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wallmounter

Okposo Gone

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wallmounter

KFAN has confirmed Kyle Okposo is leaving the Gophers.

As a Sioux fan I know how I feel grin.gif

IF I were a Goopher fan, not sure how I would feel. Can't blame a kid for pursuing the pros and the cash, but leaving half way through a down year screams coward.

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IFallsRon

That's pretty slack.

Sophomore forward Kyle Okposo is leaving the Minnesota men's hockey team, a University athletics department spokesman confirmed this afternoon.

Coach Don Lucia is expected to release a statement around 4 p.m. today. He will offer no further comment, the spokesman said.

Okposo is expected to sign with the New York Islanders, who drafted him in the first-round, seventh overall, in the 2006 NHL entry draft.

A WCHA all-rookie team member last year tallying 30 points in 27 league games, Okposo this season had 11 points through Minnesota's first 18 games. That total was good for third on the team behind Blake Wheeler (15 points) and Ben Gordon (14).

In an exhibition tune-up for the U-20 World Junior Championships on Tuesday night against Western Michigan, Okposo scored a power-play goal helping the United States to a 4-2 victory. Calls to Okposo were not immediately returned.

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Team Otter

I think it's a premature move on his part but we'll see.

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jwhjr

I'm surprised he didn't leave after last season, but you'd think since he stayed he'd at least finish out the season... frown.gif

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spotter

Can't hardly blame him. Why stay with a team thats going nowhere this year. Plus thats got to be his dream come true. Good luck to him!

oh yeah and by the way

GO SIOUX!!!!

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redlake

Okposo wanted to leave after last season but the Islanders told him to stay. Now with them lacking scoring punch and Simon suspended they called him up and made an offer.

I think it sucks. There should be something done that says Pro teams cannot negotiate or take players out of college in the middle of the season. I understand the millions of dollars but how about the college hockey fans or the gopher hockey team for that matter.

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walleyeking

This is terrrible for college hockey.. I am not a Goofer fan, but I still do not like Okposo's decision. Imagine if a team lost 3-4 players in a year to the pros, add to that injuries. Some teams would struggle to sumbit a starting roster. NCAA has to make a stand and not allow players to leave school during the season.

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KMR85

usually the players stay until after they are knocked out of the playoffs, i.e. David Backes a few years back at MSU. He stayed until the end of the hockey season, then went on to play in the minors before school was over in the spring. And mankato's hockey program needs more work than the U. Okposo must not have had a fun college life, which is almost impossible.

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IFallsRon

Mankato is talking to my nephew about coming in to play defense next year.

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redlake

I think Kyle Okposo is bailing on his hockey team leaving mid-season. He is a full scholarship that holds a position that cannot be filled. He leaves the gopher coaching staff in a real bind. To me, this is a poor choice because he isn't going to make big money because of the new agreement for rookies. He isn't even guaranteed a spot on the Islanders. He will probably go to the minors. This makes it even more puzzling as to why he would leave. If he is leaving problems in college hockey he is going to walk into a sh!tstorm in the NHL.

I cannot remember a college player bailing on his team to leave for the NHL in the middle of the season. I am sure it has happened before.

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IFallsRon

From the Shooter:

The maximum bonus that Gophers sophomore hockey player Kyle Okposo can get, by way of the NHL's labor deal, for signing with the New York Islanders is $255,000 spread over three years. He'll make $62,500 if he plays in the minors, $765,000 if he plays in the NHL, where, if he does well next week in the World Junior Tournament in the Czech Republic, he's expected to start his pro career. Okposo's Gophers teammates, by the way, aren't thrilled with his decision to leave the team and turn pro Wednesday.

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SnipeZilla

Simply abandoning his team. I realize he's a great player, but you've already made the commitment to the gophs. Follow through with your decisions. I have a feeling he'll get pushed around in the NHL. i saw him get dominated in a fight with a kid 2 years younger than him about 2 years ago and he got tossed by a kid 3 years younger than him when he was in the juniors. Why not stay in the WCHA where he belongs and build up his game and strength for a couple months. Gophs will be done in the playoffs pretty quick anyway so it's not like he has to hang around for a long time. I also think the Islanders should have stayed out of this until the end of the season. it's like the kids who leave high school for juniors, miss the best season of their careers (senior year) and end up playin two years in juniors then goin nowhere. They should stay and continue to develop their game.

