more year of pain before the turnaround begins. But I am finally starting to see an actual strategy in place - and that's a good thing.

Of course, if the Isles get the #1 pick in 2009 and promptly trade it down, then forget I ever wrote this post.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Wrapping up

Most of the crowd has left. They stuck around to see the pick and frankly, most of them left disappointed. It's not that they think Bailey will be a bad player; he is the type of player the Isles sorely need, if the scouting reports are true. I just think the crowd wanted a potentially franchise-altering "name" player, and they did not get it today.

I have a gnawing fear that this draft is going to be known as "The One Where Filatov Got Away." I hope I am wrong about that.

Remember, rounds 2-7 are tomorrow (Saturday), and the Isles will be busy picking all day.

Take care, everyone.

The stats on Bailey

Position: Center
Shoots: L
Height: 6'
Weight: 188 lbs.
Born: 10/02/1989
From: Bowmanville, ON
Team: Windsor (OHL)

In 67 regular season games with Windsor, Bailey netted 29 goals and 67 assists for 96 points.

With the 9th (!) pick the Isles select...

centerman Josh Bailey from the Windsor Spitfires.

Here's what they're saying:

TSN: Regarded as a skilled playmaker, the Windsor Spitfire centre is a good, solid two-way player who is conscientious in his effort at all times although scouts would like to see a little more grit to his game.

NHL Central Scouting: Josh is the quarterback on the power-play, from down low, for the Windsor Spitfires. He is a good play-making centerman with the ability to feed his linemates when he needs to and shoot the puck when the play requires that.

Now the Isles trade the 7th pick

To Nashville for the 9th and 40th picks.

Columbus takes Filatov

With the #6 pick. The Isles are once again on the clock.

Trade confirmed

The Islanders have traded down to the #7 and have acquired two conditional picks as well. The Isles will select 7th in the first round. Meanwhile, GM Garth Snow is on the big screen and the crowd is roundly booing him.

Toronto has selected Luke Schenn with the 5th pick. Hmm.

The picks so far...

1. Steven Stamkos (C) Tampa Bay Lighning
2. Drew Doughty (D) Los Angeles Kings
3. Zach Bogosian (D) Atlanta Thrashers
4. Alex Pietrangelo (D) St. Louis Blues.

It looks as if the Isles have traded the #5, and the crowd is ANGRY.

Isles on the clock

The Blues have chosen fourth, with Alex Pietrangelo, and the Islanders are now on the clock. The draft has gone pretty much according to plan, and the good news is that crowd favorite Nikita Filatov is still available. We keep hearing a rumor that the Isles have traded the #5 to Toronto in exchange for the #7, but there's nothing concrete so far.

Stay tuned. The pick awaits.

Up and running at the draft party

Well fans, we are live at the NHL draft party! Fans are filing in for the 7 PM Eastern start time. People are free to check out the locker room and meet Jack Hillen and Rob Figren.

As for us, we're gonna grab a hot dog and return with an update when the Isles are on the clock. If anything massive breaks before then, of course we'll let you know.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Draft Party Reminder

Just a reminder to all: Okposo Net will be LIVE at Nassau Coliseum for the 2008 NHL Entry draft on Friday, June 20th. We urge you to join us there for what promises to be a potentially franchise-changing day for the Islanders. Doors open at 5:30 PM, and there's sure to be some hearty debate about whom the Isles will select this season. If you attend, also be sure to stop by and say hello to the Blog Box crew. We need the attention. See you there!

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Missed It By THAT Much

Fans, the 2007-2008 NHL season is finally over. Congratulations to the Detroit Red Wings, who won the Stanley Cup with hard work, determination, skill, and some great goaltending by a former Islander, Chris Osgood.

Heartfelt congratulations are also in order for the Pittsburgh Penguins, who provided a wonderful six-game series but just did not have the firepower or experience to hang with the Wings, although they gave it a damn good try. Friends, if you couldn't get excited about watching NHL hockey during this postseason, and especially this series, then you've just missed the boat.

The fans of Pittsburgh should be commended for the loud and spirited support of their team despite having a mostly young side, an aging arena, and having been under the threat of relocation just a few seasons ago. We Islanders fans can certainly relate to those situations, and hopefully we can copy your team's model for success in the near future. Take heart, Pittsburgh, your guys are young and scarily talented and will be back in the Finals soon.

