The Curious Case of Kyle Okposo

That about sums it up. (Credit: AP, 2009)

It’s another day of panic in Islanders Country. After another blown lead, cries of “same old Isles” can be heard all-around the Island. I cannot blame you. The Carolina loss was a tough one to watch, and it’s not going to get any easier against the Bruins, who stroll into town tonight to face the Isles on National television.

I don’t want to say the Isles will lose this one. Just when you think the Islanders are done, they seem to find their way back into the mix. It’s tough to gauge because the Islanders look so promising on some nights; however, just when you think they’re about to take that next step, they come up short. Their shortcomings, though, are highlighted by some of the underachieving guys on this roster, the main culprit being Kyle Okposo.

Heading into the season, Kyle was on John Tavares’ wing. He wasn’t off to a bad start, either, as he scored a goal in the second game of the season against the Tampa Bay Lightning. That cured any worries that he would be off to a slow-start, which he had in 2011-12 where it took him 18 games to score his first goal of the year….well, it cured all worries for a little bit.

Nineteen games into the season, Kyle Okposo still has one goal. Fans are losing patience, and I would have to imagine the organization is as well.

Yeah. The former 7th-overall draft pick has not been living up to anybody’s expectations this season. After signing a very affordable five-year deal with the Islanders in the summer of 2011, Kyle has come out of the gate with two extremely sluggish starts to his seasons.

This season, Kyle has one goal (currently on a 17-game goal drought) and four assists. He’s tied with Casey Cizikas, Colin McDonald, and David Ullstrom in points, and has one-fewer point than AHL depth-guy Keith Aucoin. Kyle Okposo has the same amount of goals as Casey Cizikas and Matt Martin. The only “regular” that he’s ahead of happens to be Marty Reasoner, which is no compliment to our “top-six winger.”

Sadly, that’s Kyle through 19 games in 2013.

In the 2011-12 season, it took Kyle 19 games to find the back of the net. He scored twice in the 19th game, and added an assist for a three-point night, giving him two goals and four assists through 19 games last year.

So, with one less point through 19 games this season in comparison to last season, Kyle’s technically regressed.

It also doesn’t help that this drought has no end in sight. Kyle has 14 shots in his past 10 games for the Islanders. Kyle has a lone assist in his past 10 games for the Islanders. Kyle is also a -7 in those same 10 games for the Islanders.

Nothing about those statistics show any signs of an improving player.

Sure, Kyle’s effort has been there. I’ve noticed Kyle skating a little bit harder, and working the puck around the boards a little bit more. His one assist came against the Senators, where his hard work, and his hard work alone, led to an Islanders goal.

Unfortunately for Kyle, he’s not here to just “work hard.” Kyle’s here to score goals, which is why the Islanders placed him on the top-line with John Tavares and Matt Moulson. Okposo is supposed to be a scoring threat for the Islanders, and the dependence on Kyle’s goal scoring is hurting this team.

Nope, not Garth’s fault. It’s not Cappy’s fault, either. If Kyle cannot score goals next to Tavares, then it’s all on Mr. Okposo. Think about this. The Islanders are 5th in the East in goals scored, and 4th in the East in goals-per-game, despite Kyle Okposo’s one, solitary goal. With the Islanders record at 8-1-1 when scoring 3 or more goals, could you imagine where the Islanders would be if they could get a little bit of juice out of their third-leading goal scorer from the 2011-12 season?

Kyle scored 24 goals for the Islanders last season. He scored 20 points in 38 games during the 2010-11 season, and was second on the Islanders with 52 points in 2009-10. If we could have gotten three timely goals from Kyle this season in the games where the Islanders stayed scoreless through two periods, or in the games where the Isles were down one goal before that empty-netter, the Islanders could be 11-7-1 instead of 8-10-1 right now. That is how close the Islanders are, and that is how badly Kyle’s slump is affecting the Islanders.

We could use the “slow-start” excuse, but that doesn’t help anybody when the season is only 48-games short. We could say that other people should be scoring goals too, but you know what? Our 4th-line already has more goals in comparison to last year, Michael Grabner’s basically half-way to 20 goals (his total through the entire 2011-12 season), and even our defensemen are scoring goals (7 goals through 19 games, compared to 19 through 82 games last season).

Kyle’s not contributing, while the Islanders rely on him to be a big part of our offense. Again, how can you blame anybody but him? All of that momentum he gained after he ended last season with 9 goals in the final 10 games, and his impressive performance at the Worlds for Team USA? Gone. All gone because he decided to sit during the NHL Lockout, rather than play somewhere else.

