Sunday, November 11, 2012

Hurricane Relief Fundraiser Tomorrow

As the recovery from Hurricane Sandy continues, the New York Islanders will host an event on Monday (11/12) to collect food, dry goods, and money to assist the stricken.

Fans will have the unique chance to feel good about lending a hand in assistance, but also the opportunity to skate on the Nassau Coliseum ice.

I would strongly urge all of you who can to take an hour or two out of your day, come to Uniondale, and give whatever you can to assist your neighbors. You'll also make some memories for yourself or your children as they whirl around the same space that John Tavares, Kyle Okposo, and the rest of the Islanders normally occupy. Children's games and food will also be available.

While it might not be the same as attending an Islanders game, it is more important, and you'll feel a lot better about yourself and your community. I will be there with a donation of canned food and a monetary contribution.

The event runs tomorrow from 2 P.M. to 8 P.M. The full details of the event are linked here. I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

We Interrupt This Lockout...

We interrupt this National Hockey League lockout (and self-imposed hibernation of this blog) to bring you some actual news.

The Islanders are moving to Brooklyn!

After years of false starts, false promises, dashed hopes, and political maneuvering, the fans finally have a concrete plan in place for the future of their beloved (and beleaguered) franchise.

At a press conference organized on Wednesday (10/24) afternoon, team owners, officials, league officials, and New York City politicians delivered the news at the new Barclays Center.

The New York Islanders (the name will remain unchanged) will begin play in the borough of Brooklyn on a 25-year agreement beginning in the 2015-2016 season.

Islanders owner Charles Wang described the new pact as "ironclad." NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman stated unequivocally to the fans "You don't have to worry about the future of this club."

The plans currently call for a 14,500 hockey capacity, which would be the smallest in the league, but officials were quick to point out that a similar arena capacity hasn't financially hindered the current Winnipeg franchise in any way.

The focus of the conference was less about financial numbers (no specific dollar amounts were given) and more about the wonderful location and building the Islanders are set to enjoy.

The crowd in attendance was told that "More mass transit under this building than any other stadium in New York."

For those of you unfamiliar with the building or area, 11 subway lines and the Long Island Railroad serve the Barclays Center.

While there are a few questions about what type of fans (meaning 'corporate' or 'die-hard') the new arena will draw and from where, there is no doubt in my mind that this is a positive step for the Islanders on many levels.

With Nassau County unable or unwilling to offer a replacement for the aging Nassau Coliseum, I think Brooklyn is the best, most reasonable solution.

Ask yourself this: Would you rather be able to attend games in Brooklyn or watch your team solely on television as they played fans in a different market?

Throughout the say I received calls from people complaining about making the trip to Brooklyn. But don't many of us make (essentially) the same trip to Penn Station for other sports, bars, clubs, shows, museums, etc.? I know I do.

I know for some of you this is not the OPTIMAL solution, but it is a solution. The team remains in New York, in a place that should have increased revenue streams, with a MUCH nicer facility, and should attract more fans and players.

The biggest issue surrounding this club and its profitability/viability for YEARS has been removed. As we travel into the future together as New York Islanders fans, I think today's decision will be looked back upon as one that was very good for the team.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Live At The Draft Party

Okposo Net is live at Nassau Coliseum to bring you the pick(s) as they happen. The fans are in a festive mood, the Isles have provided a host of family activities, and a large crowd has come out despite the unsettled weather.

BREAKING: The Isles have traded their 2013 2nd round pick for veteran defenseman Lubomir Visnovsky.

With the 4th pick in the 2012 NHL Entry Draft, the Islanders have selected GRIFFIN REINHART.

Reinhart, who scored 12 goals last season for the Edmonton Oil Kings of the Western Hockey League, is a 6'4", 207 pound native of West Vancouver, British Columbia.

Griffin is the son of Paul Reinhart, a former NHLer who saw time with the Flames and Canucks organizations.

