Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Team of the Decade

While the 2000s weren't a particularly fruitful decade for the New York Islanders franchise, we always try to stay positive in this space. Believe us, at times it has been a challenge over the last ten years. But looking back, there was one Islander team of the last 10 that clearly stood above the rest for us: the 2001-2002 squad.

After enduring seven years of playoff absence and an absurd coaching carousel, in '01-'02 the Isles finally started to get things right. Under the leadership of youthful, new coach Peter Laviolette, fans finally had a reason to believe in the Orange and Blue again.

While it may not have finished the way the fans wanted, the season was a marvelous ride that left people hungering and expecting more from the franchise. Positivity, which had been seemingly on permanent hiatus (an oxymoron that most clearly describes the state of the team at the time), was back on Long Island.

The 2001-2002 version of the Isles started off in fine fashion. Led by scorers Alexei Yashin (32 G, 43 A, 75 P), Mark Parrish (30 G, 30 A, 60 P), and Mike Peca (25 G, 35 A, 60 P), the Isles came out of the gate flying. Winners of their first 4 games and 11 of their first 14 overall, the team vaulted right to the top of the Atlantic Division standings. They battled with the Philadelphia Flyers and New Jersey Devils for supremacy right until the final games of the regular season.

Solid play was found not only in the offensive zone, but on the blue line as well by our personal favorite defensive corps of the decade. Adrian Aucoin contributed 34 points and a delightful +23 to a group that included stalwarts Kenny Jonsson and Roman Hamrlik. Eric Cairns kept other teams in line with his 176 penalty minutes that season, the statistical leader in the category.

Speaking of favorites, that year the Isles also sported two pretty good netminders in Chris Osgood (32 W, 2.50 GAA) and current general manager Garth Snow (2.71 GAA). Unfortunately, Osgood only stayed with the franchise for one more season, as at the time the Isles were grooming a confident, young Rick DiPietro at the minor league level in Bridgeport.

2001-2002 was also the first season that Isles fans got to see Jason Blake, who would eventually have several productive seasons of his own (40 goals in 2006-2007, as an example). While we initially derided his trade from the Los Angeles Kings as one that had obtained "the wrong Blake" (the Kings moved defenseman Rob Blake in a separate deal to Colorado that season), it was we who were in the wrong. While Jason netted only 8 goals in '01-'02, we saw the talent that the undersized center possessed.

Although the Isles couldn't and didn't sustain their torrid pace, they did end the season with 96 points, good for second place in the division and a #5 seed in the playoffs. It was their highest point total in 18 seasons, and an outstanding 44 point improvement over the previous campaign. The Islanders missed winning their first division title since 1987-1988 by a single point, though, and earned a date with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round of the postseason.

The playoffs were memorable, but in the end, disappointing. The home team won every game, and unfortunately the decisive seventh game was played in Toronto. It was an extremely physical matchup, and people most vividly remember the injuries to Peca and Jonsson. And a penalty shot from this guy. That roar had been missing from the Coliseum for far too long in our opinion. But it showed how passionate, even rabid, the Islander fanbase can be when they have a team to get behind.

Sadly, the Islanders tried three more times over the next four seasons to get past the first round of the playoffs and could not. Laviolette eventually departed for Carolina and won a Stanley Cup. Alexei Yashin's name became a dirty word on Long Island. Players like Parrish, Peca, Jonsson, and Brad Isbister never matched their point totals again after that season. The NHL work stoppage came and the Islanders were forced to build it all again. And that's about where we are today.

But for one terrific season the Isles captured the spirit of the dynasty years. And so we nominate the 2001-2002 New York Islanders as our team of the decade.

Saturday, December 26, 2009

Finally!

Kyle Okposo put an end to his 18 game goalless drought in spectacular fashion on Saturday (12/26) night. Having already assisted on two earlier Islanders goals (by Frans Nielsen and Blake Comeau, respectively), Kyle added the game winner with 47 seconds left in overtime. After letting a 2-0 lead slip away late, the Islanders rebounded to beat the New York Rangers by a 3-2 final.

For Okposo, not only did he break his drought, which must come as a huge relief to him, but he recorded the first three point game of his career and earned the first star of the game. The winner was a long wrist shot that appeared to hit Ranger defenseman Marc Staal and a post before it found the back of the net. It was a just reward for another terrific game effort from the 21 year old budding star.

Even the opposing announcers praised Kyle's effort, calling him the "best Islander on the ice all night."

With the win, the Islanders move to 3-1 versus the Rangers this season, with two of the wins coming in Madison Square Garden. Dwayne Roloson made 36 saves to help earn the win.

***
Notes:
Islanders prospect Travis Hamonic (2008, Round 2) had a goal and an assist in Canada's 16-0 rout of Latvia as the 2010 IIHF World U20 Championship got underway.

American Matt Donovan (2008, Round 4) had a goal of his own against Slovakia.

Lastly, Russian winger Kirill Petrov (2008, Round 3) had a goal and two assists to help his country to an opening 6-2 win over Austria.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Islanders 3, Toronto Maple Leafs 1

The title of this post may be bland, but sometimes you're happy to come away with a win, even if it wasn't the most crackling contest. The Islanders did just that on Wednesday (12/23) evening, in a game that was just slightly more exciting than the heading indicates.

The Isles won on home ice for the first time in five tries. It was a grind-out win that featured good defensive work and good play from goaltender Dwayne Roloson. The 40 year old netminder won his 12th game of the season, and a 19 year old rookie (John Tavares) scored a pivotal goal to send the Islanders into the Christmas break on a positive note.

The Isles looked as if they were going to get on the board early in the first period, when Kyle Okposo (now goalless in a whopping 18 games) backhanded a puck on net with his side on a man advantage. It didn't go in, of course, and the Isles only mustered another 6 shots the entire period. Jon Sim made his presence felt, though, as he later took a penalty that might have saved a goal, then missed on a breakaway chance near the end of the frame.

Trent Hunter, who scored the opening goal of the previous game, did so again at 10:47 of the second period. As a New York power play expired, Hunter squeezed off a wrist shot that beat Toronto goalie Jonas Gustavsson high and close. Hunter's ledger now shows 7 goals on the season. The goal was unassisted.

Just 90 seconds later, John Tavares broke his mini-drought of five games without a point as he added a second score. Blake Comeau helped Tavares light the lamp this time, and defenseman Andy Sutton picked up a helper after some video review of the play.

Despite holding a 2-0 lead with 40 minutes in the books, doubt must have crept in to some fans' minds when Niklas Hagman scored just less than two minutes into the final period. Given their penchant for blowing 3rd period leads and lackadaisical efforts late in games, the concern was valid. But it proved to be unnecessary worry this time around.

Despite a spirited try (14 shots), the Leafs got nothing else past Roloson. Blake Comeau added a goal to his earlier assist when he was taken down on an empty net breakaway with 35 seconds left to play. For Comeau, it was his third goal of the season, but earned him the honorary hardhat for effort in a jubilant locker room afterward.

The Islanders will have two days off to spend with friends and family before they head back into action on Saturday (12/26) night. They will head to Madison Square Garden looking for their third win in four tries this season against the hated New York Rangers.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Frustration Setting In

Last month many people looked at the current stretch of home games on the Islanders' schedule and saw a chance for the team to put up some wins. It hasn't worked out that way so far. The Islanders dropped their third in a row on home ice, this time to the underperforming Tampa Bay Lightning.

On a night (12/21) when the New York Dragons banners were finally (and hopefully permanently) removed from the Nassau Coliseum, missing too was the Islanders' killer instinct. In a game they led 1-0 and 2-1, the Islanders lost by a 4-2 score.

Trent Hunter opened the scoring and Dwayne Roloson made two spectacular saves in succession as luck seemed to be on the Islanders' side this game. The feeling was short lived though as young Steven Stamkos netted his 21st goal of the year at 6:20 into the second period.

Kyle Okposo, now in a 16 game goal scoring drought, at least helped Nate Thompson gain a measure of satisfaction when he assisted on a pretty goal. It was Thompson's first tally of the season, though you'll certainly remember that it was Thompson who missed on the easiest of chances against the Rangers 9 nights ago. There was no miss this time, as #11 put the puck past goalie Mike Smith for another lead before things went haywire for the Isles.

Perennial thorn in the side Ryan Malone scored twice in the third period after Vincent Lecavalier equalized for Tampa with time winding down in the second. Both of Malone's goals came on power plays, an area in which the Islanders have struggled of late. Coach Scott Gordon conceded this point after the game, saying "we're getting outplayed on special teams, we're not getting outplayed 5-on-5."

In the end, it only meant another missed opportunity in a season filled with them and more frustration for players and fans alike.

The Islanders will have a chance to turn things around on Wednesday (12/23) when they welcome in Toronto, a team who has righted their ship after a 3-11-6 start. The Islanders need to do the same, and quickly, before thoughts begin to turn to planning for next season.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

The Effort Is There Every Night

"You will never hear me question Kyle's effort."