I preach patience. Half-way through this season, patience is wearing thin on Kyle. Fact: the Islanders are only two points out of the playoffs, and fact: the Islanders can still make it, and I believe they will make it if Kyle gets going; however, Kyle needs to do just that, and he needs to kick it on now.

Through 48 games last season, Kyle scored 11 goals and 14 assists for 25 points. Kyle has a ways to go to reach those numbers, and even those numbers would be disappointing for Kyle, who should have no excuse for his poor start. The Islanders need him; otherwise, a change of scenery might be in store for the struggling Islanders forward.

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About the Author: Writes at Islanders Op-Timism. Islanders Season Ticket Holder who tends to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Hofstra Graduate currently working at Portnoy, Messinger, Pearl & Associates. I definitely want to end up working within the world of hockey. Blog: E-Mail: Twitter: @ChrisTriants

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  1. KO21 says:

    I believe hes also a victim of bad coaching. Why is is that he is not required to check? It should be a major part of his game and if hes not hitting then the coaching staff needs to tell him he must check or hes not helping the team.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      Thanks for the comment!

      Unfortunately, nobody on this team is hitting outside of Matt Martin and Colin McDonald. Believe it or not, Kyle has the 4th-most hits for Islanders forwards this year: a mere 14 hits, nonetheless. But, the top-3 are our 4th-line of Martin, McDonald, then Cizikas.

      Kyle needs to score goals. He could have all the hits in the world, and he wouldn’t be helping out. Nino is the perfect example….with over 100 hits for the Islanders last year, but 1 goal to show, he was labeled a bust real fast.

      Coaching’s not great, but guys on the ice need to play better.

      • KO21 says:

        Checking creates space and has the defense looking over their shoulders. It is an imperative part of the game so if you’re not doing it you’re not gonna be effective as a power forward. The fact that KO not the only SOFTY who doesn’t check shows that the system Cappy implements doesn’t require players to hit. Its BS. Its a recipe for losing

  2. Donovan says:

    Good work! Kyle has been extremely disappointing and I feel he really is a scoring 3rd liner. He looks indifferent all too often, even when he is playing well, it seems almost robotic. I think he’s a prime “change of scenery” guy, who will probably wake up if he is dealt. Still, it would be better for him and likely the Isles, if he is dealt.

  3. PotvinRocks says:

    I’m not sure that I’m seeing that hustle that you’re seeing past couple of games, although he seems to be actually touching the puck and not just floating. He’s 23 and is NOT a developing player anymore. He is what he is. So far this season he is definitely stuck in a rout and I don’t think that he’ll come out of it with the Isles. I think it’s in everyone’s best interest if he’s traded. So much so that I’ve already posted my Okposo jersey on eBay. Do something Garth!

    • KO21 says:

      I think Garth will hold on to KO for another season or 2. He is very slow to make moves.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      Thank you for the comments.

      I notice he touches the puck a bit more, but it’s frustrating to see him lose the puck just as fast. I agree that it’s in the best interests of both parties that he’s moved.

      In terms of Garth being slow to make moves, he waived Comeau pretty quickly last season, and that was after Comeau came off a 20 goal campaign.

      I would look to a team like Minnesota and see if they can pry another player needing a change of scenery, such as Dany Heatley or Devin Setoguchi. Could be worth a shot. Will it happen? That’s up to both parties, but it’s the type of move that could be discussed, otherwise, the Isles may end up having to waive KO, or use one of their buyouts on him. His contract is affordable, so I would think another team would give him a shot.

      • Isles27 says:

        They signed him to a 5 year contract, which at the time I felt was a big mistake, so I don’t think it will be that easy to move him.

      • Donovan says:

        I don’t think they can get Heatley for him, but Setoguchi might work. The guy has speed and can chip in a few here and there. Energy guy that will fight on 3rd line, maybe 2nd if all clicks.

        • ChrisTriants says:

          The 5 year contract, in my opinion, isn’t a deal-breaker because of his 2.8 million cap hit. Only thing is, the contract is backloaded, so Kyle is going to make his money in the latter years of it. He could get bought out.

          Hypothetically, if they were to aim towards Heatley,I would think Minnesota would probably need a little more in the offer. I would hesitate, though, because Heatly is usually cancerous in the locker room.

          In regards to Setoguchi, it could be a wash. Two players that are underachieving in their current situation. It would be a man-for-man deal, and you would just hope the Isles got the better man.

