Friday, December 21, 2007

The fall out of the Kyle Okposo defection

I have been following this story on the internet for the last couple of day and I am wondering if the wheels aren't coming off in Minneapolis, Minnesota. This is an ugly incident that just isn’t going to go away any time soon. Kyle Okposo the Islander’s number one draft picks leaves college to sign a professional contract with the Islanders. Don Lucia takes issues with Kyle signing a professional contract in the middle of his sophomore season and calls the New York Islanders out. Garth Snow not to be out done, shoots back with accusations about the Gophers not being good for Kyle’s development.

There seems to be a developing on going story line in Minnesota. It’s like an on going soap opera that just keeps getting more interesting. (1st) the Gophers lose the Regional game against Holy Cross during the 2005-2006 season. (2nd) Then during the off season the Gophers lose Phil Kessel after playing just one season to the Boston Bruins who drafted him 5th over all in the first round, (3rd) this past summer the Gophers three more underclassmen, two players to the NHL/AHL (Alex Goligoski and Eric Johnson) and also one player to Major Juniors (Jim O’brien). Now the Gophers lose a player only after 1 ½ years. One has to ask what the heck in going on at Minnesota?
What a horrible way to end the first half of the season, and Minus Okposo, I just don’t see it getting any better for the Gophers in the second half, even with the return of Mike Jersey Pop Carmin.

Here is what Garth Snow had to say about Kyle Okposo's development at the University of Minnesota and more specifically about Coach Don Lucia. It isn't very flattering. This is a train wreck folks.

New York Islanders General Manager Garth Snow on Thursday criticized Don Lucia's coaching, saying that was the reason sophomore Kyle Okposo is leaving the Gophers hockey program and negotiating a contract with the Islanders.

"Quite frankly, we weren't happy with the program there," Snow said in a telephone interview. "They have a responsibility to coach, to make Kyle a better player, and they were not doing that."

Asked for specifics, Snow said, "[Okposo] just wasn't getting better -- bottom line. And to me, that's the frustrating part. We entrusted the coach there to turn him into a better hockey player, and it wasn't happening. We feel more comfortable in him developing right under our watch."

Here is what Lucia had to say.
Notified of Snow's comments Thursday, Lucia e-mailed the Star Tribune via the University's sports information department.

"I am proud of all the success of our program," the coach's statement read. "I believe our staff does an excellent job of developing our players on and off the ice.

"We have had numerous players sign and play in the NHL, but just as important many more move on to have successful careers after graduating from the University of Minnesota. We have always and will continue to work to ensure our players reach their potential on the ice and in the classroom."

Links to the Story

Lucia and Snow Star and Tribune article.

Prospect Okposo ready to join Islanders from TSN.

Grand Forks Herald beat writer check in with this blog

Okposo Opts Out, Signs With Isles

1 comment:

  1. First, I enjoy your comments and catch your site when I can. Thanks for the effort. Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. All the best to you, your family, and readers in 2008. With that said, Go Gophers!

    Let's put some perspective about what has transpired in Minnesota.

    I'll not defend Coach Lucia here.
    His record, the careers and the lives of the people who played at Minnesota need no defense.

    Maybe the press should ask Martin, Vanek, Ballard, Leopold, and Taffe if they were served well by Lucia.
    Or Pohl, DeMarchi, Tallackson, Riddle, Potulny, Kowalska, Smith, Hauser, Westrum... you get the picture.

    Suggesting that you can win at the level of Minnesota in the WCHA without good coaching is an insult to the entire league.

    I have had the great pleasure to meet dozens of Gopher players, and Lucia does more for his players than the press ever bothers to mention. He is a good person and a class act, who really does care for his players welfare on and off the ice. Players are people too, and come with all the same baggage.

    The Holy Cross game was a good game, the Gophers had a rough night. They had at least three pipes that I recall. Holy Cross played hard, kept it close, and got a goal when they needed it. Nobody has mentioned anything about the power of prayer...

    I recall a game with St Cloud State when St Cloud outshot the Gophers 46-6, and lost the game 3-0. That's why they *PLAY* the games. Woog used to say "let the dog hang around your front door long enough, he'll find a way into your house".

    The World Juniors have been tough on the Gophers over the past several years. The Gophers have gone into the break on a positive note most years, and come out tired, hurt, bruised, jet-lagged, you name it.

    You might argue this is the price you pay for getting the caliber of players they do, but it still sucks to see a good team decimated mid-season due to outside forces. The WCHA season doesn't *REALLY* begin until January.

    I believe Eric Johnson was the highest drafted United States player. Nobody drafted that high *EVER* went to college, so that's no big surprise. He needed a year to get himself together, and played at Minnesota during that time. The Gophers were lucky to have him.

    O'Brien was a surprise in may ways. He was better sooner than many people thought, and left sooner than many people thought. Sad thing there is that they really did appear to find a diamond in the rough, and lost him sooner than Gopher fans wanted.

    The rest of these guys have had their chance to wear the Gophers sweater, and even had some success there. That might have been their dream. You can't *BLAME* Lucia for recruiting great players. Their record speaks for itself. I think many of the best college teams (including UND) will see this sort of thing more often in the years to come.

    Kessel got more than a little pressure on the home front to turn pro. The talk was that momma was pushing hard for him to move on. He was also a frustration because he dangled the university for several months while he made up his mind, presumably to get himself a better deal, but it hurt Minnesota's efforts to fill his spot.

    They brought up two players a year early (including Tony Lucia) because of the late-summer signings. This may end up a blessing, since Colorado College was working to make Tony a Tiger, and he has stepped up nicely this year for the maroon-and-gold.

    Okposo started playing hockey in 8th grade. He is a good YOUNG player. I'm not certain anybody has seen enough of him to know which way he will go... I wish him well, but he will face many good players with much more experience in the coming months.

    Who gets the blame *NOW* if he washes out? I'll bet the Islanders won't hesitate showing him the door, if he doesn't pan out...

    Prediction: Gophers finish 4th or higher in the WCHA.


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