Friday, December 21, 2007

Okposo Linkorama

This story is getting more play than it probably deserves in the college hockey world since it comes during a week when there are no games.

Unfortunately, the USCHO article on Why Everybody Hates Minnesota came out about a week too early, because I think KFAN radio personality Jeff Dubay summed it up perfectly. On the radio today, they played back the tape of Dubay calling in to KFAN yesterday breaking the story that Okposo was leaving. You can listen it to here.

My favorite part:
"My interest in [college hockey] is waning fast. I like college hockey about 1/3 as much as I used to.
That's right, Kyle Okposo is a bad guy because he quit on my team, so I'm going to quit on my team. As Bart Simpson would say, the ironing is delicious.

Garth Snow had some harsh words for Minnesota coach Don Lucia. Starting with:
"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."
And then:
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."
And for some reason, he kept talking:
"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.
And then he shut up because he was making an ass of himself....Oh wait, no he didn't:
"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."
First, you can't mention Garth Snow on the internet without an obligatory link to that picture of him. Second, I'd take this a little more seriously if it wasn't coming from an organization that is a bit of a laughing stock. Third, I'm really surprised Garth Snow was that unprofessional on the record.

Snow makes himself look absolutely ridiculous with those comments, and makes himself, and Okposo look terrible. It's pretty obvious Snow only listened to one side of the story and made his conclusions from that. Snow has chosen to back a frustrated, immature young kid over a well-respected, well-established coach.

As far as Okposo, I think the timing of his decision was poor, but if he really felt that was what was best, I can't criticize the decision too much. I try to never put my hobby in front of someone else's career, and I think some Minnesota fans need to remember that. But at the same time, I question some of Okposo's reasons for leaving. Saying a coach didn't do enough to develop you is garbage, and if Okposo maintains that attitude, I don't think he'll go as far as he is capable of. No one besides Okposo is responsible for his effort on a nightly basis, and I think everyone that saw him play this year would agree that regardless of what position he was put in, he didn't do his best to help himself.

CSTV's Dave Starman disagrees with Okposo's decision to leave his team.

Elliot Olshansky thinks the mid-season departure might set a poor precedent. I've seen a fair amount of hand-wringing over this, but I don't think it will become a major trend. Okposo was obviously fairly unhappy with his situation in Minnesota. That's certainly happened in the past, though usually with players that don't have the same NHL options as Okposo. I think the large majority of players are loyal enough to their team that they wouldn't leave like that.

Brad Schlossman at the Grand Forks Herald points out that Okposo was pretty average without Tyler Hirsch in the lineup.


Anonymous said...

Don Lucia: Countless wins, league titles, NCAA Tournament appearances, 2 NCAA titles.

Garth Snow: ?

Anonymous said...

I find it interesting that Garth Snow and the Islanders thought Okposo wasn't improving at Minny.

Yet for some reason Wayne Gretzky and Co. down in Phoenix think Blake Wheeler spending 4 years in college is good idea.

I am an Isles fan, but very skeptical of this whole mess. The hockey community was impressed with what Kyle did in the USHL and then what he did in his freshman year playing college hockey. For me and a lot of other people, I started scratching my head when Okposo's numbers declined when Hirsch was kicked off the squad.

Coming out of college early is a tricky situation, especially in this case where Okposo is not guaranteed a spot like a Toews or Erik Johnson.

I guess only time will tell about how this one plays out.

Anonymous said...

No doubt Lucia was a good coach. But things change and have changed. He no longer has the luxury of turning away players. He has to actually recruit now and his roster is full of decent Minnesota boys. Are they the best the state has to offer. Why does he lose out on so many of the star players that come out of Shattuck? Lucia is no longer the great coach he may have been at one point.

Anonymous said...

Garth Snow....Management of a pro sports team and played pro hockey.

Lucia, posh minnesota job where you sit back and do nothing, let your assistants coach, collect endorsements, and blame others...and now sinking a once proud Minnesota Golden Gopher Hockey Team

Anonymous said...

I think you're being unfair to Dubay. First you put words in his mouth. Since when does being less interested in College Hockey equal quitting on your team. Did Puffy say he was never watching another Gopher game?

And second, tell me if Backes or Hensick had pulled an Okposo you might not have had a less than positive first reaction?

While I have appreciated the fairness you shown the Gopher's troubles this season, I don't think Jeff Dubay said anything a lot of Gophers fans didn't feel. Honestly most fans would have similar feelings if it were happening to their team.

One of the great things about College Hockey used to be that you could root for the same group of players for three or four years. That has changed and not for the better. This seems to be a more accurate reflection of the frustrations that Dubay was giving voice to.

Anonymous said...

do the Gophers rely too heavily on in-state talent? Are they overlooking other players? Are other states gaining on player development. Maybe Lucia's recruiting results have less to do with his prowess than with the situation of in-state schools wanting to keep keeps in-state? Or maybe I'm stupid. Just wondering 'cause it seems like Minny always has a lot more MN kids than anyone else.

Anonymous said...

That is a good example, Blake Wheeler. I think his improvement over the past couple of years has been stagnant. Perhaps Garth Snow is onto something here.

Anonymous said...

Okposo should of went to the WHL.

What about schooling? What happened to him walking across the stage in a cap/gown? He must be really smart to finish school in a year and a half.

mulletman said...

Just wait until next year when the Gophers are again in the middle to the bottom of the pack in the WCHA. The head in the sand Lucia backers will become Lucia bashers. Now that the news is out about Snow complaining about Lucia's coaching, imagine how much tougher Lucia is going to find recruiting the top kids. I see this program spiraling downhill in a hurry.