  4. Isles27 says:

    I had this guy pegged from the beginning. The last straw for me was when Bailey took a cheap shot right in front of him in Pittsburgh a couple of years ago and he did nothing about it. He never did anything to deserve all that “future captain talk”, and he never did anything to deserve that “A” he wears. I used to be the lone voice in the wilderness on here about him. One more thing about him it seems every season he gets off to a very slow start and seems to be out of shape while Tavares obviously works his butt off in the off season and comes to camp in great shape and ready to play, you have to wonder what exactly does Okposo do in the off season and maybe if he hung around JT in the off season he would be a much better player now.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      Admittedly, I always saw KO as part of the core, but I never thought he earned his “top-six” title that everyone gives him. Granted, his potential may have been there, but he never truly reached that plateau. We are not two and a half season removed from his career-best 52 points. He seems to be regressing.

      I’m not saying he won’t ever find his true potential, but I could tell you his work ethic is definitely in question. His slow starts year after year should be no coincidence. Two days before the lockout ended, I made a comment about KO not playing over the break. It’s clearly damaged all of his momentum from last year.

      Thanks for your comment.Always good to talk Isles.

      • Isles27 says:

        A lot of people were fooled by his numbers last season in my opinion Chris. I felt he started lighting it up once the games became meaningless. I remember a few seasons back he was a regular on the PK, he doesn’t even do that anymore.

        • ChrisTriants says:

          It’s a fair point. Think about this. He had 2 goals and 4 assists through 19 games last year. Moving forward, he scored 9 goals and 10 assists over the next 29 games, only to fall into another drought where he scored 3 goals over the next 24 games.

          Over the last 10 games, he scored another 9 goals and an assist. He’s streaky. Very on and off, and that doesn’t go well for a team that reeks of inconsistency.

  5. GoIsles! says:

    I wonder if Kyle is a victim of over training on the weights in the off season which leads him to be less agile early in the year.

    Cappy has to show Kyle game tapes of when he was a rookie. I believe during a point in time that season he was 2nd in take-aways (until he got injured) only trailing Datsyuk. I also remember a game where he had 2 breakaways in 1 shift while the Isles were shorthanded. When have you seen him on a breakaway this year – never?

    With Kyle’s contract escalating in real dollars year over year, I do see him being shopped. With Snow pursuing UFA’s or bought out players this off season he can’t keep guaranteeing spots for the young core anymore.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      It’s possible. I cannot say I know his weight, or if he bulked up at all. He didn’t play over the break, though, so it’s probable that has something to do with it.

      I would like them to sit KO for a few games for the sole reason to let him clear his head and watch a few games from his past. I think you’re correct about the takeaway stat, and that was during the same time where it seemed that if Kyle wanted the puck, he would get it. He was hungry and extremely strong with the puck on his stick.

      I would like to say Kyle has a future here, but as you said, the possibility of UFAs and the prospects looking to take on bigger roles (Strome, Nino, Nelson come to mind) there may simply be no room for Kyle, who is expected to be a 25-30 goal scorer.

      • KO21 says:

        KYLE was refereed to as a BEAST many nights. He has regressed since after his injury. He also played better under Gordon. Cappy just doesn’t get the most out of KO. If I was the coach he would be required to check or he sits. If you’re not scoring then you better be doing the little things that help your team win.

  6. MattandDan says:

    KO is showing us what a lack of training camp did for him, as he didn’t have enough time to get in game shape. He’s a notorious slow starter, and no camp is hammering that home.

    However, the bigger factor affecting Okposo was his inability to mesh this year with John Tavares. I’m not sure how that’s possible, as PA Parenteau and Brad Boyes will attest to. Write off this year, and see what happens next year. If it’s more of the same, move him at the deadline for a draft pick.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      And that’s huge. The fact that he meshed with him last season was important to the Isles allowing PAP to walk. If they do hold on to him, which they probably will because of his contract, Kyle needs to come out hot to start the season.

      If he cannot, then there is probably no room for him. I wouldn’t necessarily say it’s because they “give up” on Kyle, but because they are expecting other guys to step into bigger roles as well. Kyle’s supposed to be a top-six player. No room for him if he can’t reach that label.

      Thanks for the comment. Bailey scores tonight.

  7. Diamondjn1 says:

    I always thought Kyle Okposo was a very good player. I remember a hat trick game vs the Rangers at MSG. Years ago. Everything KO did good was BT- Before Tavares.
    As soon as JT arrived its been all downhill for KO. He has never been the same. He was the man. But when JT came he has become the neophyte. Why?

    • ChrisTriants says:

      Thanks for the comment.

      It’s a good thought. It’s interesting. In JT’s first season, Tavares scored 54 points, and KO scored 52. It looked like the Isles had a duo for the next decade, factoring in the potential.