Strong and encouraging words from Islanders head coach Scott Gordon. "He's always going to give it his best," Gordon added.

The coach is, of course, right. But one can look at Okposo's season so far and call it a microcosm of the entire Islanders season. Hard work, but less reward than one might expect.

Lest you think we're picking on this blog's namesake, we'll be the first to point out that Kyle leads the team in assists (17) and has the third highest point total, at 22. But just by casually observing the way he has played this year, you'd imagine he would have netted 15 or 20 goals by now. Unfortunately, he's been stuck on 5 for the last 15 games.

Asked if he was frustrated by his low goal output, Kyle offered that he "feels like [he's] playing well," but is not getting the breaks that lead to goals. "Everybody goes through it," he continued, "and you've just got to wait it out."

Which brings us back to that microcosm part. The same could be said of the Islanders. Many parts of the team are functioning properly, but the results are uneven. This was on display again on Thursday (12/17) night at home against the hated New York Rangers.

On a night in which Kyle insisted that the Isles clearly outplayed the Rangers, they dropped the game by a 5-2 score. Chances were missed, most memorably a Nate Thompson scoring attempt on an empty net, and the Rangers rode a hot goalie to a win. Okposo himself had 6 tries against Henrik Lundqvist, but could get nothing past the Swede.

Despite the result, there seemed to be an encouraging confidence going around the locker room. Kyle made it clear that the team is a cohesive unit despite their 13-15-7 record. They will continue to play an aggressive, physical brand of hockey, too. "When they mess with one guy they mess with five, that's our mentality right now."

Hopefully the bounces will come soon, better luck will be had, and some more wins will be tallied. But as the coach said, you can't question the effort.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Bad All Around

Monday (12/14) night at Nassau Coliseum featured one of those games that, as a fan, you just want to bury and forget. Seemingly in the game against Florida until the start of the third period, the Islanders had their doors blown off by a 7-1 final. Mark Streit made miscues that led to Panthers goals, Dwayne Roloson was porous in net, and there wasn't much offense to speak of.

While young Islander Jesse Joensuu scored his first goal of the season, it was about the only positive that could be taken away from a disastrous night. Trying to explain his team's effort, or lack thereof, Roloson believed that the Isles were looking ahead to this week's games against the New York Rangers. While coach Scott Gordon didn't see it that way, he expressed his hope for this to be the low point of the season, and that the team would collectively regroup.

Capping the evening's misery was a post-game statement from team general manager Garth Snow stating "Ricky [DiPietro] has been seen by the team doctors and most recently a specialist. To make sure we are taking the proper steps in his rehabilitation we will seek an additional opinion and should have a timeline by the end of the week."

Wow, hopefully another injury setback is not in the offing for the franchise goaltender.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Messing With Magic

This will be the shortest post you will ever read:

Dear Scott Gordon,

We understand your need to try to find secondary scoring, but when you break up the line of Matt Moulson, John Tavares, and Kyle Okposo, you are messing with magic.

Yours truly,
Okposo Net

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Okposo to Tavares Again and Again

After Wednesday (12/9) night's unfortunate loss in Toronto, a game in which the Islanders rallied to tie -- only to lose, a sad fact is emerging. The only thing working really well for the team is the top line (Moulson, Tavares, Okposo).

With the loss the Islanders fell back into a 'bottom 5' position in the league, which bodes well for a future draft, but not so well for the current campaign.

Are the Islanders improved from last year's product? No doubt. Are they a playoff team this season? Likely not.

Examining the recent woes a little further, we see that #1 pick John Tavares is working out just fine (15 goals in 31 games). It's early to call him the Calder trophy favorite, but if his pace continues, he'll win it easily. And while the Isles have hit another one of their infamous team scoring droughts, JT has not, netting each of the last five goals the team has scored.

Not by coincidence, Kyle Okposo has assisted Tavares on the most recent four of those goals, and has helped on 6 of the team's last 7. The line is working as designed; Okposo feeding passes to the team's young sniper. And on the left side, the emergence of Matt Moulson (14 goals) has been written about to death. There's no need to rehash that.

But what of the other lines? The Islanders are not ready to give up on players like Sean Bergenheim, Frans Nielsen, and Josh Bailey. As it stands right now, they appear to be important parts of the rebuilding process. But there has been spotty production from not only those three, but the rest of the regular forwards (Sim, Tambellini, Park, etc.). And that is the real problem. Inconsistency. Each of the aforementioned players might have a great game, but then they go M.I.A. for the next three. Not a winning formula, if you ask us.

So what is Garth Snow to do? With about $17 million in cap space and some big name free agents possibly becoming available at the trading deadline, will he make a move? Is he authorized to make one? We shall see. But the status quo is aggravating to a fan base that has been through almost everything, but more importantly, can see good days on the horizon.

As for now, we're left with a one line team and a taste of what can be.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

After 100 Games

Saturday's (11/28) game in New Jersey marked Kyle's 100th career NHL game. Over that period, which covered parts of three seasons, he stands at 58 points. That number breaks down to 25 goals and 33 assists.

Not bad at all, but the number suffers a bit due to some lengthy spells of little or no scoring (such as one he's currently experiencing). But to bemoan an average of one goal every 4 games is silly. Kyle is doing quite well. Back in his college days we actually pegged him for more of a 'fewer goals, higher assists' type of player. But it hasn't turned out that way, as the goals have come just lightly less frequently than the helpers.

While his numbers are well off the paces of the Islanders greats of yesteryear (we won't even bother giving you those details), you have to factor in at least two things. For one, the game has completely changed since the dynasty days (we remember the 7-5 scores that were routine back then), so it's an unfair comparison. Furthermore, consider the quality of Islanders teams that Kyle has played on so far. There hasn't been much help there, save this year's improved squad. With few other playmakers and scorers around anyone's numbers would suffer.

Rather than dwell on what has passed, it's important for Kyle's fans to know that he can and should improve on his .58 points per game over his next 100 games. The talent is clearly there.

Friday, November 27, 2009

Holiday Highlights

The Friday after American Thanksgiving (11/27) usually means a day off from work, maybe some shopping, and spending time with (or getting away from) family members. For the Islanders, this year it featured only a day game and more work as they try to stay relevant in the playoff race.

On Opening Night, as you may remember, the Isles dropped a shootout squeaker to the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Pittsburgh Penguins. Now, almost two months later, they had a chance to avenge the loss, and they did so in fine fashion.

The details of the game can be found here, but they are not so important as much as what is working right now and how the team is developing. And through 26 games, the improvement is clearly visible. And as we do from time to time, we'll highlight a few players who exemplify this improvement.

We don't mention Josh Bailey often, but he is finding his way now after a long spell of adjustment to the speed and size of the NHL. While he's not yet a complete player, he has recently shown nice glimpses of the player he can be, scoring goals in 4 of his last 5 games. At only 20 years old, he still has time to develop into one of the team's most consistent scorers, but right now he's supplying the offense that was missing when Doug Weight went out with an injury.

Though not as young, Sean Bergenheim is earning his keep on the team, too. His scoring numbers don't reflect it, but on many nights his is the team's best forward and certainly one of the hardest workers. The Finn brings an energy to his line and plays with a penchant for playmaking. It would be nice to see some of his close calls go for goals, just as one did in Friday's game.

Honorable mention should also be given to defenseman Jack Hillen, who despite his smaller size has been entrusted with a lot of ice time and has performed admirably. Using Friday's game as an example, he played 22:45, was a +2, and blocked 3 Penguins shots. He has recently earned more trust from coach Scott Gordon, too, playing at least 20 minutes in 9 of the team's last 10 games.

We'll see if the Isles can build on this win when they go to New Jersey on Sunday. It will be another day game (1 PM) and they will surely face another tough battle when trying to take two points against the Devils.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Increased Expectations Lead to a Letdown

Last season the expected outcome of a Flyers-Islanders matchup would have been a foregone conclusion. The Islanders, the league's worst team one year ago, were not able to defeat (or even compete with) the Flyers in six tries. Trust us, we were at games in both New York and Philadelphia last year and saw it firsthand. It wasn't pretty. In fact, coming in to the game the Isles had dropped 13 of their previous 14 games to the Flyers and had not beaten them since February of 2008. Yes, 21 months ago.

But this season has had a different feel to it. The Islanders have some new blood, a new energy, and a more positive outlook. Their play is improved. They have challenged some of the best talent the NHL has to offer, and while nobody is calling the team a contender yet, they have maintained a steady course with 25 points in 24 games.

It was therefore no surprise when the Isles took a 1-0 lead on a Trent Hunter goal on Wednesday (11/25) night. He was fed a brilliant cross-ice pass from John Tavares (some of that new blood we mentioned before) on the power play and easily beat Flyers goalie Brian Boucher. It was Hunter's 5th goal of the year and Tavares' team-leading 20th point.

The Isles really took the play to the Philadelphians in the first period, outshooting them 17-9. New York was doing everything well, including keeping the normally physical play of the Flyers in check.

