There has been a lot of discussion surrounding the selection of the US men’s hockey Olympic team. Who should be on, who should have been left off, along with various reasons for both. In the interest of fairness, this certainly is not the first team list to be questioned by the masses, and will not be the last.
From an Islanders perspective, most fans had high hopes for the inclusion of winger Kyle Okposo on the Sochi Squad. Some are not surprised that Okposo was excluded, and some even feel the selection committee was justified in overlooking him. There are reasons Okposo was left off the Olympic Team, although whether or not they’re good reasons remains to be seen.
A guy like Okposo gets overlooked for two key reasons: one, he’s never lived up to career expectations, with this season being the first glimpse into reaching his potential; and two, last year he completely bombed, tallying just four goals for the entire season. Historically, some really talented guys have gotten passed over for similar reasons. But here’s the thing – we’re not talking about what a guy can do for you over the long haul, we’re looking at a two-week tourney. Who is hot right now, and can produce for a short time frame right now. It’s ridiculous to pass on Okposo simply because he’s never had a breakthrough season. He could be a real difference-maker for the US team.
To put this into perspective: Paul Henderson was an exceedingly mediocre player prior to the fall of 1972, and continued to be so through the rest of his career. He wasn’t a superstar, he never scored 50 goals in a season, and was never flashy or stood out for any reason. But I’m pretty sure the Team Canada execs are glad they decided to bring him to Moscow for that short tourney. The selection committee went with the hot hand, and when it counted, Henderson became a national hero. He maintains that aura in his native homeland to this day, where a generation of people born after the 1972 Canada-Russia series hold Henderson in the highest regard.
There is, of course, no guarantee Okposo would step up and perform the same role with similar heroic results. There are no guarantees in hockey, regardless of how you crunch the numbers and play the odds. Pucks bounce the wrong way, guys go on cold streaks, and referees make questionable calls. But When a guy is within striking distance of a point per game, ranks 13th in NHL scoring and second among American skaters, it stands to reason the powers that be should have given him an alternate, or “extra skater” spot, at the very least.