      Kyle was injured the following season, as JT took off. JT blossomed with Moulson and PAP. Okposo never caught up. Now, you have JT and Moulson on pace to setting career highs for the 4th-straight season, while Okposo, who was given a chance to succeed next to them, couldn’t find even moderate success.

      I think Kyle needs to sit a few games, relax, take a breather, and come back with a goal in mind. Only so much can be done to put a player in position to succeed, especially since putting him on JT’s wing is one of the better situations in the entire NHL.

    • KO21 says:

      That’s true as well. But it was also when Cappy arrived as well. He seemed to have forgot what made him successful once Cappy started coaching him..

  8. Diamondjn1 says:

    Maybe a rest would do him good. Not sure.
    But he would need to come back with “many goals in mind”-as in scoring more and not just “a goal in mind.” Isles can’t get to the next level unless the have more than 1 line. When the BTG line was stopped right before the Cup years the Isles were stopped. Then after acquiring players to get scoring from more than just the first line and leading ultimately to the last part of the puzzle-Butch Goring-All the success happened. Thought KO with JT like you mentioned would have been the start of something great. It never has materialized. And now Isles probably won’t get more players of JT’s or at least half of JT’s caliber until the Brooklyn Move. That was proven to me when Howie Rose repeatedly and correctly asked Garth Snow Sat night about getting a Clark Gillies type to protect JT and Moulson Repeatedly Gary evaded and flat out would not answer. HELP!!

  9. Diamondjn1 says:

    Um “Garth”. Not Gary. (Typo)

  10. BDGallof says:

    Nice work Chris and great discussion. More and more I think KO needs a change of scenery. To me, this is about his head/mental aspect than physical.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      Thanks, BD. It’s just so odd to be watching KO struggling like this. On one hand, I don’t necessarily think he was destined for greatness, and possibly a little bit overrated, but on the other, a guy with his ability should have been able to soar with Tavares.

      Unfortunately, it probably is more mental than physical, although sitting during the break while Tavares went off in Switzerland, plus the built-in chemisty between JT and Moulson, keeps Kyle on the lower-tier.

      To be fair, it’s not only Kyle. Nielsen and Bailey haven’t really provided anything. All of Nilesen’s 8 assists came in the first 9 games,and he’s scored 2 goals in his past 11. Bailey hasn’t scored yet, although he had a beautiful setup yesterday. They’re struggling, and the Islanders relied on two things this season: solid goaltending, and goals from their second-line. They’re getting neither.

    • Isles27 says:

      I have to respectfully disagree with you here Gallof, I don’t think he works hard in the off season and he comes to camp in bad shape. Can I prove this, no, I just observe what I see from him at the start of the season and he seems to ALWAYS get off to a slow start, now look at JT, how do you think his skating improved,the guy kills himself in the off season trying to improve himself, sorry but I have to question Okposo’s work ethic. It’s interesting if you go back 2 to 3 years ago and read the comments that were made about him on here, almost everyone loved him and his game, my how things have changed.

      • Isles27 says:

        And when I say slow start I just don’t mean his stats, I mean he looks to be behind the play a little because he is out of shape.

    • KO21 says:

      A new coach might help

      • Isles27 says:

        Maybe, but a heart transplant might help even more. It’s very easy to pile on Cappy, but in reality, if you are handed sh_t ingredients it’s hard to make a five star meal.

  11. HubieMcDonough38 says:

    At least I noticed he was playing last night (in the 3rd period at least). My unsophisticated opinion is he needs to drive to and crash the net like we saw Tavares do last night at lot more. It looks like he spends too much time hemmed in against the boards trying to gain possession of the puck.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      Thanks for the comment.

      Yeah, there was a point where I thought Kyle was driving to the net in the third, but he pulled a Comeau and circled instead, only to fall into the boards. He loves playing on the perimeter, but he’s not scoring any goals from there. He had a couple of nice chances last night, but again, not converting.

  12. HyeDray says:

    I think he should be traded for his good, and the Islanders.

    The slow starts are nothing new. I can’t for the life of me understand why he did not play overseas. After a 24 goal season — even if a lot of those goals came when it no longer mattered — he would be attractive to teams in europe.

    I am assuming this of course, and assuming he chose not to leave MN, for Europe. I can only speculate further that had he played in Europe, the slow start may have happened their, and he would be in a position to contribute here at a better level.

    I also believe he has not been handled well by an organization who is only now getting things to function a little better when it comes to its prospects. Keeping Donovan, Nino, Nelson and others in BP this year over throwing them to the NHL wolves in a short season was the right thing to do. The same can’t be said for Bailey. And in the case of Okposo, he had a poor experience with the Gophers, and I think he could have used a little more time in BP before being brought to LI.