With round one of the draft complete, the Islanders will select tomorrow at #34. They also hold picks #65, #103, #124, #125, #155, and #185.

Stay with us for complete coverage of Saturday's events.

Monday, April 16, 2012

BREAKING: Isles Dismiss Assistant Coaches

Via a tersely written press release, the Islanders dismissed assistant coaches Scott Allen and Dean Chynoweth. No replacements have yet been named.

Here's the one sentence press release, via the team.

More news as it becomes available.

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Milestone Night For Kyle

Kyle Okposo reached a personal milestone with two goals on Thursday night (versus Pittsburgh). Okposo, who has struggled to score consistently all season, reached the 20 goal mark in a season for the first time in his professional career.

His play has been much better of late, evidenced by his five goals in the team's last four games. The pair also gets him over the 40 point threshold for the second time in his National Hockey League career.

His season line now stands at 20 goals and 21 assists for 41 total points.

He won't reach his career high of 52 points set back in the 2009-2010 season, nor will the team make the playoffs. However, his recent play may serve as a shot of confidence for the remaining five games of this campaign and into next season.

Kyle's career line as of this post is 64 G, 93 A, 157 PTS.

As someone who has followed his hockey career dating back to his days at the University of Minnesota, I am pleased for him. And I know he still has the will and ability to improve.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Nabokov: From Tolled To In The Fold

News broke on Wednesday morning of the New York Islanders re-signing goaltender Evgeni Nabokov to a one year deal. The team announced the deal via press release and Twitter at around 11:30 AM, though major news sources had the information just moments quicker.

The deal will pay Nabokov a reported $2.75 million in 2012-2013 and comes free of any movement restrictions. The soon-to-be 37-year old, who has been the team's steadiest goalie this season, can leave on his terms next year, if he so chooses. It also allows Islanders management to use the Russian as a trading chip next season, should it come to that.

As you'll remember, it was little more than a year ago that General Manager Garth Snow selected Nabokov on re-entry waivers, then tolled the goalie's contract after he chose not to play the end of the NHL season in New York.

It seems that with today's news the sides have clearly reconciled, with Nabokov saying
“I’m thrilled to commit to this team for next season.”

While his season's line (17 wins, 2.56 GAA, .912 save %) will not nominate him for the Vezina Trophy this season, it has been his performance between the pipes and leadership that has prevented this season from become a true disaster.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Late Breakdowns Leave Isles Adrift

I'm not going to lie. I thought the season would turn out a lot better than it did. Unfortunately, Thursday's (3/13) game against Washington featured another blown lead, another overtime loss, and more fan angst.

Leading 4-1 late in the second period, the Islanders allowed three unanswered Capitals goals and lost in a shootout, 5-4.

The fact that this year's Islanders have failed to close so many winnable games has left me (and surely all of you) completely discouraged.

The scabs don't need to be picked again. Pointing fingers doesn't solve the glaring problems that plagues this team. But I am haunted by the fact that this team has let (and continues to let) so many points slip away. Against Washington (again), New Jersey, the Rangers, and so on. And that has just been within the last two weeks!

The Isles blew the lead yesterday in a game that typified the types of stumbles and missteps they have endured all season. Sure, there were good individual efforts, such as John Tavares' three points and Kyle Okposo's pair of assists.

However, the parts haven't nearly added up to a competitive sum.

Some fans and media are suggesting that the parts need to be replaced. Others have gone with the old motto of "You can't fire the players," suggesting that fresh coaching is the way to go.

I, however, don't think either is the right approach. I think that the only thing that can right this foundering ship is a major influx of talent. Only then will the fans become more receptive to season ticket renewal letters without bouts of anger and scorn.

Manager Garth Snow has his work cut out for him. He has little more than one able scoring line and some serviceable goalies (both of whom are pending free agents). He has some goaltending prospects in his deck and a possible scoring threat (Ryan Strome) on the way.

And that's about it.

