Backchecking: What To Expect: Part 2 — Goalies

It was easy to keep a little quite over the past several weeks. My work dictated that. But the play of the Islanders from Thanksgiving weekend through the early part of December improved greatly, and the team put some wins together — climbing out of the NHL basement, and giving us fans a small glimmer of hope. But we are right back where we started after 3 straight losses.

In part 1, in the midst of some real problems, there was a great deal of talk about Jack Capuano and the need for “an NHL coach” for the team. Well, it is become increasingly clear since that installment, that Cappy is going to finish this season behind the Islanders bench barring a complete and total collapse. And, I would expect Cappy to start the 2012-13 campaign. Snow is not going to change coaches like underwear. Any designs on seeing recently fired Randy Carlyle, Jacques Martin or someone else behind the boys in blue and orange is pure fantasy. I even recently read a post about getting Mike Keenan.

And while some like putting the teams troubles  all on the coach, there are also players to contend with when it comes to any sports team. Today, I will give my 2 nickles worth of thoughts on the Islanders goalies. I still have to get some of my thoughts in on the Defense, forwards, and of course Garth Snow and Charles Wang.

We began the year all groaning. Another season with 3 goalies. It did not work last time, and it was unlikely to work this year. Those who thought it would be fine are right — so far, and those who thought it would be bad — are also right. It is bad because early on, in the midst of our skid in November, we had no roster flexibility to bring in young players to possibly creates a spark. On the other hand, the decision on who dresses has been easy as one of the three has been injured at any given time. (Insert DiPietro joke here….)

Al Montoya is proving to be an NHL goalie. Another scrap heap pick up for Garth Snow and the Isles.

The Goalies of Today

Right now the Islanders have three goalies — 2 of them belong in the NHL, one barely belongs on an skate sharpening machine. We all know who is who.

Al Montoya came in and won the job of starter with his steady play last season. He deserved the home opener start, and his play thus far this season save for a very small percentage of ones he would like back, Al Montoya is the clear cut Islanders number 1. He is on a 1 year deal this season, and I would have to believe (and please, make your case if I am wrong) that he is in line for a contract extension. Although even i could speculate about a trade of Montoya — which I’ll do later on….

Evgeni Nabokov actually reported this time to the Islanders, and he has been adequate for the team. He is certainly a step off from where he may once have been, but one has to wonder if that has more to do with team defense and a lack of goal support. With DiPietro being…you know….Dipietro, we should be kissing Nabby’s glove hand that he showed up.

If Nabokov is the eventual “odd man out” and he is traded it certainly allowed the Islanders some stability in the crease during his time here. If he stays and completes the season on Long Island, it is still a “win” for the Islanders as it keeps Poulin and Nillson in Bridgeport which is where they belong at this time.

Rick DiPietro.

Is there any more that really has to be said?

He is the final element of the Mike Milbury “error,” representing everything that was/is wrong with that time, and the man who in essence destroyed a model NHL franchise. Not only can the man not stay healthy — he is the worst goalie I’ve seen play in a long time. It might be because of his injuries — he cant move the way he maybe once could, but that 5¢ head has crippled him since he arrived. The reason the team plays better in front of Montoya or Nabokov is self evident. There is only one thing left to do — advocate for the man to retire. If he cares about the Islanders as much as he says he does, then he needs to pack his gear and walk away — forever!

Evgeni Nabokov has been a good back-up for the Islanders. Snow was shrewd enough to toll the contract.

Mike Milbury once said that DiPietro was the best puck handling goalie he’d ever scene. My question was, “yeah, but can he stop the puck?” If DiPietro wants to play the puck so much, I always wanted to ask him why he does not changes positions — try defense. Sure he strung together some reasonable stats when healthy, even a few shut-outs. But he has never amounted to anything of consequence that was positive for the Islanders. Considering we gave up the chance at drafting a player like Gaborik or Heatley, and having Roberto Luongo as the franchises goalie, the impact of that draft is still being felt, and will be as long as Rick DiPietro remains an active member of the Islanders and Gaborik, Heatley and Luongo continue on their stellar careers.

The Choices Moving Forward

The first step would actually be to take on additional salary. As much as I would like to, waiving or releasing DiPietro removes his $4.5 million cap hit, and we need it in order to be cap compliant. So the first order of business really has to be adding salary. That is an argument for another post — who, when, where.

Putting salary aside for a moment, eliminating DiPietro is the only viable option, finishing the campaign with Montoya and Nabokov. But, that too has issues. Both have needed time off for injury, which is why having the three goalies has worked to a point. It appears that with the team going no place this season, rotating the status quo may be the prudent move.

Trading one of the three is a possibility should all three prove healthy for a long stretch, and a deal comes in that you can’t refuse.

What to expect

If the team slides into complete oblivion, they will make a move with their goalies, but I would hold Snow to his word from the Newsday article. He will likely finish the year at this point with what he has. The problem this season has not been goaltending unless #39 is in the crease. Overall, inconsistent play and the lack of offense has been a bigger issue then the goaltending. Think about it… other then a few games

Who would your choice be?