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IFallsRon

I read this morning that the Isles GM is throwing rocks at Lucia, saying the Oker is getting poor coaching. Okposo doesn't have as many points this year because the team is weaker and it doesn't look like he's working as hard. Sounds like a lazy player and a GM sour-graping for taking a kid out of college mid-college.

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DEADhead

that's pretty cold to ditch your team in the middle of the season. Shows a lot of respect for your teammates and coaches. Just seems in general these days that most people aren't willing to make commitments. Where's the loyalty these days? The almighty dollar.

I hope he has a better year in the NHL than with the gophers. This season certainly was nothing to write home about. Like was mentioned before, you can't run away from your problems. good luck, he'll need it.

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Wapiti

I read the statements made by Garth Snow as well and I would also tend to beleive he's trying to publicly justify the Isles actions. It's all a little too coincidental if you ask me. I will applaud Snow however for making himself look and sound like an id e ot by the statements he made. I love it when people do that in the media! From the team the Isles have on the ice, I wouldn't consider him an expert on player talent or development! And shame on Kyle Okposo for quitting on his teammates and the commitment he made when deciding to come back!

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IFallsRon

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."

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."

Lucia is in his ninth season as the Gophers coach and led the program to NCAA championships in 2002 and 2003.

After scoring 40 points in as many games as a freshman last season, Okposo had 11 points this season for Minnesota (9-8-1). Okposo was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2006 NHL draft.

Okposo's decision to leave was announced by the team Wednesday afternoon. Lucia said then in a released statement that, "it is unfortunate that the Islanders put him in a very difficult position."

Minnesota athletic director Joel Maturi, when told of Snow's comments, was dumbfounded.

"He must feel that somebody's angry," Maturi said. "And I can understand why; you took a kid from a team in the midst of the year and he's probably trying to justify it. And that's his right.

"It's my understanding they now have a roster spot for [Okposo] and therefore our coaching is bad. It doesn't make any sense to me."

Maturi made note of Lucia's coaching record -- more than 500 career victories in 21 seasons -- and the number of NHL-quality players produced under his tutelage.

Still, Snow didn't feel the Gophers were a right fit for Okposo.

"It's well-known in hockey circles that the situation for college players is to develop and get better," Snow said. "And quite frankly, it's a big responsibility for a college coach -- a program -- to handle these kids.

"Whether it was Kyle or another player, until things change in that program we'd probably make the same decision. There should be a coach there that looks in the mirror."

Snow was a standout goalie with the University of Maine, graduating in 1993 before turning pro. He was asked if he thought it was OK for a player to leave midway through a college season.

"I don't think we'd be at this point if he was being coached properly," Snow said.

Snow also refuted that the Islanders' decision to bring Okposo into the system now had anything to do with Chris Simon's NHL-record 30-game suspension, handed down Wednesday.

"We had our meetings well before that transpired," Snow said. "If that incident hadn't happened, we'd probably still be at the same decision."

The Islanders recently contacted Okposo, Snow said, but added the ultimate decision to leave school was Okposo's.

"Obviously, it's Kyle's decision whether to stay or leave," Snow said. "But we contacted Kyle and asked how things were going. And that's why we're where we're at."

Snow then responded "he'll get better coaching" when asked what Okposo would get in the Islanders system.

Snow declined comment when asked about Okposo's contract status.

"[He] will be a tremendous hockey player. We're happy to have him," Snow said.

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IFallsRon

Friday, December 21st, 2007 by Roman Augustoviz

Garth Snow, the New York Islanders GM, made headlines today. Basically, he said, the Islanders are rescuing Kyle Okposo from the clutches of Don Lucia and the Gophers.

Lucia can’t coach, Snow said, and Okposo isn’t developing. Better he leave the U at midseason and get some real coaching.

Outrageous. When did the Gophers become a farm team for the Islanders? Where does Lucia go to find somebody to replace one of his best players?

How about Okposo’s teammates? What about their hopes and dreams of a deep run in the NCAA tournament? Will they even make the field now?

Oh, Snow doesn’t care about any of that. He only cares about his Isles and Okposo.