Speaking of the future, it certainly appears to have come to Nassau Coliseum. It seems clear that Dubie, Satan, Vasicek, and Fedotenko have all been voted off the Island by management in favor of continuing full-on with the youth movement. We can expect to see Kyle Okposo take a larger role on next year's squad, assuming all goes well in training camp.

And while we're thinking about training camp, let's not forget that the hockey-starved among us will still have plenty of chances to mingle with the young Islanders. The Entry Draft is just about two weeks away (June 20th), and while we're not going to Ottawa with our friends Mike and Tom, we will be at the Coliseum draft party. We heard that prospect Rob Figren and others will be on hand too, and there will even be some parking lot tailgating. Sweet! The staff of Okposo Net will be happy to meet and greet anyone and everyone, and even talk some hockey with you. After all, the draft is really one of the special days that fans get to enjoy.

Lastly, remember that on July 12th the Isles will be hosting a Kyle Okposo meet and greet, also at the Coliseum. You can check the official team website for details on that. It should be a good chance to get to know Kyle and ask him a few questions; maybe get your jersey signed by him too if you're lucky...

Before we do all of the Isles' promotional work for them, let's hope that this time next season we'll all be a lot happier about our team's standing. While we probably won't be celebrating with the Stanley Cup, perhaps we'll have just enjoyed a solid playoff run and will be discussing how this team can be where Detroit is now. With this dreadful season now finalized, we say again, there's nowhere to go but up.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

In Honor of CB

A few days ago the Blog Boxers were dealt some stunning news when we read that Media Relations VP Chris Botta would be leaving the organization. While we'll never know the real motivations behind the move (and it's not our business anyway), we will miss his humor, wit, honesty, and, of course, the locker room body checks he was fond of dishing out to unsuspecting bloggers. As an all around good-guy, we wish Chris the best in whatever challenge(s) he takes on next, be it personal or professional. He offered guidance during this experiment known as the Blog Box, and in turn we affectionately nicknamed him the "Blogfather," a moniker that stuck. Since we at Okposo Net always prefer to treat serious subjects with humor rather than lament, we offer you the Top 5 reasons why we think he really left:

5. Couldn't pass up sweet gig coaching the Knicks.

4. Hired as Sean Avery's new "image coach." Currently training by spraying turds with perfume.

3. With Jagr in Europe, James Dolan had to hand *someone* 8.5 million bucks.

2. After 20 years, realized he wasn't "that into hockey."

1. With Isles so close to the Cup, figured PR would just "handle itself."


Good luck, CB. We'll miss you!

Monday, April 21, 2008

With the 5th Pick, Okposo Net Selects…

Disclaimer: We had a really long draft preview already written. Honest. But after weeks of internal wrangling and second-guessing, not to mention the trouble of getting all three contributors to agree on something (anything?), it has been scrapped.

Obviously we would have loved for the Isles to have won the top prize in Steve Stamkos (anyone notice our 'Stamkos Watch' tidbits for the last, oh, four months?), but that just didn't happen. So we're down to the best of the rest, which, as we have determined, are still pretty darn good. There doesn't figure to be a lemon in at least the top eight picks.

Then there was the question of going for offense or defense in the first round. Admittedly, adding a d-man (and getting someone to run that woeful power play) is a team need but not the most pressing need. The '07-'08 defensive corps teetered somewhere between mediocre and fair. I guess “capable but unspectacular” would be a good description.

However, with 194 goals scored (2nd worst in the league) and the chance to draft franchise-changing scorer, we think offense takes precedence. Plugging holes in the blue line can be done in the free agent market or in later rounds of the draft. The Islanders' leading scorer had 49 points this past season, so that's code blue in our book. "Add Scoring" should be the theme of the first round for the Isles.

Lastly, please keep in mind that we are not draft experts, draft-ologists, player development executives, or anything other than fans. The following is just our opinion. Feel free to leave your own thoughts or rankings; that’s why we have a comments section. We came to the following decision via statistical analysis and second-hand reports only; we have not viewed the players in action or have knowledge of their personalities, mental makeup, work ethic, etc. When in question, we deferred to those who have seen and/or know the players’ off-ice strengths and deficiencies.

So without further ado, our pick is:

Cody Hodgson – Center (Brampton).

