Isles GM Rips Lucia
CHN Staff Report
With people searching for answers for why Kyle Okposo left Minnesota for the NHL in mid-season, New York Islanders general manager Garth Snow provided some incendiary reasons.
In a phone interview conducted by the Minneapolis Star-Tribune, Snow, a former four-year goaltender for the University of Maine, placed the blame entirely upon the coaching ability of the Gophers' Don Lucia.
"Quite frankly, we weren't happy with the program there," Snow told the paper. "They have a responsibility to coach, to make Kyle a better player, and they were not doing that."
He continued, "[Okposo] just wasn't getting better — bottom line. And to me, that's the frustrating part. We entrusted the coach there to turn him into a better hockey player, and it wasn't happening. We feel more comfortable in him developing right under our watch."
Lucia, in his ninth season as Minnesota coach, won national championships in 2002 and 2003. He has taken the high road, choosing not to directly respond. Instead, in a statement sent through the school's publicity office, Lucia said he is proud of what the program has accomplished.
Okposo was the seventh overall pick in the 2006 NHL Draft after a 40-point freshman season. After a torrid start, he cooled down following the World Junior tournament. This year, he started off slowly, with just one goal in his first nine games, before scoring six in his last nine. He recently left for the Czech Republic where he will again play for Team USA at the World Juniors.
When pushed, Snow continued to criticize Lucia.
"Whether it was Kyle or another player, until things change in that program we'd probably make the same decision," Snow told the Star-Tribune. "There should be a coach there that looks in the mirror. ... I don't think we'd be at this point if he was being coached properly."