Just maybe one of the reasons Okposo was not playing well was because he was regretting not signing with the Islanders in the offseason? I wish Okposo was here, not in Czech Republic playing with the U.S. junior national team, so someone could get his views.

But back to Snow. If NHL teams start plucking the best college players in midseason, the college game is in deep trouble.

Lucia can’t replace a Kyle Okposo in late December. Who can he rob?

As for the question whether Lucia develops players or not, sometimes a head coach has to think about a team’s welfare first, not a player’s.

In Okposo’s case, Lucia had to play him at center because the Gophers lacked depth at that position. Okposo’s best position, Lucia said, is at a wing. The plan was to move Okposo there once Mike Carman, a center academically ineligible the first semester, rejoined the team next month.

That might have hurt Okposo’s development.

Lucia also changed lines frequently, looking for the right combinations. So Okposo played with a lot of different players and often struggled.

He never was on the same line with Blake Wheeler, a junior center and a No. 1 draft pick of Phoenix, probably because Lucia wanted some balance between his lines. (They have played together on power plays.)

That might have hurt Okposo’s development, too.

But a head coach has to look at the bigger picture, not the development of one player. That’s Coaching 101.

Lucia did try to give Okposo more shots in recent weeks, putting him at the point on power plays.

The WCHA commissioner wrote the NHL before the start of this season about the conference’s concerns over the pros signing college players with eligibility left.

It might be time for another, more stern letter. Heck, forget the letter, how about pickets and protests in the streets if NHL teams are going to start grabbing college players whenever they want?

If this becomes a trend, college hockey will turn into a joke.

P.S. The Islanders come to the Xcel on Feb. 9. Please boo them with added gusto. Snow and the rest of the team’s management deserve no less.

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DEADhead

Thanks for the articles IFallsRon. I know that if it becomes the norm that the NHL starts taking college kids mid-season, I'll probably quit watching the game. The whole reason I quit watching the NHL (and pro sports in general) and watch the college game, is not having to deal with all of the politics, egos, and players chasing dollars rather than championships. Good luck on ever finding dynasty teams again. It was bad enough having players leave mid-way through their eligibility, but mid-season? Then the college game is truly just a farm team for the pros.

Maybe it's for the best, since it looks like Joel Maturi is going to force everyone to buy DirectTV just so they can watch the games on the BigTen network. mad.gif

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Team Otter

Garth Snow can dig his foot out of his mouth any second.

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wallmounter

Garth Snow sure did show why his team is in last place. Nothing like taking an underachiever and putting him on a team full of them, including the GM.

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redlake

Garth Snow isn't exactly setting the NHL on fire. His player personal decisions have me scratching my head. Don Lucia has been a winner throughout his career since he started coaching in 1987.

I agree with the above posts. Lucia has a job to do and it isn't to develop Kyle Okposo. His job is to win hockey games. If Kyle Okposo is struggling playing center in the WCHA, how in the he!! is he going to be a successful winger in the NHL?

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Quackaddict9

and 2 months ago he said that Lucia is a good coach and U of M has a good hockey program developing players. And this now he said Lucia is bad coach. confused.gif

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Double D

I get mildly irked with "we entrusted them to turn him into a better hockey player". For cripes sake we don't pay our taxes to the U so that they can have a free farm system!

Put the rule in that once you start a season you finish a season. If he's going pro he can afford to pay back this years scholarship.

DD

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yakfisher

I don't care what Snow thinks, the University of Minnesota is one of the best college programs in the country and Lucia has had more success with player and personnel decisions than Garth ever will. How many titles have the Isles one while Snow has been involved with them? This sucks for the NCAA and for Minnesota and college hockey. Keep in mind I am not a Gopher fan but I think what Snow has done is a slap in the face to the whole college system.

It is time the NCAA institutes some sort of punitive damage rule for players who leave prior to completing a degree, i.e. make them use the bonus money to pay back the scholarship once the athletic fund and twice to the general scholarship fund. Yes folks I am suggesting that a player who leaves college prior to finishing school to pursue the sport that has been paying for his schooling should have to pay back that money at 3 times the amount not only to the athletic department but to the students as well.

I am sure that there are plenty of exciting players out there that are also interested in getting an education. I am sick and tired of these kids coming and going like this is just part of the career progression. There are many fine junior programs out there that they can go play for, and at least that way they can start playing for the cash that they are all chasing.

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