He needs to completely rebuild a defense which was an utter failure, save for Travis Hamonic, Mark Streit, and Andy MacDonald. And even Streit didn't have a very good year.

If he can make trades for the Ryan Smiths and Christian Ehrhoffs of the world, and pay veterans like Brian Rolston over $5 million for very little, surely Garth can pull this off. Maybe not build a Vancouver-like powerhouse, but a team at least good enough to capture a #7 or #8 playoff seed.

Sure, it's nice that Tavares has set his career high in points and Matt Moulson has his third straight 30 goal season. But if it means missing the playoffs year after year then it's worth nothing.

To continue on this path is just wasting these players' careers. And that's a shame.

The young players who really care about this team and Long Island deserve better. I, who have been writing about this team for five seasons and have yet to attend a postseason game, deserve better.

Most importantly, the fans deserve better.

I hope that Charles Wang, with an understandably uncertain future in this market, at least allows Garth Snow to try this offseason. That's all we can ask.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Garth Dumps Vets At Deadline

In a move that nobody (and I mean nobody) saw coming, New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow dropped a trading deadline day bomb at 3 PM on Monday. The Islanders moved LW Brian Rolston and D Mike Mottau to the Boston Bruins for two prospects.

The veterans, whom the Islanders had brought in at the beginning of the season to provide production and leadership for the youngsters on the Isles' roster, wound up not doing much of either. Snow, decided to pull the plug on the experiment, receiving Yannick Riendeau and Marc Cantin in return.

While it's not a trade that will have much impact for the big picture of the Islanders' rebuild, it does allow younger replacements such as Casey Cizikas, David Ullstrom, and perhaps Mark Katic to assume larger roles at the NHL level.

Unfairly or not, Mottau and Rolston had come to symbolize everything that was wrong with the veterans on this year's Islanders; too old, under-productive, and overpaid.

Perhaps two tweets best summarized Islanders fans' elation and what the trade means:

From Craig Buckser (@cbuckser): "Garth wins if the prospects are still breathing."

Taking a more analytical approach soon after was Eric Hornick (@ehornick): "Isles trade two players not part of their future, save $1.3 million doing so, and then add two players who could potentially develop."

While it won't help the Islanders make the playoffs this year, it sounds as if folks are pleased with the move. As they should be.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Isles Drop Rival Rangers 4-3

The game began with a Matt Moulson goal and ended the very same way.

The Islanders emerged 4-3 winners over the rival New York Rangers after 65 minutes of spirited hockey (plus a shootout) on Friday (2/24) night in Nassau.

In addition to a veteran goaltender (Evgeni Nabokov) and a kid (Casey Cizikas) making his league debut, the game showcased two players who were on opposite sides of the rivalry just two seasons ago. PA Parenteau played 22 games with the New York Rangers in 2009-2010 after languishing in their minor leagues for several years. In that same season, Martin Biron backed up Dwayne Roloson in 29 games for the Isles.

The pair has since switched allegiances, each player now having very good seasons for their respective teams.

Biron started the game for the Rangers, who have shot to the top of the Eastern Conference through steady scoring, superior goaltending, and a skilled defense. They came into the game a whopping 23 better than the Islanders in the standings.

But as any fan of either team knows, you can throw that out the window when the two rivals meet.

The aforementioned Moulson got the Islanders out to a 1-0 lead just 6:07 into the contest, taking a slick pass from John Tavares from behind the net and hammering it home.

PA Parenteau, who has been somewhat of a revelation for the Islanders, at times playing on the top line this season, netted another two goals in this contest. He rocketed a shot past Biron to double his team's lead at the 8:42 mark, and the Isles quieted those fans in the stands who chose to wear blue and red sweaters to the game.

After last year's breakout performance, Parenteau is making his case for a big payday this summer. He's set to become an unrestricted free agent, and there is some question as to what his fate will be on Long Island.

