Despite leading the Buffalo Sabres in goals and points, Kyle Okposo still expects more from himself after the All-Star break.
Hopes were high for the Buffalo Sabres heading into this season. Part of the reason was due to signing Kyle Okposo, widely regarded as the top target in free agency after Steven Stamkos opted to stay in Tampa Bay.
Unfortunately for the Sabres, things haven’t exactly gone to plan, thanks in large part to a ridiculous number of injuries. As a result, the team entered the All-Star break seven points adrift of a playoff spot.
From an individual perspective, you could argue that Okposo has kept up his end of the bargain, despite the pressure of signing the largest free agent contract in franchise history. As things stand, he leads the Sabres in goals and total points.
Of course, part of the reason for this probably comes down to the aforementioned injury situation. In particular, it’s likely Jack Eichel and Ryan O’Reilly would both have more overall points, if they had not missed 21 and 10 games respectively.
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Further, the evidence is there that the Sabres’ All-Star representative can do better. Consider that his current points-per game production, is lower than each of the previous three seasons with the New York Islanders.
Regardless, it is refreshing to know Okposo still expects more from himself, as he told those present at Saturday’s All-Star media day. However, he also realizes there was always likely to be a period of adjustment, due to a new coach, system and teammates.
From an overall perspective, the 28-year old couldn’t be happier with his new employer. This is a good sign, given that he is in the first season of a seven-year deal.
Speaking to Mike Harrington of The Buffalo News and the rest of the media, Okposo said: “It’s been awesome. I can’t say enough good things about the Sabres organization, the way they’ve treated me and my family.
“We just had the parents trip and you thank the Pegulas for putting that on and it’s been fantastic. (It’s) everything that I hoped for.”
The 2006 seventh overall draft pick went on to rave about how much he loves living in Buffalo. He also made a point of praising the fans for how passionate they are, while still treating him with respect.
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Of course, no matter how well things may be going off the ice, Okposo knows he and his teammates have to step up their production over the final 34 games of the season. He appreciates this won’t be easy: ” We’re on the outside looking in and we have a tough road ahead.
“We probably have to win seven out of 10 the next three segments to try to cement a chance to get in. That’s not an easy thing to do in this league.”
Despite the size of the challenge ahead of the Sabres, the Saint Paul, Minnesota native has full confidence that it’s possible. Whether you agree with him or not, aspects such as the recent trio of overtime victories contribute to this positive attitude.
Okposo said: “It gives you belief that we can win games. That’s something that is contagious.”
The Sabres’ alternate captain finished by talking about how much the alumni are revered by the organization, giving a further indication of how close-knit everyone is. If he consistently performs to the level expected of him, he can expect the same treatment.
Sabres’ fan or not, how would you sum up Okposo’s production so far this season? Do you believe he has underachieved, or do you think he’s done well, considering the mitigating circumstances? Share your thoughts in the comments section.