Our thinking:
Basically, he puts the puck in the net. An unselfish player, as his assist totals will also attest. At 6', 185 lbs he's no pushover, either. We’ve seen Hodgson as high as #3 on some mock draft boards. Granted, lots of Internet drafts have him ranked behind Kyle Beach. He’s currently ranked #10 by central scouting. We think that’s too low. The only knock on him we've seen is his ability to get back on defense quickly. However, in the wake of the Ryan Smyth deal we feel the Islanders desperately need to restock with high-ceiling centermen. There are other prospects who nearly made the grade (see below), but when factoring skill, stats, and signability along with who will realistically be available at the 5 slot, Hodgson's our guy.


Just wide of the net:

Kyle Beach – Center (Everett). We've read about Beach's incredible first step and 'explosive' scoring ability. At 6'3", he’s a mountain in front of the goal crease. Possible knocks on him are some attitude problems and his combined 418 penalty minutes over his last two regular seasons. Also, we’ve read he has already had an on-ice spearing incident and two concussions. For a team that's suspension and injury weary, the Isles might be wise to steer clear of him.

Nikita Filatov – Winger (CSKA). Ranked as the #1 European skater. Some say he’s the sleeper of draft. He’s currently learning the game at CSKA’s training school in Russia. Unfortunately, his stats there are proving hard to find. Also, one should consider possible transfer problems. However, if you watched the World Juniors this winter (7 GP, 4G, 5A, 9 PTS), you know he’s loaded with potential.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Twenty!


A quick reminder, Kyle turns 20 years old today (4/16), just in case some of his lady-fans wanted to get him something...

Sunday, April 13, 2008

See You in Moncton

Kyle's roller coaster, 3 league (NCAA, AHL, NHL) season ended today in Bridgeport with a 3-2 loss to Hartford. He gets some well deserved rest for a few months before starting anew in September (please note his final stats on the right). Both the Sound Tigers and Islanders missed the playoffs, but the seasons of each team revealed plenty about the future. The 2007-2008 campaign(s) showed both management and Islanders fans exactly what they have to build on, and revealed some deficiencies that need to be addressed as well. A championship caliber team will not be built overnight, but Islanders fans are nothing if not loyal. They'll need to continue exhibiting some patience, but unlike in times past, we think it will soon be rewarded handsomely.

As an aside, special congratulations must go to Jeff Tambellini, who scored 38 goals this season at Bridgeport in 57 games and matched that total in assists, netting him 76 points. That works out to 1.33 points per game. Hopefully that scoring will begin to translate over to the NHL level.

For the Islanders and their fans, the season is never really over. In addition to rooting the Rangers out of the playoffs, we can look ahead to the entry draft beginning June 20th and the free agency period beginning July 1st. Miro Satan, Ruslan Fedotenko, Joe Vasicek, and Wade Dubielewicz are the most prominent names amongst those whom may or may not choose to continue wearing orange and blue in the future.

While the Isles may not be on the ice, this summer may prove to be a critical one in franchise history. Please check back here often for updates, player news, and draft previews and analysis.

Have a great summer, everyone, and thanks for reading!

Friday, April 11, 2008

Some Hockey Still To Be Played

Friday night (4/11) begins the final regular season weekend of hockey for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers, and they're miraculously still alive for the AHL playoffs. They play Lowell at home on Friday, then conclude with a home-and-home series against Hartford (the Rangers' affiliate) on Saturday and Sunday.

Hopefully the Tigers will be able to slip into that final playoff spot. What would be even nicer is if Kyle erupted with a huge multi-point game this weekend and carried the team on his back. We know he's more than capable. No pressure, though, Kyle.

If the Tigers do make the AHL playoffs, we'll hold off on posting our highly-anticipated NHL draft preview for a little longer. As you may have heard, there was no movement in positioning for any team, so the Isles will select fifth overall. Regardless, the Isles should be right in the thick of the high-impact players come selection time (barring a draft-day trade). As long as Garth and company don't pick the Dave Chyzowski of the group, the team will be fine.

Friday, April 4, 2008

To The Bridge!

The Islanders' season ended on Friday night with a small bit of satisfaction, a 4-3 shootout win over the Rangers. Kyle had a big hand in the win, scoring the opening goal about halfway through the first period, then later beating Henrik Lundquist with a goal in the shootout.

There's no rest for the weary, though, as Kyle and several members of the Islanders will now head out to Hershey and join the Bridgeport Sound Tigers in their playoff quest. We urge you to head over to Tom Liodice's wonderful Tiger Track page if you're interested in following the rest of their season.