Fairly even play in the second period saw the Isles still holding a tenuous single goal lead as the teams neared the late intermission. But then Brendan Witt took a penalty with time winding down (1:57 left), the Flyers capitalized on the chance, and suddenly all of the team's good work for 40 minutes was out the window.

In the third period the Islanders unfortunately again went into sleepwalking mode. That, more than anything, has defined their play this season. They generated only one shot on goal for the entire frame, showing no fire in a very winnable game. Flyers star Scott Hartnell made the Islanders pay for their laziness as he and Jeff Carter hooked up for what would be the game winning goal at 14:33. With about 5 minutes left, most of the crowd got an early jump on their holiday and began filing out of the arena.

After the game, coach Scott Gordon was about as livid as we're ever seen him. Visibly upset, he bemoaned the fact that once again the team did not do what is necessary in the third period to win close games. He cited the lack of speed entering the offensive zone on the attack, the turnovers, and not getting the puck to the net as problem areas. He did not use fatigue as an excuse, stating that the Flyers had an even tougher recent travel schedule than his team.

As for Kyle, he was again held off of the stat sheet, but had a terrific chance to end his goal drought (now at 5 games). He beat Boucher with a high and hard shot that rang off the crossbar. It would have doubled the Isles' lead at the time and made a world of difference in the eventual outcome. But, just like the game as a whole, it will only be remembered as a near miss.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Thinking on the Road

(Not the actual path taken this road trip, but close enough!)

The seven city road trip, which is taking up a solid chunk of the Islanders' November schedule, continues on Friday (11/20) in Minnesota. To this point the trip has gone surprisingly well, with the Isles taking 6 of a possible 8 points over the first 4 games of it. The team also finds itself somehow, almost miraculously, entrenched in a playoff spot. If reaching that goal is to be successful, everyone knows that road wins are the key. With Minnesota, St. Louis, and a weak Toronto team left on the road swing, it is imperative for the Isles to keep the winning momentum going and come home on a high note.

With the season now 1/4 completed and the Isles at a respectable 23 points (a nice rebound from their 1-4-5 start), here are some questions that you, the readers, may have some thoughts on. These are not criticisms of any player or the coaching, lest they be taken that way. Feel free to contribute in the comments section as always.

- While the desire to find secondary scoring is paramount, is it worth breaking up the top-line dynamo that Tavares, Mouslon, and Okposo have been? It is unreal how well they play together, surpassing even our own high expectations, as evidenced again Monday (11/16) night in the 4-1 win in Boston. Okposo once again started on the second line, but late in the game was on the ice with JT when Kyle threaded him a long and beautiful pass that seemingly had no chance of finding its target. It did, however, and nearly set #91 up for a brilliant goal. It could be dismissed, if only plays like this weren't occurring nightly.

Kyle has told us in the past that "chemistry is chemistry" and that he has no way to explain why the three forwards play so well together. If you have a thought or opinion on the lineup matter, let us know.

- Mark Streit's "down year." Admittedly, complaining about your team's best D-man who is 4-7-11 over 21 games and logs nearly 26 minutes of ice time per night seems petty. But there's something different about his game this year and we can't quite figure out what it is. He's on pace to record a career high 180 shots on goal, so it's not as if he's firing at the net less. It just seems that his play has been flatter, and his normally rock solid work at the blue line isn't as strong this season. What gives?

- Conversely, Andy Sutton. What has gotten into this guy to make him a defensive force? Did he just wake up one morning and realize he's 6'6" and nearly 250 pounds. He's hitting, is a +3, and has scored 3 goals on only 14 shots. Furthermore, his health issues finally seem to be in the past. Another blogger we spoke with even suggested extending his contract. Do you agree?

- Now, some overall team issues. How to stop lackadaisical third period play? Is this a conditioning problem? Inexperience? While it seems to be getting better, the Isles still look as if they are sleepwalking through the final 20 minutes of games. Any of you hockey players out there have a suggestion?

- Lastly, do you think the Isles will be able to keep up with their Atlantic division foes? The one knock on the Islanders' performance so far might be that they really haven't been heavily tested. That will change later this month, when the Isles face Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, and New Jersey before the calendar turns. Right now the Isles' intradivision record stands at 1-1-1. Arguably the Eastern Conference's best teams play in the Atlantic. The Isles have beaten up on the Southeast squads (4-0-3) and have held their own (2-3-3) against the Northeast teams. How will they fare against their divisional brothers?

These questions and more will be answered as the season moves along. As for now, the Isles just have to keep outworking the "better" teams and maintaining their course. It would be a delight to surprise the pundits come April. And that starts by finishing what they've begun on this road trip.

Friday, November 13, 2009

While We Were Away...

Okposo Net recently took a little R&R time on the West Coast, and while we were out of the loop we missed a lot. Apparently since our last update:

Kyle came down with H1N1 (swine flu) and was expected to miss several games.

Kyle recovered from said flu, at least enough to play, after missing just one game.

Kyle netted an assist and a goal, the game winner, against Carolina in his return to action.

Amazing.

***
As some side notes, the Isles seem to be continuing their penchant for letting leads slip away, first in Washington (a 5-4 shootout loss) and then in Carolina (the aforementioned 4-3 OT win).

Also, John Tavares scored his first 2 goal game in the NHL in that Carolina contest, while Doug Weight will miss additional time as he recovers from his upper-body injury.

If things continue to go this way, we may just stay out of New York for the rest of the season!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Four in a Row Feels Good

Two words come to mind to describe the current state of the New York Islanders: feeling good. After defeating Edmonton 3-1 on Monday (11/2) night, the Islanders have a winning record on the season and have won four games in a row. They've also taken points in six straight games. Suddenly the team can't do anything wrong, a thoroughly unfamiliar feeling in seasons past.

Brendan Witt, of all people, contributed two goals to the effort and John Tavares notched his 5th career goal. Doug Weight, who added two assists to his already impressive career ledger, said that the team now comes on to the ice with "thoughts that we're going to win every game." This would have been an unfathomable statement just 8 or 10 games ago. Now it seems to be more than just optimistic talk.

Coach Scott Gordon, speaking after the victory, said "It feels good. It's something that as a group we're not used to." Gordon praised the team's work ethic and felt that their attitude had remained positive and upbeat despite sputtering through the first few weeks of the season.

Dwayne Roloson made 22 saves to defeat the team he played with over the previous four seasons. He notched his fourth win of the year and lowered his Goals Against Average to 2.70.

The scene shifts to Buffalo on Wednesday (11/4) night where the Isles will try to keep their momentum going, while the Sabres look to avenge their previous 5-0 loss to the suddenly hot Isles.

Monday, November 2, 2009

The Kyle File

In order to bring you a complete picture of the season and the events surrounding the New York Islanders, our coverage of Kyle sometimes suffers. To correct this trend, we recently caught up with this website's namesake in order to bring you some information that you might not know about the emerging star. In a perfect world, this would have been 21 questions (for #21) instead of twenty. Nevertheless we present Kyle Okposo in his own words:


Q: Let's begin. Your favorite team or teams in another sport?

Kyle: The Vikings and Twins.

Q: Your favorite junk food, if you have one?

Kyle: Pizza.

Q: We know that you're a gamer...you like your video games. What are you playing right now?

Kyle: Tiger Woods (PGA Tour).

Q: That leads right into the next question. The best round of golf you've ever played was what score?

Kyle: 73. On several different courses in Minnesota.

Q: What kind of music are you listening to right now?

Kyle: Rap. Eminem's new stuff, Lil Wayne. I like some R&B too. Dr. Dre has some good stuff out.

Q: Okay, are you an athlete that likes to use Twitter, read blogs, and see what people are saying online?

Kyle: No.

Q: Favorite movie or television show right now?

Kyle: Since Entourage ended, it's Californication.

Q: Good choices. When you were in school, what was your favorite subject?

Kyle: Math.

Q: Do you speak any other languages?

Kyle: A little bit of Spanish, not much.

Q: What's the best comfort food made by a member of your family?

Kyle: Crab legs. It's just a childhood favorite.

Q: Interesting. So how did you celebrate your big 21st birthday?

Kyle: I had two beers in my room and then I got ready for the game the next day.

Q: Is there any significance to wearing the #21 uniform?

Kyle: No...well I loved (Peter) Forsberg growing up.

Q: You've mentioned that in the past. How about your dream car?

Kyle: When I was growing up it was a Range Rover.

Q: Please name a place you've always wanted to visit, but never had the chance to.

Kyle: St. Andrew's golf course in Scotland.

Q: Your favorite road city?

Kyle: Probably Tampa. It's just fun. It's always warm there and everyone always seems to be having a good time.

Q: Player past or present you'd like to spend a day with?

Kyle: Joe Sakic.

Q: If not for hockey what profession would you be doing? Or one you'd like to get into after your hockey career?

Kyle: Golf. Or being a movie critic.

Q: One sentence to describe Kyle the hockey player?

