But yesterday's big news -- you know, outside of Aaron Ness being returned to Bridgeport -- was the USA Olympic roster being announced without Kyle Okposo's name on it.
We covered that (and people rehashed it in comments) in this post on the news. It never honestly felt like Okposo's inclusion was imminent, though his big season -- among the league leaders in overall points and particularly even strength points -- had media buzzing about his chances lately.
Turns out two media members were in the know, thanks to exclusive access to deliberations provided by Hockey USA. Read those accounts from ESPN's Scott Burnside and USA Today's Keith Allen. Allen is a legendary, award-winning hockey scribe, and Burnside is someone who writes about hockey too. Both accounts are excellent, deep reads.
Pertinent excerpts follow...
Allen, on the dilemma with the forward decision:
At this point, the forward discussion centered on the final two spots. Brandon Saad and Bobby Ryan seemed to be in the lead, but it is a very close race. Max Pacioretty had been a strong candidate early, but an injury undermined his candidacy. Alex Galchenyuk still seemed intriguing and everyone seemed interested in Blake Wheeler.
Kyle Okposo, having a strong season for the New York Islanders, was also listed among the candidates for that spot. One concern is whether he would be as effective on the wider European ice surface. But he still listed on the ghost roster as one of the wing candidates.
The group spent considerable time discussing Ryan, who seems to be on his way to his fifth 30-goal season. The committee unquestionably loved his hands, but wondered about his overall game compared with other forwards available. "His skating is deceptive," Burke offered.
During these discussions, Poile liked to remind everyone "these are all good players."
(Apparently no one is concerned about Brooks Orpik's defensive mobility on the wider European surfaces.)
Burnside, on apparently curious determination about Okposo:
Like Bishop, Poile notes that Jason Pominville and Kyle Okposo are having great seasons but haven't been given much, if any, consideration.
Still, the belief is that neither Pominville nor Okposo is built for the big ice, and their names will rarely, if ever, be heard in relation to making the team going forward.
Not mentioned in those excerpts, but addressed in both pieces, is TJ Oshie, whom the USA coaches apparently liked more than the USA management. As someone who gets to see Oshie up close quite often, I can attest to his game having a "coach's favorite" element to it.
Islanders management, no doubt like many of you, are reportedly miffed that Okposo was left off the team:
And for those who asked, #Isles management -- all alums of USA Hockey at some level -- are livid at Okposo's exclusion.— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) January 2, 2014
Personally, I think the argument for Okposo to make the team is there, even if you somehow penalize him for being put in offensive situations with John Tavares all season. (It's worth noting that he's been racking up points at even strength.) That said, the U.S. finally has the luxury of cutting good players, and by cutting Okposo they may have merely picked someone else for the nightly healthy scratch role.
The reasoning reported in the two insider pieces, however, sure comes off as dubious.
More Islanders Reads
The WJC quarterfinals are underway as you read this, but here was THN's Ryan Kennedy on Griffin Reinhart's first game (among other topics): "Not only was the big blueliner effective early on, but when the Canadians were protecting a lead late in the game, it was Reinhart doing his best Rob Scuderi impression by blocking anything in his path during a goal-mouth scramble..."
- Longtime Isles stat guy Eric Hornick asked whether the Okposo snub would change rooting interests among fans. He sampled Twitter responses here.
- At least Hornick didn't tell a 67-year-old Canadian he made the team.
- Here's SI on players that were snubbed, a healthy reminder that the U.S. actually has surplus good players these days.
- Dee Karl at HockeyBuzz says you can stop being surprised that Garth Snow doesn't reveal much now.
- Islanders University on the Clutterbuck-Nino trade.
- Oh, by the way the Wild lost again. [Star Tribune]
- Since Ryan Strome is lighting it up (I kid), when does Anders Lee get his chance? [The Checking Line]
A sore topic, but Dobber Hockey on the Isles:
- Oh, were we mentioning goalies? Zach Fucale isn’t the one who got away; Antti Raanta is | OilersNation
- Our Garik16 has teamed up with some other statheads to launch hockey-graphs.com. Check it out.
- Kind of sad, this. Gilbert Brule is apparently retiring from hockey. [Sportsnet]
- On the U.S. mix: Mix of veterans, youth highlight U.S. Olympic team - 2014 Olympics
- Oh boy: Suicide bombings cause Sochi Olympics jitters, Team USA goalies, more NHL news links | Home Ice - SI.com
- The Winter Classic was pretty good yesterday. The Blues would like to host an outdoor game, but they'll probably have to wait until the Penguins get their seventh.
- Steve Yzerman thinks the league may be watering down the outdoor "golden goose."
- Whether he's clapping for a gratuitous timeout or talking romantically about outdoor games, Mike Babcock is always a good quote. [NHL Video]
- Another angle on the Winter Classic: The equipment managers.
- Dion Phaneuf has signed on for seven more years. [SB Nation]
- Also with the Leafs, the long-rumored exchange of problems has been consummated: John-Michael Liles goes to Carolina in exchange for Tim Gleason. [NHL]
Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's contest over this way. Standings will be updated later.