He is making General Manager Garth Snow's job very difficult, since the trading deadline is this coming Monday (2/27).

After a second Parenteau goal, this time on a power play at 8:11 of the second period, the Isles looked to be on their way to a victory. They had a 3-1 lead (Marc Staal had earlier narrowed the gap with a power play goal of his own) with a very steady Nabokov in goal.

Nabokov, who is also set to become a free agent this summer, is supposedly in discussions with the team about a contract extension, though at this point there is no substantive news to report.

Casey Cizikas, the 20 year old center, was called up and debuted with a baptism by fire. He played 11-plus minutes, including some power play time, and acquitted himself nicely according to Head Coach Jack Capuano.

"I thought he responded well. He works extremely hard. He gave us some good minutes tonight, won some key faceoffs too."

The game was chippy throughout, but there was only one major fight and it was early on. Matt Marin battled Stu Bickel to a draw in the first period.

The Islanders eventually squandered their lead but held on through a scoreless third period. Nabokov finished with 33 saves (not including those made in the shootout).

Frans Nielsen and Matt Moulson scored in that competition to bring the victory home for the Islanders, and their fans earned bragging rights, at least on this night.

The Islanders, who have just 21 games left to make a playoff run, will need to put together a long winning streak to have a realistic chance at the postseason. They play 13 of the remaining games on the road.

The first of those road contests will take place Sunday, in Ottawa. We'll have news of any team transactions that take place as well.

News and notes:

- Travis Hamonic returned from a ghoulish face injury which required surgery, but he played well and earned Capuano's praise. He played over 22 minutes after sitting out for nine games. The coach called him "a vocal young guy."

- Josh Bailey was scratched with back spasms.

- John Tavares had two assists to bump his season point total to 60. He won 20 of 33 (61%) faceoffs.

- The Islanders improved their record to 5-1 all-time in shootouts against the Rangers. Nabokov has never lost one as an Islander.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Decisions, Decisions

The Islanders swept the season series from the Carolina Hurricanes on Saturday night, downing them 4-3 at Nassau Coliseum. The game featured a Kyle Okposo opening goal just 2:07 after the first puck dropped, and John Tavares regained his scoring touch with two goals, the second of which won the game.

Tavares' 24 goals leave him one off the team pace (Matt Moulson) and back to a point-per-game pace for the season. There isn't a fan in the world who is worried about his production.

P.A. Parenteau, quietly having a whopper of a season, at least assists-wise, helped on two goals and his line now reads 12-41-53. The point total matches his career high, set a year ago.

Parenteau, the 28-year old New York Rangers castoff, will be an unrestricted free agent at the conclusion of this season.

The Islanders, whose record improved to 25-25-8 on the season, sit just 6 points out of a playoff spot, but still in 12th place overall in the Eastern Conference. The "playoffs" talk in the dressing room and from the coach is thoroughly optimistic, but is it realistic?

With just four more games left for the Isles to play until the trading deadline arrives (February 27th, 3PM Eastern time), should this team be buyers or sellers?

Throw in a completely unsettled situation in goal, with Evegeni Nabokov and Al Montoya set to become free agents as well, and General Manager Garth Snow has a potential mountain of scenarios to sift through.

Trade one of the goalies? Sign one long-term? Which one?

It's no secret that this team needs to upgrade their defensive corps (Travis Hamonic will resume skating this coming week, incidentally), their secondary scoring, and could use a bodyguard for their star center. Can dealing a veteran bring back anything of value?

With scouts on hand last evening from Philadelphia, Dallas, and elsewhere to get their looks at the talent in Garth's stable, the pressure may be mounting on other league GM's to pick some of that Long Island fruit.

I asked Parenteau, who at this point is easily the most coveted unsigned talent the Islanders have moving forward to 2012-2013, for his outlook at this uncertain time of the year.

"I really think we can pull this off," he said, referring to a playoff push that he expects his team to make. "For the other things," he continued, "we'll deal with them when we get there." He added, "I'm really focused on the playoffs."