Kyle: I try to work hard all the time.

Q: And one sentence to describe Kyle the person?

Kyle: I'm pretty easy going, laid back, and I like to have a good time.

Q: And to conclude, would you like to send a message to your fans?

A: I want to say thanks to our fans. They've been great. They've been very patient with us and we're starting to click here a little bit. It's gonna be good.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Okie Scores Winner as Isles Top Rangers

The Islanders clashed with the Rangers for the first time this season on Wednesday (10/28) night. With lots of New York sports fans focused on the start of baseball's World Series, we wondered if the heated hockey tilt would take a back seat this time around.

We are happy to report it did not. We are even happier to report that the Islanders emerged victorious, giving those fans aligned with both the Yankees and Rangers a double dose of depression to deal with in the morning.

While we were scrambling to find parking and get into the building, Matt Moulson had already struck. He was slipped a beautiful breakaway pass by scrappy Jack Hillen just 55 seconds into the contest, and beat goalie Henrik Lundqvist stick side. It was 1-0 Islanders before we had even found our seat. Moulson is still leading the team in scoring, with 6 goals and 4 assists, in case you had forgotten.

Scoring first was a relief, but too many times this season (and others) we've seen an early lead evaporate. And unfortunately this lead went by the boards too, as the Rangers tied the game on P.A. Parenteau's first NHL goal at 8:30 of the period.

The Isles could have easily fallen behind in this one, but on this night the posts were Dwayne Roloson's friends. The cage saved two potential goals for the home netminder before Kyle Okposo struck on the power play in the 2nd to recapture the lead for the Isles. Nifty passing by Doug Weight and a Jack Hillen shot rebound allowed Okie to beat Lundquist with 1:46 left in the stanza.

John Tavares, feeling left out as the only non-scorer on the "Moulson Golden" line, sealed the game for the Isles with about 6 minutes left to play. JT's 4th goal overall and first against his team's arch rivals sent the Rangers fans who had attended packing and the Isles boosters into a frenzy. 3-1 was the final in Uniondale.

It was a relatively clean game on the ice infraction-wise (compared to some we've witnessed in the past), and certainly the Isles' best performance of the season.

Coach Scott Gordon singled out players like Richard Park and Josh Bailey during his post-game conference, stating that while their names didn't hit the stat sheet they certainly aided in the win. Defensive mistakes were not made, and he lauded his team for playing a "full 60 minutes."

We will add this: if the Isles can play this way every night they can be a playoff team. Consistent effort is the only thing holding them back.

Dwayne Roloson confirmed this for us in a corner of the dressing room. "We blocked shots [on the penalty kill], we put sticks in the lane." He continued, "That was K.I.S.S. hockey. Keep it simple, stupid. We played our game plan to a tee." Roloson made 34 saves and recorded the win, the team's first this year in regulation.

The mood was jublilant among the other players too. Tavares was seen wearing a celebratory hardhat, and Kyle was laughing and smiling with his mates. Curiously, nobody approached KO for a sound bite this time. We'll try to remedy that later this week when we sit down with him for a fun Q&A to try to learn a little more about the emerging star.

***Fun Fact: With Kyle's point tonight, his 52nd with the team, he passes Viktor Kozlov on the all-time Islanders scoring list! But you already knew that.

Monday, October 26, 2009

More OT Losses

A quick post after another game that didn't quite go the Islanders' way. They followed up Saturday (10/14) night's 3-2 overtime loss with, yes, a 3-2 overtime loss this evening (10/26).

While this time it was the Canadiens that blew a third period lead, the Islanders again could not bank home the extra point. Though they have worked hard and gone to 6 overtimes in 10 games, their play has been inconsistent. There's no getting around that and the fact that the defense has not been up to scratch. Even Mark Streit, a bedrock blue liner last season, hasn't been immune to the mistake bug this year.

Special congratulations to Jeff Tambellini for the first two goal game of his career. Hopefully he can get on track and become the player many fans know he is capable of being. Kyle had an assist on one of the goals, raising his season point total to 7.

The Islanders host a hot Rangers team on Wednesday (10/28) night. If the Isles don't show more consistent play over a full 60 minutes, that one could get ugly.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

W-I-N Spells Relief

On Wednesday (10/21) night, the Islanders were in danger of tying a franchise record for the worst opening to a season. They hadn't won in their first 6 tries, and the Carolina Hurricanes were coming to town. While disaster nearly befell the Isles in another 3rd period collapse, the New York side recovered in the shootout and recorded their first victory of 2009.

With a disappointing crowd of 9,122 in the seats to see it, the red hot Matt Moulson notched his team leading fifth goal of the season in the first period to get the scoring started. The surprise assist came from the stick of Andy Sutton, who played a very nice game and eventually earned the first star.

Carolina would tie the game in the second period on a Matt Cullen power play score, but scrappy Tim Jackman sent a goal past Hurricanes goalie Cam Ward to recapture the lead. Andy Sutton did the same under a minute later, and it seemed as if the Isles were on their way to a 'W'.

It wouldn't be that easy, though, as Carolina had some rapid fire scoring in them too. With just about 6 minutes remaining, Eric Staal scored to draw the 'Canes within one and Jussi Jokinen tied it 1:02 later.

The home crowd was dismayed, angered, and felt as if they'd seen this horror show before. But on this night the crowd was treated to a happy ending.

Though both teams had good chances to win in the 5 minute overtime, the squads sent the game to a shootout. And wouldn't you know for the first time all season each of the 3 Islanders shooters scored. First Jeff Tambellini, the shootout specialist. Then newly healed Frans Nielsen. And finally, the marquis attraction, young John Tavares. It added up to a 4-3 win for the home team.

After the game Coach Scott Gordon hoped that this would be the start of getting the season turned in the right direction, while the players we spoke with were relieved and nearly elated to have broken the dry spell. The upbeat music was blaring as the players shuffled in and out of the locker room. Goalie Dwanye Roloson even went as far as to compare his first Islanders win to a kid attending his first pro sporting event.

While we're happy for Dwayne, Andy, the coach, and the rest of the team, let's hope they can carry some of this momentum into tomorrow night's game in Montreal. It will be John Tavares' first game in the building where he became an Islander.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Focusing on the Positives

We've returned from Minnesota, however during our absence the Islanders still did not break into the win column. While their record is 0-3-3, we've always fashioned ourselves as optimists, and prefer to highlight the good things about this team that we see rather than dwelling on the negatives, as some fans are doing.

First off, let us just say that the rumors of Coach Scott Gordon's possible dismissal are absurd. Everyone knew back in September that the Islanders were going to have another tough season ahead of them. What good would changing coaches possibly do right now other than appease a few fans with excessively high expectations? Does anyone think a new voice would suddenly increase the team's scoring or shore up their shaky defense? Preposterous.

Without further ado, here a a few early things we've been pleased with so far (in no particular order):

- The Islanders, while winless, have outplayed their opponents in the majority of their games. Opening night's effort was strong enough to garner a victory over Pittsburgh, for example. The Isles should have had a win in Boston. In fact, in every game other than the afternoon tilt against Los Angeles the Isles have been the better team on the ice for at least one period, and in many cases much longer.

- The production of John Tavares. At 4 goals and 3 assists in his first 6 games, fears of a slow start or a tough transition to the NHL have been assuaged.

- Kyle Okposo's steady production. You can't knock a point-per-game pace.

- The nice find that is Matt Moulson. He has matched Tavares' point total so far. Keeping up the pace will be a challenge, but if he keeps getting to the net, screening goalies, and knocking in rebounds he'll be just fine. Kudos to management for taking a chance on him.

- Mark Streit. The steadiest of the defensemen. A wonderful addition to any team's power play. He's always firing shots from the point. His production remains constant. We loved this signing before last season. We like it even more now.

- The return of Frans Nielsen. While he's not quite back yet, when he comes back from his knee injury he'll likely be paired with Kyle on the second line because the two work well together. Plus, after last season, anyone returning from an injury is good news!

- Marty Biron's play. While an 0-2 record with a 3.16 Goals Against Average is normally nothing to gush about, it was unclear exactly what his role would be when he signed, and what it will be in the future. But paired right now in goal with Dwayne Roloson, Biron has clearly been the better of the two netminders to this point. Plus, on a selfish level, Marty always provides a great quote. His next win will be his 200th in the NHL, FYI.

- Charles Wang's Lighthouse Project is not quite dead. Despite a published report stating the contrary, Mr. Wang issued a Monty Python-esque "we're not dead yet" statement regarding the Isles' arena development project. As far as we know, the town and the project leaders are still talking.

- Honorable mention to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. We know we're stepping on The Tiger Track's toes a bit here, but the AHL squad opened their season with 4 wins. While they have lost their two most recent games, we are looking for any and all positives right now. We'll be watching (and perhaps reporting on) some of their promising players this year, including 2009 draft pick Mikko Koskinen.