Back to the finale for a moment though, and we found it fitting that Kyle, Richard Park, Blake Comeau, and Wade Dubielewicz shined brightest on this night. One or more of the three forwards were involved in every goal scored by the Islanders, regulation and shootout, save one (Satan's 2nd period tally). The trio formed a top line in recent weeks that on some nights was the only source of energy. Wade did his part by doing what he has seemingly done all season long when asked, and that's stand on his head in goal. Dubie saved 48 shots in regulation and 2 in the SO for the win. He has earned every dollar that he'll assuredly make in his new contract next year; we just hope the Islanders will be the ones retaining his services.

We'll be back with draft lottery news on Monday night. The Isles finish the season fifth from bottom, meaning they can only select 1st overall, 5th overall, or 6th. Regardless of whether or not the draft fairy delivers a present on Monday, the Isles are building a young, scrappy team that New York fans will be able to get behind next season.

Boys 2 Men

After Thursday night's game, I (Ken) asked Bill Guerin which young player he thought had progressed the most this season. A dopey question, especially since it was never intended to be asked of him in the first place. It went out though, and like a good captain and team leader he politely declined comment. He refused to let himself get pinned down and play favorites. But the question has a definite answer, one that could have even been answered with the typical cliché-speak of the locker-room. They all have, as a whole.

It's been Matthew Spiller playing five games in five nights. The relentless yo-yoing of Jeff Tambellini between Long Island and Bridgeport. Kyle Okposo, who has played at three levels this season and been thrust into the New York spotlight. It's been Blake Comeau, who has shown skill while finding himself on a top line in the NHL. Or any of the other young guys who are learning on the fly.

The thing about doing post-game media is that people can't tell you how they really feel. How annoying it is to be uprooted from a situation you were finally getting comfortable in. Or how tiring it is to keep up with the speed of the pro game. Or constantly having to acclimate to new teammates in the span of a few days.

Sure, they'll give you the party line of how happy they are to be playing wherever the team sends them and in whatever role they're needed. They'll cite the great experience they're soaking up. It has been difficult for each, to be sure. But as the coach said, "sometimes you need to get flattened" to know you can play [in the NHL].

And what of that experience? Not only is it good for the players, but it's just as good for the franchise. While it accelerates the pace of each player reaching his maximum potential, it also shows the team (and other teams) the current value of each individual, regardless of whatever the ultimate fate of that player may be. If you think that teams aren't sneaking looks into the Islanders' bag you're fooling yourself. As we enter the off-season, show me a team that doesn't need young, smart, hungry guys and I'll show you a team that doesn't care about winning.

The best part of it all is that Islanders management finally realizes where it sits. Of course there's still roster flotsam to be jettisoned this summer. Parts to be added. Happily though, it appears the days of just patching holes temporarily and doling out contracts to infinity and beyond are finally through. Too bad it took a wasted season to accomplish it.

You want an end-of-season review? Congratulations to the kids men for everything they've been through this year. We've watched them progress all season long. Together.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Short Shift

Unless you care about the outcome of the HUMMER Metro Ice Challenge, it looks as if the season will wind down with a whimper instead of a bang. Looking at the schedule back in September, we couldn't help but salivate over the tasty morsels the league's schedule-makers were bringing us in April; 2 Rangers games and a Devils tilt.

Back then we looked ahead and wondered, 'Would the Isles need to beat the Rangers or Devils to make the playoffs?'...'Would they already be in a playoff spot, but have a chance to knock one of our rivals out?' Perhaps some season ending drama like last season, we thought and hoped. Now the schedule looks like a cruel joke as our two metro-area hockey brethren will be heading into the postseason while we stay home.

Tonight's (4/1) game versus Los Diablos is not entirely without meaning or milestones, though. Unfortunately, not all of them are so good:

* Joey MacDonald will start in goal for the Isles. He'll be looking for his first win as an Islander.

* Should the Isles lose the game in regulation, they are practically assured of finishing in the Bottom Five of the league. Get your lucky draft hats out of the closet.

* Should Mike Comrie not record another point this season (and what is going on with him?) it will be the lowest non-strike year offensive output by an Isles leading scorer ever. Comrie is at 49 points, with the lowest efforts in a season being Billy Harris' (1972-73) and Ziggy Palffy's (1998-99) 50 point seasons. Mind you, Palffy played in only 50 games that year. So yes, this season's team is sinking to depths not seen since expansion.

What it all means is: Garth, bring us offense!

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Special Teams Specialist?