With young talent waiting in the wings, so to speak, such as Kevin Poulin (who recorded 33 saves in the win), Ryan Strome, Kirill Kabanov, and perhaps Kirill Petrov, can Garth afford to do nothing?

I leave the question open to you, Islanders fans. Should the team be buyers or sellers this week? Please leave your comments in the section below. As always, thanks for reading.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

A Night For Nabby and Nielsen

Philadelphia's Wells Fargo/Wachovia/First Union/Core States Center has been a house of horrors for the Islanders. But after breaking their impossibly long drought in that building last month, the blue and orange squad from New York is suddenly rolling there.

It took a Herculean 45 save effort from Evegeni Nabokov and a shootout, but suddenly the Islanders have won two in a row in the building that formerly struck fear in their hearts.

With Travis Hamonic out for several weeks (announced as two by the team) after facial surgery stemming from a puck to the face, young Aaron Ness made his NHL debut.

Amidst a patchwork defensive corps (Dylan Reese would leave this game due to injury), Ness saw 14:25 of action in his league premiere.

The story of the night, other than Nabokov's spectacular night between the pipes, belonged to "The Great Dane," Frans Nielsen.

Nielsen, who would have been an unrestricted free agent at the end of this season, was inked to a four-year, $11 million extension, announced during the game.

How did the 27-year old celebrate? With one of his patented backhanded goals in the shootout against Philadelphia netminder Ilya Bryzgalov, of course. It gave the Islanders the lead in the so-called "skills competition" and turned out to be the only one they would need on this night (John Tavares added an insurance goal soon after).

The Islanders were 1-0 shootout winners, escaping Philly with an improbable 2 points in the standings. Their season record stands at 22-22-8 with 30 regular season games remaining. It'll be a tough task for them to make the playoffs, but their play is much improved over the last few months.

It's not a stretch to think that this team is finally becoming a regular playoff contender for the coming years after so much heartache and disappointment.

One glaring weakness, exposed again on this night by their paltry 18 shot effort, is the inconsistent scoring. If a top-liner doesn't have a big night, goals just don't seem to come. This lack of offensive depth must be addressed in the offseason, perhaps earlier.

The trading deadline for Garth Snow and the league's general managers is February 27th.

Kyle Okposo, this page's primary focus, rang a shot off the post but recorded no goals for the ninth game in his last ten. John Tavares and Frans Nielsen each needed an assist to reach 100 in their careers, but will have to wait at least until Thursday (2/9) night against Montreal.

The team sits just four goals shy of scoring 10,000 in franchise history. I'll be on hand on Thursday night in Nassau to see if they get it done.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Tavares 2, Hurricanes 1

What can I say about John Tavares that hasn't already been said?

Sometimes it boggles my mind that the guy was born in 1990. On nights like Saturday (1/21), when he provided all the Islanders' offense needed to get a win, one can easily forget that he's just 21 years old.

Tavares, coupled with another outstanding effort in goal (32 saves) from Evgeni Nabokov, led the Islanders to victory over the Carolina Hurricanes. 2-1 was the final score, in overtime. For the Islanders, it was their third straight win, tying their season-high streak.

During the game, Isles' broadcaster Howie Rose went off on what can only be described as a five minute long rant against ESPN writer Neil Greenberg. Greenberg, who had failed to place Tavares in a certain "25 young players under (age) 25" list, was excoriated by Rose.

While I'm not sure a public flogging (Rose did not say the writer's name on air) is the route I would have chosen to make the point, Rose happened to be right in this case. How can anyone of fair mind who watches ice hockey for a living exclude the Islanders' star from that group?

Not only is Tavares one of the 25 best young players, he's one of the best in the league right now.