While we're hoping that the underperforming Isles not on this list step up their play soon, we have realistic expectations about what this season means. We hope you do too, and aren't so quick to heap criticism on this team in transition.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Day Game Doldrums

The Islanders came into Monday's (10/12) holiday afternoon tilt (a.k.a. Kids' Opening Day) looking to rebound after a dispiriting overtime loss in Boston over the weekend. While the Isles seem to historically have trouble performing in day games (according to charts kept by Dee Karl, the 7th Woman), the media guide indicates that the team has trended more towards mediocrity of late, going 5-7-1 last season when the sun was up.

Regardless of the past, Kyle told us that his preparation is the same regardless of the time of day, while Doug Weight chimed in on the subject by saying that sometimes a team doesn't have its legs "for the first 5 or 6 minutes," but after that they soon get going. He was sure to remind us that it's the same for both teams though, and added that for him a day game is sometimes a nice change of pace. It certainly frees up a player's evenings for family time, which is nice for an established veteran like Mr. Weight.

With all that said, it seemed as if the Isles came out on this day with plenty of steam, outshooting the visiting Los Angeles Kings 11-4 in the 1st period and with Finnish forward Sean Bergenheim creating several good scoring opportunities for himself. L.A. goalie Jonathan Quick was up to the task, though, and the teams went into the first break unable to break through with a goal.

The most noticeable thing that happened in the second period was the arena scoreboard malfunctioning for several minutes about 6 minutes into play. The Isles couldn't sustain any kind of momentum and took the game's first penalty at the 7:48 mark. While nothing came of it for the Kings, a second power play late in the frame provided the Kings with a nice looking goal from their young star Anze Kopitar. Islanders goaltender Marty Biron was helplessly screened on the shot, and with only 6 seconds left on the kill, the goal really seemed to take the air out of the Islanders' balloon. It also set the tone for a mostly moribund third period.

The Kings made it 2-0 at 5:31 of the third period, as another one of their young stars, Drew Doughty, blasted a shot past Biron. As improved as the Isles' play has been on the young season, third period comebacks have not been their hallmark. They did pump some life back into the game when Matt Moulson finally beat Quick with 1:55 left to play. Kyle and Mark Streit recorded assists on the goal.

The Islanders scrambled for an equalizer with a last-ditch empty net tactic, but it never came. The final was 2-1 Los Angeles, and we'd have to say it was their least entertaining game of the year so far.

The Isles have taken 3 points over the first 4 games, but you get the sense from the players and coaches that it should be more. While we like the heightened expectations of this team, the coach reminded everyone once again that he is focused on how the team plays and the effort they provide each time out. "There are no shortcuts" on the path to success was and is the message he wants to instill to his corps.

Weight, the captain, thought the team just needed to play "hungrier" at times, and that while moral victories are nice, "this league is all about winning."

Lastly, a quick look at the stat sheet shows that members of the "Moulson Golden" line were the only forwards to record points in the game (Moulson 1 G, Okposo 1 A). As you can see on the right hand side of this page, Kyle is still maintaining his point-per-game pace. Hopefully the Isles can get Tavares and others involved and capture their first win when they travel to Buffalo on Friday (10/16).

Thursday, October 8, 2009

"Moulson Golden" is the Life of the Party

First off, we have to give credit where it's due, and in this case we owe Doug of Official's Outlook gratitude for dreaming up a clever line name. While we had assumed that Josh Bailey (the O-T-B Line, anyone?) or more likely a veteran would begin the season playing on a line with Messrs. Okposo and Tavares, it turned out to be dark horse candidate Matt Mouslon who emerged as the third piece of the trio. We didn't quite know what to think of Coach Scott Gordon's choice as training camp closed, but after two games we can declare: 'Don't change a thing!'

Initially unaware of any connection between the former Los Angeles King (Moulson) and Canada's favorite son/Next One/Mr. Everything (Tavares), it has now come to our attention that the two grew up in close proximity to each other and are very familiar mates. Moulson was born in North York, Ontario, which is a stone's throw from Mississauga, Ontario, where Tavares was raised. Clearly the two have been part of similar circles for years, whether it's been inside the rink or away from it (regarding Toronto area hockey). While Moulson is several years older than John, he expressed some degree of familiarity to those within earshot after the home opener. You know, the one where the duo hooked up for #91's first NHL goal. Anyway, just let it be known that they are familiar with each other, but more importantly, are comfortable playing together.

Fast forward to Thursday (10/8) night in their home province, where Gordon's shrewd move again paid dividends. The Islanders took on not Toronto, but Ottawa, in that team's home opener. And while JT's shots were stymied all evening, the Isles rallied from a 2-0 deficit on goals from Kyle and Moulson. Furthermore, Moulson assisted on Kyle's highlight reel effort (seen here after the commercial), and Tavares helped on his friend Matt's. If that confuses you, just know this: of the 6 total points awarded to Islanders on the stat sheet, four of them were credited to members of the "Moulson Golden" line.

While we were unable to see the entirety of the game (sometimes life does call us away from hockey), we enjoyed the spirit the Islanders exhibited in fighting back and pushing the game to an overtime period. While the Senators eventually prevailed 3-2, we have no quarrels with the effort of any of the skaters or the goaltending. As announcer Billy Jaffe stated after the contest, increased consistency will be the name of the game this season.

Though it's only two games, it's clear that Gordon's scoring line is just fine, and if he feels the team needs work in any areas, we'd advise him not to tinker with the heartwarming cocktail he brewed up in the preseason.

***
Coming next week, Kyle's thoughts on day games, how he views his linemates, and our thoughts on the team's early performance.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Season Opener: Almost Great

A sold out arena. Fans tailgating for hours before the puck drops. Mike Bossy and Brian Trottier on the ice. Ear-splitting decibel levels.

All of the above were present at Nassau Coliseum on Saturday (10/3) night. Except for a small pocket of Penguins fans sitting in the last few rows of one end, it seemed as if all of Long Island was on hand to see something special.

And they got everything they wanted. Almost.

The pregame excitement was tempered just a bit by the news that Charles Wang still hadn't received his 'Yes or No' from the Town of Hempstead. The parties will meet face to face next week. As long as the sides are talking, there is hope for a positive outcome.

So there was that, and also a new kid in town. #91. John Tavares. Playing on the same line as Kyle.

And the odd thing was that they played together really well. Surprisingly well. As if they had been teammates for years. Despite the fact that one man was making his league debut and the other had experienced a concussion that wiped out almost the entirety of his preseason.

With newcomer Matt Moulson centering the two, Tavares produced a goal and an assist while Kyle plucked an assist for himself. And it could have been more.

The Islanders held the lead on the Pens twice, but in the end it was just too much Sidney Crosby. Early on, and then later in the shootout. A 4-3 overtime loss was the outcome.

But despite the disappointing result, many fans flashed ahead in their minds to the future. A future when the arena issue is settled, and one where other teams worry about being beaten by too much Tavares or Okposo.

***
For the complete boxscore and recap, please click here.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Okie OK for Season Opener

Thanks to an informed reader and another source we can now proclaim that Kyle will play on Saturday (10/3) night. The Islanders will open the new season by welcoming in the Stanley Cup Champion Pittsburgh Penguins in what we imagine will be a charged atmosphere.

Hopefully the night will be the first in a series of steps designed to bring the Islanders back to competitive respectability on the ice.

While we don't expect any news tomorrow regarding the team's off-ice situation, please note that the date also represents owner Charles Wang's self-imposed deadline for a 'Yes or No' on his Lighthouse Project (from the Town of Hempstead).

We're hoping for the best outcome on both fronts tomorrow, as we fans have waited a long time for something to really go our way.

Kyle the Alternate Captain

Great news just in from Newsday's Katie Strang, as Kyle has been voted by the team to wear the "A" this season! As we suggested back in June, Kyle has been and continues to be the kind of player and person that should help lead the young Islanders.

We always assumed the final decision on this matter would be made by Scott Gordon, possibly with some input from General Manager Garth Snow. The fact that this was a team decision speaks volumes about how Kyle is viewed by his peers.

We would also be remiss if we didn't extend congratulations to Doug Weight on being named the captain, and to Brendan Witt, Mark Streit, and Richard Park for also earning their "A" badges.

We cannot wait to get the 2009-2010 Islanders season underway on Saturday night. While there has been no proclamation by the team that Kyle will play, we nevertheless guarantee a superb atmosphere at Nassau Coliseum to welcome John Tavares to the NHL.

Won't you join us there? If you can find a seat, that is.

Friday, September 25, 2009

Kyle Slowly Improving

Word came from Islanders media relations director Seth Sylvan (via Islanders Point Blank) today that Kyle has passed a series of neurological tests and has begun skating again. While he's still not participating in team drills, that is encouraging news.

Kyle was also present at the preseason game at Nassau Coliseum on Wednesday (9/23) night, though he was seen in street clothes and left the building shortly after the game ended.