Kyle is showing some skill. Only 2 games after notching his first powerplay goal, a game winner against none other than Martin Brodeur, KO was at it again on the special teams assisting on Richard Park's shorthanded tally in the Isles 4-1 win over the Pens. With the Isles officially out of the running it seems as if Ted Nolan & Co. are going to try him out in all sorts of scenarios. Despite not having the ability to fight for the Cup we should be resigned to the good fortune of having the chance to "road test" KO before next season kicks off. Keep up the excellent special teams work Kyle!

Saturday, March 22, 2008

"It's a Power Play Goal!"

It took just 2 games, but Kyle Okposo has his first NHL goal! The place: The Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. The victim: Martin Brodeur, of all people, one of the greatest goalies in history.

The Islanders won in New Jersey on Friday night 3-1, with Kyle scoring the game winner with 2:35 remaining.

While it may not have changed much for this doomed campaign, if you're an Islanders fan you have to feel good. We'll let the following image say all you need to know about the future of this young man...

Image used courtesy of The Associated Press

Congratulations, Kyle, on a great personal and professional moment.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

A Fine Beginning

March 18th, 2008: The day when conjecture was finally swept aside. Islanders fans now have their prodigy in clear sight, and if the debut game was any indication, they'll likely be back for a few more looks.

Playing on a line with Richard Park and Blake Comeau, Kyle seemed to meld well with his teammates. After witnessing his clear nervousness following Monday's practice, he admitted on Tuesday that he remained jittery, and did not know what to expect from the debut.

Once on the ice, however, he seemed to work through any apprehension, logging nearly 15 minutes of play and registering 2 shots. One, a wraparound chance behind netminder Vesa Toskala, had a very good chance of netting him his first NHL goal. Alas, that will have to wait. KO seemed to have a heightened sense of playmaking skill, one that we're frankly unaccustomed to on most nights at the Coliseum. We saw #21 powering into the corners in the offensive zone, shoveling passes to his mates, and planting himself once or twice firmly in front of the crease. In fact, coach Ted Nolan rewarded Kyle with time on the power play in the third period. It was a solid, if not quite spectacular, debut.

Furthermore, one can see that despite his youth and inexperience, the room for growth is clearly there. He seems to hunger for the puck, rather than just loping aimlessly around the ice hoping he'll be in the right place at the right moment. Coach Nolan made a point of mentioning that Kyle is a skilled, albeit raw, talent. The trick is to now nurture that talent into something special.

Stamkos Watch:
Oh yeah, about the game...

The Isles went out to a 1-0 lead on Toronto at the 13:48 mark of the first period. It was a 200 foot shorthanded goal by Rob Davison. Don't adjust your monitors, I'll retype it. A 200 footer, by a defenseman with no previous goals this year, on the penalty kill.

The goal looked as you might imagine such a thing would. On a clearing attempt, Davison slapped a long knuckler from his own goal line, Toskala squared up for it like a shortstop fielding a routine ground ball, and it hopped right past him and in.

Buoyed by the early lead, the Isles didn't use their great fortune to do something stupid like win. Three 3rd period Maple Leaf goals sealed the Isles' fate, another loss, their 6th in a row. Which brings us to this:

Coupled with St. Louis' shootout win, the Isles fall into a tie for 27th in the league, tightening their grasp on a top 5 draft pick.

As Howard Jones once sang, "things can only get better." Tuesday was a step, perhaps one of many, in that direction.

Update (11:59 PM)
Rick DiPietro to have hip surgery, ending his season. Read it here in Newsday. Maybe Jones was wrong?

Monday, March 17, 2008

Long Island, Meet #21

Monday found members of Okposo Net at Islanders practice, and while there we found Kyle sporting a new sweater number. Shedding the #12 he wore in Bridgeport, Kyle Okposo will be wearing the #21 jersey as he proudly steps onto Coliseum ice for the first time Tuesday.

The banner graphic has been altered. Also, as he relayed to us, it seems said graphic freaked him out a bit the first time he saw it. Sorry about that, KO.

Anyway, Okposo Net wishes Kyle not only a great debut, but a long and prosperous career. Welcome to the National Hockey League.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Okposo to Make Isles Debut Tuesday

Here's the scoop from the Isles website.

While there will surely be a lot of excitement surrounding Kyle's debut, the nice thing is that the pressure surrounding him should dissipate quickly as the Isles are no longer fighting for the playoffs. It will be a nice sneak preview to the future of the franchise, and if he doesn't score a point per game, who cares?

