Forward Kyle Okposo’s first season with the Buffalo Sabres did not play out the way he envisioned when he signed a 7 year/$45 million dollar deal with the organization on July 1st.
While he scored 45 points (19 goals, 26 assists) in 65 games and played a large role on the Sabres’ top line, Okposo was out of the Stanley Cup playoffs for only the second time in the last five seasons.
On top of not producing at a level he may be used to, Okposo also was battling a previously-undisclosed issue that brought his season to a terrifying and screeching halt.
We first became aware of a potential issue with Okposo on March 29th, when he missed the game against the Columbus Blue Jackets with what was termed an “illness”. Not too many red flags were raised, seeing as Okposo played the night before when Buffalo celebrated Brian Gionta’s 1000th career National Hockey League game at the KeyBank Center.
Speculation began to run rampant throughout Western New York and the rest of the National Hockey League as well soon after. Ruled out quickly were the usual hockey illnesses like mumps. Remember how crazy that outbreak was?
Then, the news continued to get worse for all parties involved.
It was not deemed a serious issue until WGR 550’s Paul Hamilton dropped a report that Okposo had been taken to Erie County Medical Center’s neurological intensive care unit. The report was confirmed almost immediately by The Buffalo News. Everyone in the Buffalo area was on edge about the status of Okposo’s health.
Hours later, the Sabres released an official announcement on his status during the team’s game on April 5th.
“Kyle continues to be under the care of our doctors as he deals with symptoms from an illness. Out of respect to Kyle and his family, we will have no further comment at this time.”
From that point forward, with the season already lost, worrying minds turned toOkposo’s health.
— Matthew Bové (@Matt_Bove) April 7, 2017
What continued to raise worry and suspicion was the general silence in regard to any updates to his unnerving health situation. Even when speaking to the media for the final time, ex-Sabres general manager Tim Murray was very upset when asked about the status of Okposo’s questionable illness.
“I’m not saying anything. You know how we go – if it is a concussion, it is a concussion. If it is shoulder, we say shoulder. If it is ankle, we say ankle. We said we aren’t going to speak on Kyle. I don’t have any anticipation or information. I think our actions have been pretty clear. I have no info nor can I give you any information. Based on our actions, I hope you would respect that.”
Update on Okposo
In the wee hours of the morning on April 22nd, we finally got a very large glimmer of hope with a very unexpected update.
Source tells me Kyle Okposo issue was a reaction to medication he was taking when dealing with concussion and is doing much better. #Sabres
— Kris Baker (@SabresProspects) April 23, 2017
For the first time since he exited the neurological intensive care unit, we received a positive update that felt like a giant leap forward. To further the update, the Associated Press’s John Wawrow could not independently confirm the report but did say Okposo was continuing to improve.
— John Wawrow (@john_wawrow) April 23, 2017
Kris Baker went on to say that Okposo’s original illness was in regards to a post-concussion medication reaction. While all of this remains unconfirmed, due to HIPAA laws, things do at least reportedly appear to be heading in the right direction with his personal health.
With that being said, he is still expected to fully recover and his status for the 2017-18 season is expected to be unchanged.
Ryan is a sportswriter and podcaster, with his focus centered on the Buffalo Sabres. He is a resident of the Rochester, New York area. Ryan looks to build his pieces with a fact-based backbone to educate the reader, while allowing them to mold their own opinions.