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.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

And Now A Word About Short Handed Goals...

Islanders beat the Rangers 4-3 (SO) on Tuesday night. But will someone please listen to Vince?

Monday, March 3, 2008

New Feature

Kyle's current stats are now available on the right hand side of this page. No more searching through old posts for his scoring line, now it's right in front of you. After Sound Tigers games it will be updated as quickly as humanly possible. You can also check to see when his next scheduled game action will be.

For fans of the now-defunct Mood Meter, consider the mood DESPERATE for the rest of the season...

Sunday, March 2, 2008

Highs and Lows

Hey all,

Now that we've had a few moments to compose our thoughts, it's time to reflect on a weekend of emotional swings.

If you're a Bridgeport fan, you've got to be elated with their recent play; they won all three games this long weekend (Fri-Sat-Sun) and are just one (1) point out of an AHL playoff spot. They picked up the big 6 points but still trail Wilkes-Barre/Scranton by the slimmest of margins due to that team's win on Sunday.

Bridgeport has enjoyed positive contributions from various sources as of late. Ben Walter, Tim Jackman, and Trevor Smith provided the scoring on Friday night. Newcomer Colton Fretter chipped in with a 2-goal game in Saturday's win over Binghamton, and Jackman did the same in Sunday's win at Lowell. Let's not overlook the solid contributions from goaltenders Joey MacDonald and Mike Morrison either.

Unfortunately, while the party was raging, Kyle O. preferred to stand in the corner and watch, registering only 1 assist the entire time. Oh well.

While we're happy that the kids are prospering, all is not well in Islanderland. The Isles lost on both Saturday and Sunday afternoons and took away none of the potential four points. With 16 games left and sitting now 5 points out of a playoff berth, it is an understatement to say that time is running out on this team. Sunday's loss was not due to a lack of trying though, as the team registered a whopping 53 shots on goal in the 1-0 loss to Florida. Coach Ted Nolan was pleased with the team's effort, though, and is desperate to figure out how to get the pucks flying into the basket.

There was a pre-game emotional lift, however, as the Islanders honored the greats from their dynasty team of 1980-1983. While there was no banner raising this time around, it was great to once again see such luminaries as Denis Potvin, Mike Bossy, Bryan Trottier, Clark Gillies, and of course, Bob Nystrom back on the Coliseum ice.

With an average of 2.45 goals scored per game this season, the current team could use a dose of energy from those high-flying championship teams. But that's a story for another day.