By Mike Carver
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After the conclusion of another brutal road trip last Sunday night in Vancouver, Islanders coach Jack Capuano promised that some changes were coming. Nino Niederreiter’s conditioning stint in Bridgeport had come to a close and it was time for him to join the big club making who would enter the lineup the easy part.
Most figured that Blake Comeau, Jay Pandolfo, or Josh Bailey would be the most logical candidates to take a seat in the press box with the team struggling to find the back of the net. Having lost 9 out their last 10 going into the Ranger game Tuesday night, it was clearly time for a big move. Capuano agreed, and decided to make his biggest shakeup of the season by sending fan favorite Kyle Okposo up to the press box in a suit.
Now before John Tavares, Niederreiter and Ryan Strome were the Islanders top draft picks and up and coming stars, Okposo was the crown jewel of the Islanders prospects. The Islanders top pick in the 2006 draft had a very strong rookie season in 2008-09 with 18 goals. He then improved in 2009-10 with 19 goals and finished 2nd on the team with 52 points. It looked like Okposo was climbing the ladder in the NHL and that the 2010-11 would be his coming out party in the league. It has been all downhill since for Kyle.
A shoulder injury in training camp last year caused him to miss the first 4 months of the season, and when he came back he was hardly the same player. Just 5 goals in the Islanders final 38 games got mostly written off due to him missing time. The problem is Okposo has picked up right where he left off last year. Through the first 14 games he’s recorded no goals, 3 assists, and was a -7 going into the Ranger game. Did Capuano pick the right guy to take a seat in the press box? No question about it.
Okposo has been brutal so far. He has not generated much offensively, has contributed little defensively and has already been dropped from the 2nd to 3rd line. He has been invisible on the ice, and with guys like Comeau and Bailey skating around as well that’s pretty tough to do. I thought Capuano was maybe just giving Okposo a night off to clear his head, watch from upstairs and put his game back together for the Islanders next contest.
If Kyle was thinking that as well, he was probably pretty shocked when he showed up last night to play Montreal and was a healthy scratch again. Not only did he get scratched for the 2nd game in a row, but the Islanders finally won a game with guys below him on the depth chart such as Pandolfo and Bailey having strong games. The message has been sent by coach. Shape up Kyle and start playing your game. Be the power forward we know you can and start playing with some fire. I’m not saying Kyle is not trying out there, we know he is, but he needs to start putting it together.
It will be interesting to see if Capuano makes it 3 in a row Saturday night when Boston comes to town, but I’m hoping that he has sent his message and gets Okposo back in there. He is a key part of their future and is only 23 years old so he is not going anywhere, nor should he. He needs to get back out there and most importantly put a puck in the net. Even if it’s a miserable, cheap, garbage goal, he just needs something to see that big zero disappear in the goal category. Hopefully next time out he does it and makes Capuano look like a genius.
3 Stars of the Week
3rd Star – Rick DiPietro – DP came in and played outstanding in relief against Montreal to earn his first win of the season. With Nabokov potentially out for a while with a groin injury, it’s time for Rick to shine.
2nd Star – PA Parenteau – With 5 points in his last 4 games, PA is on one of his hot streaks right now.
1st Star – Matt Moulson – Moulson has now scored in 3 straight games, including the game winner last night against Montreal. Tavares is finding him with great passes and he is getting it done in front of the net. As usual it’s the top line getting it done.