While it would be great if Kyle could join John Tavares for the home opener on October 3rd, it is imperative for him to take the utmost care of his head injury before returning to full contact. We have heard that a good rule of thumb for concussions is to sit out another week *after* Kyle feels ready to return to game action. A little time spent cautiously now may result in a lot less time missed down the road.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Last Words on "The Hit"


Clean? Dirty? Necessary?

We've been getting a lot of good feedback on the Dion Phaneuf hit that injured (we won't say "KO'ed") Kyle this past week. We already expressed our opinion below and others polled seem to be split 50-50 on the 'clean or dirty' issue. We submit the above screencap, which is the moment just after contact, along with the opinions of two of our highly esteemed colleagues. Like with politics, people have their indomitable opinions and you can argue with them perpetually. However, the two gentleman presented below are well versed in ice hockey as both longtime players, fans, and scholars of the game. Whatever your take on the hit, you will do yourself a service by reading their postings. Intelligent opinions are always welcomed on both their sites and this one.

"Revisiting Hits to the Head" by Doug Davidson of 'Official's Outlook.' (Also included with his post are lots of additional good links).

"Okposo Carted Off on Stretcher; Isles Lead 3-2 Midway Through" (with follow-up comments) by 'Islanders Outsider' Ken Rosenblatt.

***
It should be noted that an Okposo and Tavares-less squad won the preseason rematch against Calgary on Saturday (9/19) night. 4-2 was the final score. Jon Sim seems to be having quite a camp, even though we can't find a verified boxscore for the game anywhere.

The Isles play another "home" game in Saskatoon on Sunday (9/20) night, this time against Edmonton. We'll have any news that emerges.

***
UPDATE on Kyle via Newsday's Katie Strang.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Kyle Okay After Scary Preseason Incident

The good news is that Kyle Okposo is talking, moving, and has been cleared to travel after this scary open ice hit by Dion Phaneuf during Thursday's (9/18) preseason game. After being taken in an ambulance to a local hospital, KO was able to call his father and assure people he was not seriously hurt. The Islanders later announced that Okposo has been diagnosed with a mild concussion, with no timetable set for his return to action.

Since we were unsure of the extent of his injuries we did not want to post anything until an announcement was made on the situation. While we weren't the first to carry the story, we wanted to be sure that we could get as many of the facts correct before posting. We'd rather be late with news than disseminating misinformation or speculation on a serious matter like this.

Reviewing the tape many times, it appears that Phaneuf leapt into the hit, which is not allowed or appreciated, especially during a preseason tilt. Things being what they are in this league with respect to hits and the Islanders, we fully expect no action to be taken by the NHL against Phaneuf.

We wish Kyle a speedy recovery and hope he is available for the regular season opener in New York on October 3rd.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Kyle and Isles in Action Tonight!

The first pre-season game has arrived! It's even being broadcast (almost live) in your area! The Isles will take on the 1981-1982 Campbell Conference champion Vancouver Canucks tonight (9/14) in Terrace, British Columbia, Canada. The broadcast details can be found here via the official website.

Despite advanced notice that John Tavares will not play in the game, seeing hockey again will be a relief to this blogger. Why, you ask? It's been a rough summer in these parts, with these guys just slightly out of the playoff hunt and all...

Thursday, September 3, 2009

One Month Until Hockey!

Friends, the long wait is almost over. One month from today (10/3) New York Islanders regular season hockey returns! And this year, the date is doubly special because it will be the debut of new Islander John Tavares.

Of course the excitement surrounding the arrival of the new season may be tempered by a few pestersome issues surrounding the team. In case you've forgotten, the Isles have the fate of the Lighthouse project/new arena in limbo, the health of Rick DiPietro is up in the air, and one wonders who, if anyone, will emerge as a scoring threat on the left side of the offense? These are in addition to the other uncertainties that normally surround a young and inexperienced team.

That said, we can't wait until October 3rd. We can't wait to see Kyle, Mark Streit, Josh Bailey, our new goalies, and the rest of our squad in action. Sure, the potential exists for a mauling at the hands of the Stanley Cup Champion Penguins on Opening Night. But at least it will be in front of a sold-out crowd of rabid fans in our building. Fans who are expecting big things in the coming seasons, both on and off the ice.

As a public service, we now present the official 2009-2010 New York Islanders regular season schedule. Hopefully it will be a fun and productive season for all involved; maybe even a return to NHL respectability. But let's remember this year's motto (as brought to you by Okposo Net): Baby Steps.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

This Summer, Kyle Goes to (Olympic) Camp

In mid-August most of us are thinking about how to stay out of the heat or which barbecue to attend. Kyle Okposo, however, might just be thinking about the frosty February climate of Vancouver, Canada. That's where the 2010 Winter Olympics will be taking place, in case you hadn't heard. But in order to make Vancouver and an Olympic dream a reality, he'll first have to focus on Woodridge, Illinois.

Beginning tomorrow (8/17), Kyle will be taking an excursion from Minnesota down to the Chicago suburbs (a trip we've made more times than we can count) to attend USA Hockey's Olympic orientation camp. It runs through Wednesday (8/19) and two of the days are open to the public at no cost.

If you're one of our Chicago-area readers, you can get a good look at Kyle (and the 33 other camp invitees listed below) on the ice at the Seven Bridges Ice Arena. Directions and a map are found on that page. Here's a look at the full roster of invitees:

2009 U.S. Olympic Men's Ice Hockey Orientation Camp Roster

Goaltenders: Ryan Miller, Jonathan Quick, Tim Thomas

Defensemen: Tom Gilbert, Tim Gleason, Ron Hainsey, Erik Johnson, Jack Johnson, Mike Komisarek, Paul Martin, Brooks Orpik, Brian Rafalski, Rob Scuderi, Ryan Suter, Ryan Whitney

Forwards: David Backes, David Booth, Dustin Brown, Dustin Byfuglien, Ryan Callahan, Chris Drury, Scott Gomez, Patrick Kane, Ryan Kesler, Phil Kessel, Jamie Langenbrunner, Ryan Malone, Mike Modano, Kyle Okposo, T.J. Oshie, Zach Parise, Joe Pavelski, Bobby Ryan, Paul Stastny.

It looks like youth may be served this time around, and while there's no guarantee that Kyle will make the club, having (Islanders head coach) Scott Gordon as an assistant coach of the team can't hurt.

And since we mentioned hurting, word comes from the New York Times that the NHL and its clubs will not insure players participating in orientation camps. While USA Hockey has purchased augmented policies, we urge Kyle to be careful this week, because it's easy to get hurt at summer camp.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Lighthouse Project Public Hearing Tomorrow

Hello all! This is your final reminder about the public hearing we mentioned last week regarding the proposed Lighthouse project. The Lighthouse Development Group and the New York Islanders have asked as many people as possible to attend the events taking place tomorrow (Tuesday, 8/4). In fact, we received this e-mailed reminder this morning:

Lighthouse project public hearing tomorrow, August 4

On Tuesday, August 4, 2009 at 9:30 a.m. the Town of Hempstead will hold a public hearing on the Lighthouse project at the John Cranford Adams Playhouse on the campus of Hofstra University.

A rally is also being held in Lot 8 in the Nassau Coliseum parking lot from 8- 8:45 a.m. The rally will march to the Adams Playhouse to arrive by the start of the meeting. Special guest speakers will include Islanders owner Charles Wang, Islanders Alumni players and local elected officials. Islanders forwards Josh Bailey and Joel Rechlicz will on site meeting and greeting fans and supporting the Lighthouse project.

For more information please visit www.lighthouseli.com or the official blog of the Lighthouse Development Group the Light Post at lighthouseliblog.blogspot.com. Follow the Lighthouse project on Twitter at @lighthouse_li or join the “I support the Lighthouse at Long Island” on Facebook.


Thanks, everybody!

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Oops! Kyle Event Tonight!

Sorry friends, but sometimes we're human and forget things. We meant to mention this a week or so back, but forgot.

Kyle Okposo and Blake Comeau will be appearing TONIGHT (6:30-7:30 PM) at the Islanders Team Store in the Westfield Sunrise Mall, located in Massapequa, New York. The details are on the official team site here and here, and this is Kyle's only appearance that is fully open to the public.

You still have time to get over there, especially if you live in or near Massapequa!

Next time we'll try to be a bit more timely with our Kyle alerts.

Politicians Support The Lighthouse...Do You?

(Picture used courtesy of the The New York State Executive Chamber)

This is a friendly reminder to all of our readers that we are exactly one week away (Tuesday, 8/4) from the Town of Hempstead's public hearing regarding the Long Island Lighthouse project. The project, in case you haven't heard, is a proposed $3.74 billion mixed-use development put forward by Islanders owner Charles Wang. Under the plan, the current Nassau Coliseum site would be completely transformed.

On Monday, July 27th, a host of politicians (including New York State Governor David Paterson, pictured above) held a press conference in front of the Coliseum to express their support for the project, which would include a new arena and practice facility for the New York Islanders. While it was a nice opportunity for them to be seen and heard, we believe the fans and citizens should be heard from as well. If you haven't done so yet, the last and best opportunity for that is nearly upon us.

