Friday, January 11, 2008

A Chance To Get It Right

When the puck drops tonight in Binghamton, the Kyle Okposo era will officially begin. In doing so, the Islanders organization will be taking a huge step forward. At least that is what I'm led to believe by so many of the journalists, bloggers, and fans who have been eagerly awaiting his arrival since the day we drafted him in 2006. Even the simple use of the phrase "Kyle Okposo Era" is burdened with so much inherent expectation, I'm worried we're setting up this talented young player for failure from the outset.

I'm not down on KO by any means. To be honest, all I've seen of him are a handful of You Tube highlights and some clips from Draft Day '06. From what I've seen and read, he seems like the real deal. But in a world where perception is reality, what is it going to take for Okposo to be considered a success for the Islanders?

I think the shift in perception from Okposo being a talented pick to a potential franchise savior started during last year's trading deadline. Buried in all the excitement of Ryan Smyth's arrival was the clear statement to the rest of the league that Okposo was "untouchable" and not available in any trade, no matter how attractive it may be. For many fans, most of whom had not (and still have not) seen Okposo play even one shift, this high-potential power forward began to develop a reputation distinctly different from those picks that came before him. Even casual fans knew his name, and the inevitable comparisons to some of the top power forwards in the league grew more pronounced.

A greater factor in the canonization of Kyle Okposo is attributable to the team he is joining. Without rehashing our organization's painful mismanagement of top draft picks, clearly this is a team that hasn't seen a top pick make an impact with the Islanders in a very long time. Obviously DP is the exception to that rule, but even that success is dampened by the events surrounding it (as much as we love DP, wouldn't we rather have Luongo and Heatley?). I believe that so many view this as our chance to get it right. A step towards erasing our memories of all of the top picks we passed on, traded away, or failed to develop. And that is exactly why I'm concerned. Nothing will change what has happened, and we need to be sure we don't put the burden of the last 15+ years on this man's shoulders.

For me, I'll be tracking his progress with great excitement just like anyone else. But when I watch him play, I won't be seeing the ghosts of Luongo, Spezza, Nilsson, Heatley and all the other "what-ifs" that populate the fringes of our past. I'll just be watching Kyle Okposo, a man who I hope will one day be a strong contributor to our team.

13 comments:

Dominik said...

Great stuff. You really hit it on the head. I've been wary of the hype myself.

Not that I think he won't work out -- more that we have no idea what he'll be, just a reasonable guess. He's not a Crosby-type sure thing, so patience and restrained expectations should rule the day.

- Islander Frontier

Outsider said...

I, too, have been uncomfortable with the growing expectations. Mike, I think you have it right by looking for Kyle to be a "strong contributor" and nothing more yet. That's reasonable. At this point, I'm just hoping he takes a regular NHL shift for a long time and chips in 20-30 goals a year.

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