September 28, 2010

Okposo out 3 Months; Mottau signed to 2-year Deal

As the old saying goes, "when it rains, it pours." No, I'm not referring to the weather on the Island lately, but the news surrounding it's only professional sports franchise.

The Islanders got even more bad news on Tuesday, as a second opinion on Kyle Okposo's shoulder revealed that he has a torn labrum, which Katie Strang reports will keep the star winger sidelined until December. His injury, like Streit's, will require surgery. Fortunately, the timetable isn't as bad since Streit's was so awkward and had three different injures.

What is unclear at this time, however, is what Okposo did to hurt the shoulder. The injury apparently occured during the powerplay scrimmage they had last week Thursday, which was only open to the mainstream media.

Whatever the case may be, now the Islanders prepare for three months without their defensive anchor and their best all-around forward. Now, everyone will be holding their collective breaths as the team - finally - begins to play some preseason games.

We'll see who steps up now. Obviously, we were already looking for a breakout season from Josh Bailey. Now, we'll sort of need it to happen. A full season of Rob Schremp will be good for us, and given the recent history of talented 1st overall picks, John Tavares can realistically eclipse the 30 goal mark. There are some young players around who might surprise in the exhibition games who could possibly make the squad such as Nino Niederreiter, David Ullstrom and Jesse Joensuu.

The Islanders can also look and see who goes on the waiver wire, or who is made avaliable by a team that has no cap space (Michael Ryder of the Bruins, Brian Rolston of the Devils).

Garth Snow talked about how this provides an opportunity for the younger players to step up and earn that spot. Ironically, he said the same thing after Mark Streit's injury. Just two days after that announcement, however, he announced the signing of defenseman Mike Mottau to a two-year contract, worth $800K per season. Mottau spent the last three seasons with the Devils.

Islanders fans might remember Mottau best for his hit on Frans Nielsen a couple of seasons ago. I sure do, and even voiced my displeasure with it. However, now that that's in the past, I am not too concerned with that.

Obviously, he is not Streit. Snow talks about Mottau's puck moving ability, but he is more of a defensive defenseman. The Islanders were not going to come anywhere close to Streit, even if they ended up getting Sheldon Souray instead. I still personally would have liked Souray, but given that the Islanders have no interest, perhaps there is something there, and perhaps his trade demands have truly turned more teams off to him than I originally thought. So be it.

Mottau gives the Islanders even more good depth. The offense from the blue line doesn't appear to be there, but it's going to make James Wisniewski, Andrew MacDonald and Jack Hillen step their games up. When you add Mark Eaton, a healthy Radek Martinek and mix and match Bruno Gervais and Milan Jurcina if needed, it's not the worst thing in the world. This defense is collectively better than the defense last year, disregarding Streit.

Some people are wondering why they gave him a two year deal. To be honest, in the scheme of things I'm not sure if it really matters. Perhaps it was the only way to get him here. If so, well, this team has Wisniewski, Gervais, Jurcina and Martinek all in their contract years. I think this tells us a little of what they think of Gervais so far, and his order on the depth chart. Jurcina was brought on as a Scott Gordon project, and if he doesn't do well, won't be back. Martinek has had a hard time staying on the ice in recent years, and is a candidate to be let go after the season if he gets hurt again.

As far as what else Mottau brings to the team, for those of you who may not know (I honestly didn't) NYI FYI friend Andy Strickland had an excellent entry on his new site about Mottau and things you may not know about him. Some really good stuff there, and shows you how much of a character guy he is to boot. Right now, it appears he's a good option for a lower pairing, but can play more minutes if need be.

Before I leave you guys alone for now, I want to give credit where credit is due. When Streit went down with his injury, I mentioned how that the Islanders could send the wrong message if they simply went with a young defenseman and didn't even try to bring in a solid vet to fill the role. I honestly didn't think they would, as they had seven defensemen on one-way deals. But here we are, with Mottau signed and at eight defensemen again. Regardless of the player, or the terms, the Islanders are trying to keep their word. I respect them for that, and am very curious to see if the offense is handled the same way.


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