Islanders Gameday News: Aaron Ness to Bridgeport; Kyle Okposo not to Sochi

"February party at Johnny's pad!" - Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sport

It's a new year! Alas, sorry, it's the same old season.

The New York Islanders kick off 2014 tonight by hosting the Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks tonight, the first of three consecutive games at home through Monday.

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:

There is also some support for Brandon Dubinsky, who's been playing really well for the Columbus Blue Jackets.

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:

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..."

A sore topic, but Dobber Hockey on the Isles:

it's part of being a GM in the NHL. You have all your ducks lined up in a row, and then suddenly shit happens. The Islanders stockpiled some pretty good prospects and between the pipes was no exception. We were pretty optimistic about Poulin, Nilsson and Mikko Koskinen - and Nabokov was a perfect stopgap 'bridge' solution. Poulin and Nilsson saw spot starts and looked impressive, and Koskinen saw the writing on the wall and left for the KHL.

Now, a couple of years later, Nabokov, Poulin and Nilsson are horrible. Ironically - Koskinen is kicking ass in the KHL and I'm thinking there is a chance that the Isles look that way. Not that Koskinen could be a savior - after all, Karri Ramo kicked ass over there too...

Elsewhere

FIG Picks

Leave your First Islanders Goal picks for tonight's contest over this way. Standings will be updated later.

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