Stamkos Watch: The Isles were blanked last night 3-0 by the Habs. Unfortunately, the Blues also lost, meaning the Isles remain in 26th place. Of note, it appears the Lightning have stepped up their game a little bit as the other cellar dwellers continue to lose games, which could put 29th place into play for the Isles. 30th place appears to be too difficult, with the Kings 9 points behind the Isles. Remember though, as long as the Isles finish 26th or lower, they will be in the Stamkos Sweepstakes.

Yes, it has come to this.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Gentlemen, Start Your Speculating

With the Isles cooling their heels for a few days in Montreal/St.-Hubert, it seems that anticipation of Kyle's NHL debut has ramped up significantly. You see, friends, after Saturday night's match at the Bell Centre the Isles will have only 9 games left on the slate. What it also means is that they'll be in the free and clear to give KO his Island tryout without owing him 850 large.

In fact, a certain well-connected PR man is even guessing that Tuesday night will be the night. So, if you're at all interested in catching a glimpse of the future, you may want to scoop up some ducats for 3/18/2008. Don't say we didn't warn ya!

When Stomping is Apparently OK

Colin Campbell needs to explain himself now, and if he can't, he needs to resign.

The NHL has a major credibility problem on its hands right now and the Isles are peripherally involved.

Wednesday night, Anaheim star defenseman Chris Pronger stomped on Vancouver center Ryan Kesler. You can view the incident below.



Having viewed this (which is a much better view of the incident than what had been going around), it certainly appears that Pronger stomps on Kesler out of frustration for having been tied up with Kesler's feet. In my opinion, Pronger is clearly looking back at Kesler and down at his feet as he stomps on Kesler's calf - thus, it was no accident.

Now Pronger can argue that he simply got caught up in the heat of the moment, but even if that were the case, we've seen this year how much damage a skate blade can cause. It is simply not acceptable behavior and a career can be ruined very easily.

So given that former Islander Chris Simon was suspended for 30 games earlier this year for a stomping incident (and whether or not you agree with the length, you must agree that a large suspension was in order), surely Pronger would be looking at significant time in the skybox, right? At least for the rest of the regular season (and I would argue a few playoff games as well)?

Apparently not. The NHL will not discipline Pronger. To which Isles and hockey fans are saying, "What the hell?"

After seeing the video, discipline czar Colin Campbell owes the NHL fans an explanation as to why no action is being taken here, as the evidence is pretty compelling against Pronger. No action being taken brings into question the credibility of the league, as it would seem there is a double standard for regular players and stars. After all, to use a hypothetical, why can't Sidney Crosby do the same thing in a game if he gets frustrated? With this precedent, the NHL won't lay a glove on him.

But wait, you say. Chris Simon has a history of suspensions, and that's why he got 30 games. To which I reply with this: Pronger's suspension history. He has been suspended seven times, including twice in last year's playoffs alone. Hell, in the 1998 incident, Pronger swung his stick at Jeremy Roenick's head. Sound familiar?

So apparently according to the NHL, stomping is only bad if a fourth liner does it. When a star is involved, video evidence is "inconclusive." What a bunch of crap.

Hey Mr. Campbell -- if the above video isn't evidence enough to suspend Pronger, then it would be nice if you could go public and explain specifically why that is not the case (not that most people will buy it, but at least you're taking some responsibility).

And if you can't do a simple thing like that, then you need to hand in your resignation. Now.

Update (1:20 AM): Blogfather Chris Botta is reporting that the NHL may revisit the case based on the video that you can see above. Now why the NHL didn't have this footage available previously to them is beyond me, and I won't speculate other than to say I'd imagine the league is taking into account the extreme negative reaction of its fanbase. But if Campbell reverses himself and gives Pronger a lengthy suspension, then he will deserve some credit. I don't like having to call for anyone's resignation (everyone has a family to feed), but if Pronger isn't suspended, the double standard would be so egregious that I don't see how Campbell would be capable to ably perform his job.