    And now — well, we all know the coaching here is lackluster at best.

    I agree with a tweet from BD earlier today. Okposo’s value is low right now, and what could we get for him. But I still think putting him out their sends a signal that the Islanders are looking for a deal — and there could always be a package put together. The aforementioned Bailey could be moved, and so could one of our upcoming rentals.

    The flip side of this is, of course that the Islanders are 2 points out of the 8 spot. But with the 5-5 play so poor, and the defense not playing well at all (Hamonic and A-Mac are NOT top pair material) it appears to be a very tall taks to climb into the race.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      Thanks for your input. Nice hearing from you over here.

      I agree with all that you’re saying. Keep in mind, when he was called up to the NHL, so many people were saying KO was ready. Maybe he could have used some more time, but consensus was he was ready, and he played well. Islanders fans were very into Kyle, and it’s not like he didn’t have early success. He had 52 points in 2009-10.

      His value is low, and I’ve actually compared the situation to that of Blake Comeau last year. The fall is so incredible, that the Islanders are almost handcuffed. It happened so fast, and in the case of Blake, when the Isles waived him, everyone thought Snow made a huge mistake. Clearly, not the case with the way he’s playing in Calgary.

      Could the Isles put together a package? Sure, but how much is a package of Bailey and Okposo really worth? Two underperforming players that never really looked great to begin with.

      The team is so close to turning the corner…the fact that their only 2 points out under the circumstances (terrible D and lack of secondary scoring) is incredible. If they got a little extra juice from Frans, KO, etc. this team could have two or three more wins.

      Most disappointing, though, is the defense. Hammer and AMac have looked real bad on the Island. It’s time to split them up….again, something else the Islanders thought they had covered, failing them. Similar to the Isles offensive woes last year.

      • KO21 says:

        Hammer is expected to do it all on his own. Why is Hammer getting such a bad rap? He’s been solid since he came up

      • HyeDray says:

        Solid points — hard to argue.

        I also think the fact Isles are carrying 23 active players is a massive problem. That is not including the guys on IR, which I am not counting in the 23.

        So how can you even make a move of any kind? There is no way to hold any of these guys feet to the fire. There is no threat of a trade because the value is so low — and to a point, you’re right, even in a package.

        But it is not like they can consider sitting Okposo and bringing Nino in to take his spot. That would put us over the limit. Same with say Nelson if you sit Bailey.

        And so I am still unsure of the new rule on waiver pick-ups.

        When can the Isles move a guy like Hickey, Aucoin or Finley without them having to pass through waivers to make roster space?

        The other nagging question — is this a season the Islanders are not really “caring” to much about? Kind of a “we’d like to win, but not at the sacrifice of our prospects,” approach. Perhaps they have learned and will want to keep the Nino’s, Nelsons, Donovan’s in BP?

        I find it a bit unfair to judge the way Snow has done this because lets be real — other than Bailey and Tavares, there are none of his #1 picks on Long Island yet. (de Haan, Nino, Nelson, Strome, Reinhardt)

        At this point, it may not solve anything in terms of wins/losses, but sitting Okposo down and playing Aucoin makes sense to me. Then hopefully you can get a better Okposo going for 15 or so games, and perhaps be able to move him at the deadline. Why? Because this is going to happen next season all over again.

    • KO21 says:

      HAMMER is TOP PAIR material. AMAC is NOT

      • Isles27 says:

        Hamonic has been playing hurt since the game in Winnipeg.

        • ChrisTriants says:

          I’m not going to argue that Hamonic is top-pair material. I think he’s outstanding. He definitely is playing hurt, and his play has been dropping off since. His performance the next game vs. Pittsburgh was warrior-like….to be fair with AMAC, he leads the Isles in blocked shots by 20 of them. He’s a good defenseman. Maybe he’s not a top-pair, but he’s definitely top-4. Sometimes, the bounces just don’t go your way. They haven’t been for either one of them, although AMAC fumbles the puck quite a bit at the blue-line.

          HyeDray, I agree with every one of those points.

  13. Okposo… you’re KILLING ME! I drafted him years ago in a keeper pool and he hasn’t exactly panned out.

    Hopefully he figures it out… meh, no harm if he doesn’t because he’s a FA at year’s end in my fantasy league.

    • ChrisTriants says:

      Hopefully he figures it out so the Islanders can make it somewhere further than where they are….and to help lead your fantasy team to a championship, of course.