Anonymous said...

Anybody who says Wheeler has stayed stagnant must not be watching him play much. He has shown clear improvement in his game. You can't look at points alone and judge how a guy is improving. If Gretzky is happy with Wheeler's progress and compliments Minnesota's program, I'd say that is about as high of a compliment as you can get.

As far as Garth Snow, what has he really ever done to show he knows how to do much of anything other than run a franchise into the cellar?

blah blah blah said...

Garth Snow's ineptitude at being professional has me worried. In fact, it should worry any college team that has a player drafted by the Islanders on it.

UND has Gregoire coming in. I wonder if Garth Snow will pull the plug on him because Hakstol thinks team first before players. Kinda like Lucia.

Snow needs a place that caters to his players every whim and need. In other words, Okposo needed a servant, not a hockey coach.

I predict Okposo's rise to the NHL to be similar to Vanek's. Vanek had to spend some time in the AHL and even got benched for his attitude and playing poor defensively. He then got his butt in gear and his head out of his backside and now he's a pretty big star in Buffalo. Question is: Will NYI bench Okposo if needed?

Anonymous said...

Save the hate mulletman. We all know you are just a Sioux fan enjoying the moment because you hate the Gophers.

Anonymous said...

I think Elliot Olshansky's article was very informative. It isn't just the Gophers that have to worry about these mid-season situations. Look what Berenson had to deal with in regard to Jack Johnson rejecting overtures from Carolina during the college season. Does anybody think Berenson isn't a top notch coach?

Some teams in the NHL are showing absolutely no respect for the college game. Once the ice is broken, who knows what could happen? We may see a lot of guys facing overtures from the pros during the season. I guess we will just have to hope that these players show loyalty like Jack Johnson and Kris Chucko did and tell their NHL club that they won't leave during the college season.

Anonymous said...

The Gretzky comments about the gophers were made over a couple of years ago. I think it's interesting we haven't heard anything since then. He can't be happy with Wheelers progress.

Anonymous said...

On Wheeler, first couple years I was thinking he was a complete bust. I don't know whether the credit in the end really goes to the coach or the kid (or is a combination of both), but Wheeler was a completely different player last year (especially down the stretch) than prior years.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:28 -

The NHL has become a business...pure and simple. The new CBA has just magnified that with the free agency age dropping and how that is having an impact on when NHL teams are signing not only their prospects but undrafted free agents as well.

Now does that mean that we'll start seeing more midseason departures? I don't know, but it can be attributed the growing number of college players leaving early.

As for Garth Snow's harsh comments about Don Lucia, I wonder if he would have the same kind of comments for Tim Whitehead if the same type of situation involved a player from his former college team.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the CHL is the best development option for elite players? That seems to be what everyone is hinting at. There seems to be more and more examples of it everyday.

Anonymous said...

Apparently, even UMD people are sticking up for the Gophers on this one. Found this link on AOL FanHouse today.

Anonymous said...

If someone from the NHL says that Don Lucia and his programming is ruining the careers of young players who are we to argue.

Anonymous said...

gretzky wants wheeler in minny because he knows he fukd up wit that pick and a #5 overall pick has no business being in college past 2 years..simple..dont pat yourself on the backs that much for the great one, he knows wheelr is a BIG project and wasnt even ready for the AHL, seriously, ope your eyes

Anonymous said...

maybe lucia shouldnt aste a roster spot on the softies he has in there and his son who couldnt crack half of the wcha lineups and go after great out of state with uw and und grabbing nice metro kids.....ide rather see a great out of stater rather tha a 2nd or 3rd toer minny kid...simple really

Anonymous said...

TONY LUCIA is a good solid hockey player, he has earned his spot.... whoever wrote that comment about Tony must have never seen the Gophers play, they must be assuming it just because he's the coaches son.

My List of current Gophers Tony is better than: RJ Anderson, Kevin Wehrs, Kuaffman, Pohl, Bostrom, Drew Fischer, Schack, and Howe.

He might not be a star, but I guarntee he could play for anyone... solid player who does all the little things great.

Anonymous said...

From another board I read....

"What a crazy situation. We're working on a story ( with comments from former Gophers defending Lucia to the hilt. Stay tuned.

Posted by: Adam W. (CHN) on Friday, December 21 1:27 PM "

Should be interesting, maybe Okposo was just a baby who used Lucia as a Scape goat for his bad play???

Anonymous said...

Has Blake Wheeler improved in his time at the U of M? Without a doubt it has. Has it improved to the point where it validates how high he was chosen in the draft? NO WAY! Okposo's situation is a lot like Brian Lee's situation at North Dakota. Both pro oraganizations want these kids to develop within their own system. Take a look at the Wild with Sheppard. They made it a point to keep him on the roster all year to develop him. While Snow may not agree with Coach Lucia's handling of Okposo, his comments are way out of line. You'd think that pro teams and college coaches would want to work together. The more pros a college can produce the better recruits they get. I would dare bet Snow has already been contacted by the commissioner and told to keep his mouth shut.

Anonymous said...

What does "tdon" mean?

Anonymous said...

the don

Anonymous said...

Of course UMD is sticking up for Don Lucia. They don't want to see a competent coach take over at Minnesota. Personally, I would love to see Lucia get fired or resign.

Anonymous said...

I laugh a lot at the very jealous anti-Lucia people on here. Lucia has gone to the NCAA playoffs for the last seven years, and if the season ended now, Mn would go again. He has won national championships 25% of the seasons he has coached at Minnesota, and he has coached 20 NHL first and second round players.

Anonymous said...


man one name for you Jordan Schroeder, i dont think any other college hockey team has a better player recruited