As we have done in the past, we urge our readers to construct their opinions by learning the facts and then making their comments and/or questions known to those overseeing the project. There is no shortage of published information regarding the project on the Internet; the research can't get much easier.

That said, the place to make yourself heard will be at the aforementioned public hearing. It is set to take place on Tuesday, August 4 at 9:30 a.m. in the John Cranford Adams Playhouse at Hofstra University (marked by the green arrow on the map).

We hope you will exercise your right to be heard by attending the hearing.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Isles Sign ... Martin Biron? Uh-oh...

The Isles made their second jump into the free agent market today with the signing of goaltender Martin Biron to a one-year deal. Judging from the draft and this month, apparently GM Garth Snow just can't have enough goalies on the roster.

In all seriousness, with this move, the Isles would seem to be admitting that Rick DiPietro's rehab is behind schedule in a best-case scenario as Biron is obviously not headed to the AHL. At worst, DiPietro will not suit up for 2009-10, and the questions regarding his career will continue to fester.

Be sure to check out B.D. Gallof's blog Islanders Independent for his take on the DiPietro situation, and I believe he will have much more on this in the hours and days to come.

Suffice to say, Mikko Koskinen was picked #31 for a reason. And welcome, John Tavares, to the never-ending craziness that is the Islanders.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Introducing: Shuhei Kuji

(Picture used with permission of Breakaway Magazine).

While this week’s Islanders prospect mini-camp has been beset by Tavares-mania, it has been a bit of a slow news period for Okposo Net. So while Kyle is presumably keeping busy this summer by golfing, video gaming, and attending weddings (Rick DiPietro will be tying the knot this coming Saturday), we went to the practice rink looking for a somewhat different mini-camp angle. And we most certainly found it in the form of Shuhei Kuji.

First, some background. Kuji developed his hockey skills while growing up in Tomakomai, Japan, situated on Hokkaido, the northernmost of that country’s four main islands. While ice hockey in Japan is certainly not followed at the levels of other organized team sports such as baseball and soccer, it is growing in the public consciousness. As one would imagine, the colder climate of Hokkaido lends easily to the playing of winter sports, and we're told that hockey's following is stronger there than in any other region of Japan.

After reaching high school age, Shuhei was a one-sport man. It was purely ice hockey for him. Luckily, his high school, Komazawa Tomakomai Senior High School (colloquially called 'Komadai Tomakomai') can boast of a pretty impressive sports pedigree, being famous throughout Japan for developing national championship-winning baseball teams, outstanding speed skaters, soccer athletes, and naturally, ice hockey players. One sports alumna has even parlayed her fame into a high-profile position in Japan's legislature.

As could be expected of any top athletic program, when we spoke with Shuhei at camp about his high school experience he first mentioned the strenuous practices he endured. However, and equally important to him, was an environment in which his head coach nurtured the young men, and provided as many lessons on "life skills" as hockey ones.

After graduating, Shuhei took these lessons and moved on to Tokyo's prestigious Waseda University, a radical departure from his hometown. Shuhei was able to adapt, though, playing well enough to earn steady ice time and eventually the captaincy of the Waseda hockey team. In his most recent campaign at Waseda, Kuji tallied 31 goals and 9 assists in just 28 games. He even played well enough to catch the eye of the Japanese men's national ice hockey team head coach, Mark Mahon.

In a limited 5 game stint, and by his own admission playing a bit nervously, Kuji netted two goals and an assist while playing for that team in the 2009 IIHF Division 1A World Championships this past April.

So it is with this history of success that Shuhei Kuji made his first trip to the United States this month, and by invitation of the Islanders was welcomed to his first NHL camp. And while he will readily admit that playing in the NHL some day is a goal of his, he still has some work to do.

He spoke of the step up in competition that he experienced when transitioning from the college game to the World Championships; however having now experienced a taste of it, he didn't feel that the NHL game's speed was beyond his ability. We were able to confirm this with veteran Inside Hockey writer Brad Kurtzberg, who said that Kuji certainly "did not look out of place" this week among the other Islanders prospects and draft picks. We too noted Kuji's acceleration, speed, and agility during one drill as he rushed down the right side boards. One thing that Kuji did express though was how much faster plays develop and decisions need to be made at the NHL level, echoing a sentiment we used to hear from Kyle back in his AHL to NHL days. However, the challenge of the NHL game is something that Kuji uses as a motivational tool to improve his own skill set, he claims.

If there is a 'knock' on Kuji, it would have to be his size. Listed in the camp's media guide at 5'7" and 160 pounds, he will have to bulk up in order to succeed in today’s rough-and-tumble NHL. There have, of course, been highly skilled smaller-sized forwards who have excelled in the league in the past (Theoren Fleury and Jason Blake quickly come to mind), but we imagine they are the exceptions rather than the rule.

When mini-camp closes on Wednesday (7/15), it's back to Japan for Shuhei. He has Waseda exams to conquer when he arrives in Tokyo, and a senior season of ice hockey to complete.

We will be watching Shuhei's career from this point forward, regardless of where it takes him. Hopefully, this delightful young man will reach his goal of playing in the NHL, whether it's with the Islanders or another team. As we concluded our interview, we wished him success for now and the future. It is our sincere hope that he was able to exhibit some abilities at this mini-camp that caught someone's eye, and that they have tucked his name away for consideration in the near future.

(We extend our gratitude to Shuhei, his translator Taka Shirai, and the New York Islanders for making this interview possible).

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Isles Unwrap Their New Present

As you can see to the left, there's 2009 #1 overall draft pick John Tavares flanked by General Manager Garth Snow and Head Coach Scott Gordon. While Wednesday's (7/8) press conference at Nassau Coliseum was short and nothing new was revealed about Tavares, it was a nice chance for the fans to meet and greet the young prodigy. Tavares signed jerseys for kids and pressed the flesh with ducat-purchasing adults; a win for all involved.

While talking with Mike Carey from Islanders 360, we both agreed that whether JT turns out to be a marvel or merely run-of-the-mill, at least he will have had the support of the fans since Day 1. Howie Rose, Islanders announcer, even went so far as to call the young Tavares "The People's Choice" during his introduction.

It was a pleasant event despite the crush of media eager to hear Tavares opine on the Islanders, New York, and his perception of the future. A lot of the fans told us they can't wait until Opening Day. We agree with that sentiment.

We'll hopefully be checking in with John next at rookie camp, where perhaps we'll be able to hear his statements a bit better. Don't worry, Kyle, we didn't forget about you!

Friday, July 3, 2009

Scenes From A Draft

Here is a photo essay from Okposo Net's trip to Montreal, with a few captions (click to enlarge):


It was all business as soon as the bloggers hit Montreal.


When we entered the arena, Tavares highlights were playing on the scoreboard.


Our vantage point before the selections began.


The assembled media.


Okposo Net hard at work.


Pre-draft rankings.


The crowd gathers.


Someone you may know. It was definitely "nervous time." Here comes the pick...


It's Tavares! He dons the Islander jersey for the first time!


Tavares' first interview as a New York Islander.


As close as we could get during the media scrum.


The man of the hour.


The proud Islanders crest.


We know these guys.


Lastly, a very blurry Calvin De Haan, taken at #12.

It was a great trip, and we're glad we could be a part of it. We look forward to John Tavares' Long Island introduction on July 8th.

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Tavares: What It Means For Kyle

Now that the entry draft is complete it is time to assess the results. John Tavares, the consensus #1 pick and fan's choice, will be doing his introductory press conference on Long Island soon and will certainly be a part of the 2009-2010 Islanders.

Since we try to focus on the namesake of this blog, we've been thinking about how the selection of Tavares will impact Kyle. And we think it's going to be overwhelmingly positive.

First off, while nobody can say if Tavares and Okposo will play on the same line next season, one would have to imagine that they would eventually be paired somewhere down the line. And if that happens, the combination of a pure goal scorer who goes to the net (Tavares) teamed with a power forward who is strong in the corners might be deadly to opposing defenses. For as long as we've seen Kyle, he has always played a physical style along the boards and down low, with the speed to capture loose pucks. His speed and physicality allowed him to rack up healthy assist numbers each season. With a center such as Tavares, it's as if the two were born to be teammates. As much as Kyle will create scoring chances for John, the opposite is also true. Tavares has a penchant for being on the puck quickly, and when he isn't crashing the crease he'll be looking for someone to dish to for the scoring chance, and a lot of time it will be Okposo.

A second benefit of Tavares' presence will be felt as soon as next week, when John supplants Kyle as the young "face of the franchise." While it will be interesting to see how Tavares handles the intense scrutiny a #1 overall pick receives, it will be just as important to see how Kyle performs with the spotlight focused in another direction. Let's remember that this is still the New York media they're dealing with. With the pressure off, we wonder if Kyle might be able to relax and excel instead of trying to get comfortable, as he did early last season. When Kyle adjusted to New York and the NHL, his scoring numbers clearly picked up.