With his 2 points (both coming as goals) on Saturday night, he now has 169 points in 207 career games (0.816 PPG). He passed Dave Scatchard on the Islanders all-time scoring list and tied Jude Drouin. Next within John's sights are Shawn Bates (170), J-P Parise, and Claude Lapointe (both at 171).

While Tavares has found his form, perhaps the Islanders are coming into theirs as well. They are now just 2 games under .500 for the season and are teasing their fans with thoughts of a playoff run.

It's still premature to think about meaningful April hockey, but the team is just eight points out of a playoff spot. If they clean up against Toronto and Carolina (who they play twice and once more, respectively) to end January, the playoff whispers on Long Island will grow by many decibels.

Either way, the selection of John Tavares in the 2009 NHL Entry Draft looks like General Manager Garth Snow's masterstroke. Even if he isn't on your list quite yet.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Bailey Beats Bob And The Philly Curse

I can't figure the Islanders out.

They put up an absolute stinker at home against Nashville, digging a hole so deep that the game is effectively over after one period. They then travel to Washington and Philadelphia, dominate both teams, and let up a single goal over six periods.

Confounding, to say the least.

Whatever the reason (and a lot of it has had to do with goaltender Evegni Nabokov's top form lately), the Islanders finally broke their "0-for-Philly" streak on Thurdsay (1/19) night.

With 40 saves and riding a shutout streak of 159:11, the Islanders earned two points in a place that hasn't been very kind to them in almost five calendar years, Philadelphia's Wells Fargo Center.

It had been since April 7, 2007, a miserable streak of 13 games since the Islanders had last won in the City of Brotherly Love. But Matt Moulson, Josh Bailey, Mark Streit, and Michael Grabner powered the Isles to a 4-1 win.

Sergei 'Bob' Bobrovsky, who had been previously unbeaten by New York, took the loss. He's now 7-1-0 against the Blue and Orange.

As the home broadcasters were saying, it's a huge monkey finally off the back of a team trying to claw its way back into playoff contention.

There were some notable events in the game that deserve mention, besides Nabokov's masterpiece. Josh Bailey tallied a breakaway shorthanded goal for his 100th career NHL point.

John Tavares continued his slow takeover of the league with his 45th and 46th points of the season, but more importantly his 11th game in a row recording at least one. It ties the top mark in the league this year, set by Boston's David Krejci.

Lastly, the Islanders became only the second team in the league this season (Chicago) with three 40-point scorers (Tavares, Moulson, Parenteau).

Hopefully the Carolina Hurricanes and a little snow in the forecast won't be able to slow the suddenly surging Isles down on Saturday (1/21) night. They are still ten points out of a playoff spot, but looking to make up ground quickly in their upcoming games.

News and Notes:

- Kyle Okposo had an assist on Moulson's goal, upping his season total to 12. He has 23 points in 42 games (11-12-23).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

First Line Just Fine

What's working this year for the Islanders?

The first line, at least since Head Coach Jack Capuano moved Kyle Okposo back into it.

Over the last six games that John Tavares, Matt Moulson, and Kyle have played as a unit, the trio has notched a collective 26 points, or 4.333 per game.

The breakdown is as follows: Moulson had scored 4 goals and 4 assists. Tavares has a whopping 12 points at 3 goals and 9 assists. Kyle has chipped in with a mere 3 goals and 3 assists. He contributed a goal and an assist in the win over Detroit on Tuesday (1/10) night.

In that game, a 5-1 win (aren't they all so easy against the Red Wings?), Evgeni Nabokov was the winning goaltender. He now sits one win away from 300 in his NHL career.

Looking ahead to future Islanders scorers, top prospect Ryan Strome stayed hot in the Ontario Hockey League.

Fresh off his 3G-6A-9P World Juniors stint, Strome didn't miss a beat as he scored a goal and assisted twice on Saturday night for Niagara. He is having a very nice season for the IceDogs, as you can clearly see here.

Let's hope he can come to Long Island next year (or at the end of this season) and add some secondary scoring that the team desperately needs.