Update (3/15/2008): The league has reviewed the evidence and heard from the parties involved, and handed down a Pronger suspension.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Paging Mr. Stamkos

"Might as well write 'em off. Let's close up the bridge. Let's get out of here. Close it up, lights out." - William Shatner, Airplane II

And so the death knell of the 2007-08 season for the Islanders tolls. Sure, there are 11 games remaining, but anyone who witnessed the pathetic 8-4 walloping laid on them by the Lightning has to believe that there are no more miracles remaining for this squad. As it turned out, the six game winning streak before the deadline was obviously false hope that may have actually hurt the team in the long run as it forced GM Garth Snow to stand pat for the most part rather than sell more of the Isles' UFAs. While I'm sure the Isles aren't going to tank the season, the final 11 games should now be used as tryouts for next season's team, and for guys that are playing hurt, they need to be given some rest while the youth attempts to show whether they belong in '08-'09.

And while the Isles are at it, please feel free to use these next 11 games as a lab and experiment with the power play. For instance, a power play line of Tambellini-Walter-Comeau scored just six seconds after they were put on the ice. Why not try using them more often - even if this was a fluke, they can't possibly be worse than what we've seen over the last couple of months.

In a bright spot, with tonight's loss, the Isles are fifth from last in the league, which makes them eligible for the Stamkos Sweepstakes. And given the way they've been playing lately and given their remaining schedule, 28th place appears to be a distinct possibility, which would mean they would draft no lower than fourth - thereby enabling them to pick up a top defenseman or an able scorer.

I leave you with 80's goodness to wipe the taste of this game from your mouth.

Monday, March 10, 2008

It Makes Too Much Sense

Here's a question: If the NHL is going to arrange another outdoor game to be played, this time in New York, how can the Rangers' opponent NOT be the Islanders?

When I saw that the league wanted another Original Six team to play the Blueshirts in Yankee Stadium, I immediately wondered why they would pass up a golden opportunity. If there was ever a chance to showcase an intense non-Canadian hockey rivalry, I think Isles-Rangers would be it (sorry Devils fans, we hate each other more). Our friends over at Eye on the Island think it's a respect issue. They might be right.

In fact, if we're willing to assume that Yankee Stadium is a suitable venue for hockey, why not Shea Stadium too? How about a Yankee/Shea home-and-home series to send off both stadia? If they could play two baseball games in one day at each venue back in 2000, we don't see why playing two hockey games over a few days time should be too difficult. Especially with fields that will be bulldozed soon afterward.

The Original Six era has been over for 40 years. Come on Islanders, push the league execs back for once and make something happen.

In other news, the Isles signed Jesse Joensuu today, who was drafted behind Kyle in 2006. The good news is that he's big (6-4, 207 pounds) and young (20 years old). The bad news is he's Finnish, so Don Cherry will immediately think he's soft. We kid of course...

Good luck to Mr. Joensuu and we hope to see you on the Island soon!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

The Tipping Point

Think back to when you were a child. There was a moment for almost every one of us, whether it was in a green field, on a frozen lake, or in a stuffy gym when the dream died. The dream that we would grow up to be a professional athlete. For me, it must have happened around age 7 or 8. I realized that despite my parents' urgings, I couldn't be anything I wanted to be when I grew up. Sure, I could be successful, happy, maybe even wealthy someday, but I wasn't going to bat for the Mets or score 69 goals in a season for the Islanders. I just wasn't athletic enough and there was nothing that could change that. At least I realized it at an early enough age as to not waste thousands of my parents' dollars and hours clinging to false hope. I pursued other avenues of opportunity.

That feeling washed over me again on Saturday night as I sat on my couch watching the Isles go down to defeat in Philadelphia. Despite what the players say, the coach insists, or we fans wish for, the 2007-2008 playoff dream is dead. Pick a reason -- too many points left on the ice. Not enough scoring. Superior competition. Too many injuries. Et cetera, et cetera.

While they gave us an outstanding effort at times, it's time to close the book on this Islanders hockey season. If (General Manager) Garth Snow really is a builder, the 2008 offseason will be his time to shine. All is not lost. The "kid line" has played well. Comrie and Guerin will be back. Kyle Okposo (who scored on Saturday night in his game) is on the way. Jon Sim will be healthy. And the defensive corps should remain mostly intact.

The Isles are staring at a deep draft. They have a boatload of picks and could realistically finish in the bottom five of the league, giving them a shot at winning the Steve Stamkos lottery. But even if they don't win him this summer the consolation prizes are pretty good too, from what we read.

Go ahead. Enjoy the last 12 games. Root your heart out for the Islanders against the Rangers. Enjoy March Madness. Enjoy the NHL playoffs if you so choose. Just don't delude yourself into thinking the Isles will be there. The dream is dead.