What remains to be seen in this equation is how much of a leadership role Kyle will assume in the future. We opened the debate last month on the subject of Kyle becoming an alternate captain. Fan feedback was split 50-50 in favor of that idea. So that talk may be premature. There are still many questions to be answered by management about player personnel right now.

Like we said, this isn't a debate for a few months from now; more likely one for (hopefully) a few years. Kyle will most likely be paired with Josh Bailey; Tavares with Weight or another veteran. But it's nice to know that the possibility exists, and as far as we can tell it will be a partnership that will work.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Fini

The final Islanders pick is in, and it's center Anders Lee from Edina High School in Minnesota. This concludes our *live* updating from Montreal, although we will attempt a photoessay of the event in the coming days. We'll also give our thoughts on how the Islanders fared at this event, but for now it is time for us to celebrate the arrival of John Tavares.

The Islanders' final 2009 haul looks like this:

(Round 1) 1st Overall - JOHN TAVARES (C)
(Round 1) 12th Overall - CALVIN DE HAAN (D)
(Round 2) 31st Overall - MIKKO KOSKINEN (G)
(Round 3) 62nd Overall - ANDERS NILSSON (G)
(Round 4) 92nd Overall - CASEY CIZIKAS (C)
(Round 5) 122nd Overall - ANTON KLEMENTYEV (D)
(Round 6) 152nd Overall - ANDERS LEE (C)

Almost Done

We're into the 5th round now, with the Islanders of course starting the round. And they open it by taking Russian defenseman Anton Klementyev.

After 5 rounds, the situation is as such:

(Round 1) 1st Overall - JOHN TAVARES (C)
(Round 1) 12th Overall - CALVIN DE HAAN (D)
(Round 2) 31st Overall - MIKKO KOSKINEN (G)
(Round 3) 62nd Overall - ANDERS NILSSON (G)
(Round 4) 92nd Overall - CASEY CIZIKAS (C)
(Round 5) 122nd Overall - ANTON KLEMENTYEV (D)
(Round 6) 152nd Overall

Isles Trade #91 and Begin 4th Round

The Isles trade the final pick of the third round to Phoenix for a their 3rd rounder next year. Garth is trade happy this morning. So, after 3 full rounds the Islanders' situation looks like:

(Round 1) 1st Overall - JOHN TAVARES (C)
(Round 1) 12th Overall - CALVIN DE HAAN (D)
(Round 2) 31st Overall - MIKKO KOSKINEN (G)
(Round 3) 62nd Overall - ANDERS NILSSON (G)
(Round 4) 92nd Overall (Formerly belonged to Columbus)
(Round 5) 122nd Overall
(Round 6) 152nd Overall

We now move on to the 4th round, where the Islanders promptly select Casey Cizikas from Mississauga St. Michael's in the Ontario Hockey League. So slot Cizikas into the list above. Now we await the Isles' final two picks this year, barring any more transactions from Garth.

Round 3 Begins

With two rounds in the books, the Islanders kicked off the third round by selecting Anders Nilsson, a goaltender from Sweden.

The 56th Pick Has Been Traded

This pick formerly belonged to Boston, received in the trade that brought over Ben Walter for Petteri Nokelainen. The Islanders decided to send it to Columbus for the 62nd and 92nd picks overall. So, now we arrive at this:

(Round 1) 1st Overall - JOHN TAVARES (C)
(Round 1) 12th Overall - CALVIN DE HAAN (D)
(Round 2) 31st Overall - MIKKO KOSKINEN (G)
(Round 3) 62nd Overall (Formerly belonged to Columbus)
(Round 3) 91st Overall (Formerly belonged to Pittsburgh)
(Round 4) 92nd Overall (Formerly belonged to Columbus)
(Round 5) 122nd Overall
(Round 6) 152nd Overall

First Pick of Day 2

Mikko Koskinen is the selection. He is a 6' 7" Finnish goalie who currently plays with Espoo. An interesting move, going for a goaltender with this pick. Regardless, that leaves the Islanders' board as such:

(Round 1) 1st Overall - JOHN TAVARES (C)
(Round 1) 12th Overall - CALVIN DE HAAN (D)
(Round 2) 31st Overall - MIKKO KOSKINEN (G)
(Round 2) 56th Overall (Formerly belonged to Boston)
(Round 3) 91st Overall (Formerly belonged to Pittsburgh)
(Round 5) 122nd Overall
(Round 6) 152nd Overall

He We Go Again

It's Day 2 of the 2009 Entry Draft. We are seating and ready to go for another day of picks. The Islanders will be picking 1st (#31 overall) in Round 2 in about 15 minutes.

Friday, June 26, 2009

We'll Do It Again Tomorrow

We're waiting for the final few selections of the first round, and we'll be right back at it tomorrow morning at 10 AM. The Isles will pick first in Round 2 (#31 overall) and will have the "best of the rest" to choose from.

Reading the various blogs and online polls, the fans are very pleased with how tonight went. A few complaints have been raised about the Isles "reaching" up to the #12 to take Calvin De Haan, but obviously Garth Snow was really worried about another team snatching him before he fell to New York. A minor complaint, though, made ever more minor by the elation everyone feels about drafting John Tavares.

We were able to meet De Haan during his press scrum. He seemed quite pleasant, and as a former teammate of Tavares' he was glad to hopefully soon be joining him at the NHL level.

Garth Snow has appeared to earn the trust of the Islander fans, and the franchise has needed a night like this one for a long time.

As an aside, we took a lot of pictures of the picks and the festivities, though it will be a while until we edit them and get them online.

12,710 Saw the Isles Select Tavares

In Montreal. How many attended in New York on a rainy night, with the Mets and Yankees playing each other?

Well done, Montreal and New York. And well done, Garth Snow.

Interesting Tibits From Burke Interview

We caught most of (Toronto General Manager) Brian Burke's interview. In it he said that Garth Snow never really gave him any chance of dealing for John Tavares. Burke also let it slip that he believed the Isles were going to choose eventual #3 pick Matt Duchene.

Where We Stand Now (after De Haan trade)

(Round 1) 1st Overall - JOHN TAVARES (C)
(Round 1) 12th Overall - CALVIN DE HAAN (D)
(Round 2) 31st Overall
(Round 2) 56th Overall (Formerly belonged to Boston)
(Round 3) 91st Overall (Formerly belonged to Pittsburgh)
(Round 5) 122nd Overall
(Round 6) 152nd Overall

Another Trade

Wow. While the Islanders were waiting for Minnesota on the clock at #12, it was announced:

Islanders trade the #16, #77, and the #182 and then select defenseman Calvin de Haan.

Where We Stand Now (after 8 PM trade)

(Round 1) 1st Overall - JOHN TAVARES (C)
(Round 1) 16th Overall (Formerly belonged to Columbus)
(Round 2) 31st Overall
(Round 2) 56th Overall (Formerly belonged to Boston)
(Round 3) 77th Overall (Formerly belonged to Boston)
(Round 3) 91st Overall (Formerly belonged to Pittsburgh)
(Round 5) 122nd Overall
(Round 6) 152nd Overall
(Round 7) 182nd Overall

Trade!

Islanders trade #26, #37, #62, and #92 for Columbus' #16 and #77. That's interesting.

Where We Stand Now

(Round 1) 1st Overall - JOHN TAVARES (C)
(Round 1) 26th Overall (Formerly belonged to San Jose)
(Round 2) 31st Overall
(Round 2) 37th Overall (Formerly belonged to Toronto)
(Round 2) 56th Overall (Formerly belonged to Boston)
(Round 3) 62nd Overall
(Round 3) 91st Overall (Formerly belonged to Pittsburgh)
(Round 4) 92nd Overall
(Round 5) 122nd Overall
(Round 6) 152nd Overall
(Round 7) 182nd Overall

It's Tavares!

Garth did it! Thank goodness. This trip has been a success!

D-Day is HERE!

Nervous anticipation as the Isles are now REALLY on the clock.

Announcing the Team Representatives

Apparently they double-check the representatives of each team (who will be announcing selections). Boston and Toronto are NOT liked here.

In case you don't know, Garth Snow and Ryan Jankowski are in charge of the selections for our guys.

Settling In With 20 Minutes Until 7

Initial confusion over, we're ready to follow the draft for you. All day we have seen plenty of Islanders fans around town, including the contest winners that were flown up by the Isles.

Before we begin, let's (for the last time) go over the Islanders picks as they stand right now:

(Round 1) 1st Overall
(Round 1) 26th Overall (Formerly belonged to San Jose)
(Round 2) 31st Overall
(Round 2) 37th Overall (Formerly belonged to Toronto)
(Round 2) 56th Overall (Formerly belonged to Boston)
(Round 3) 62nd Overall
(Round 3) 91st Overall (Formerly belonged to Pittsburgh)
(Round 4) 92nd Overall
(Round 5) 122nd Overall
(Round 6) 152nd Overall
(Round 7) 182nd Overall