By all means — I love reading your thoughts, and get your own take. My choice would actually be to listen

to all offers for starters, and as crazy as this may seem — Montoya might be the one I would trade.

Rick DiPietro — a rusting, dusty relic from the Milbury "Error" — he represents everything wrong with the Islanders over the past 15 years.

Here is why.

His value is far higher then Nabokov’s. He is younger and has played far better. He is an inexpensive option, and can be traded without question as he lacks the NMC that Nabokov has. This means moving Nabokov would be contingent on his approval. So any desire to simply trade Nabby to Columbus is wishful thinking. But trading Nabokov to a team like Columbus and bringing in a player perhaps with some size… a big center to give Strome time next season…. a big blueliner who can log lots of minutes and be reliable?

Of course in any deal, it can’t be a rental. It has to be a player signed long term or young and willing to be part of the long term solution.

Montoya alone is not getting us an All-Star mind you, but of the three goalies — he is the one that would be easiest to trade. Sending Nabokov to Detroit at the deadline is not getting us a second round pick — and if Detroit or anyone offers Snow a second, he should make that deal and laugh all the way to the draft podium in June.

Ultimately, the goaltending reigns look to be heading in the direction of a possible duo of Montoya and Poulin.

Happy Holidays!


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About the Author: A graphic designer who loves the game....and knows that age has slowed him down — but the passion is there. Islanders fan since the 70s, Dad, Husband and Coach of the Flying Tiger's Email: Twitter:

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  1. anthony c says:

    dp sucks, and wang is a brainless buffoon. while snow is one chromosome away from being mentally handicapped

  2. Scott says:

    The DP bashing is pretty old at this point. He clearly has lost his reflexes due to injury and is no longer an NHL goalie. We all see it and it is too bad because before he got hurt he outplayed Ryan Miller in a series against a far more talented Buffalo team. The Islanders did make the playoffs with bad teams prior to his injuries. It appears his career is now over and that is too bad since he represented the organization well.

    The argument that the team plays better in front of other goalies is also without merit since they are actually 3-2-2 in DP starts despite the fact that DP has been awful. They are 1-5 in Nabokov starts so how exactly do the play better in front of Nabakov?

    Also, Heatley hasn’t exactly won anything or been a good teammate and I don’t think Gaborik has ever won a playoff series, so let’s just move on already. DP’s injuries contributed to how awful we have been the last few years, which actually has helped our prospect pool. I agree that he appears to be done but this organizations problems have not been caused by DP. If they give DP back the starting job, then we can talk. As of now, he is a 3rd string goalie who is having little to no impact on this team.

    • HyeDray says:

      Is it DP’s “fault”? I don’t believe I am saying it is his “fault.” It is Milbury’s fault. And where you say would we be better with Gaborik or Heatley because after all, they have not won anything. Individually, that might be true, but you can’t discount that had we been prudent, done the “right thing” and drafted one of those two players, we would not have DiPietro, and we would have Roberto Luongo.

      This may be getting “old” but lets not forget, he still plays and impacts games. It will continue to be here in the forefront because he is still playing. If he retires he will fade into the abyss of NYI hell.

      I think the team plays a more stable overall game in front of goalies that are more about playing goalie then being a goalie who also happens to be a defenseman, center and left wing all at once. I think there is an element of the unknown when DiPietro plays. Defenders are never quite sure if he will leave the crease or not, Wings are not sure if they will have to get into a position to accept the clearing attempted — and then there is always the flubbed clearing attempt, and then he falls over the shaved iced behind the net leaving the net empty for the guy who hasn’t scored a goal in 5 seasons. So perhaps “plays better” was the wrong choice of words.

      DiPietro may not be the starter, but he looms. And will continue to do so until he retires. (I don’t advocate a buyout, and right now they can’t waive him)

    • anthony c says:

      Scott, the wild got to the western conference finals back in 2003, Gaborik was on that team. So he has won more playoff series then dp has.

  3. Scott says:

    My point is only that DP gets too much attention despite being a small part of the overall problem. This team may end up in the lottery five years in a row for reason that have little to nothing to do with DP. That is quite an accomplishment in a sport with so much parity. We all see that he is not a capable NHL goalie any more but the venom from some Islander fans is what I find annoying. He didn’t try to get hurt.

    OK, Gaborik had one playoff run. Overall, he has been often injured and very inconsistent. It’s not like he would have led us to the promised land and where does Luongo keep his Cup rings?

    Again, if DP takes up meaningful playing time next year and continues to have an 870 save percentage, I am with you but right now it is just sad to see what has happened to his game.

    • HyeDray says:

      We may not have won a Stanley cup had we kept Luongo and drafted wither Heatly or Gaborik — that much is certain. There are no guarantees.

      But lets me put it like this…

      If you were GM, and getting ready to walk to the podium, knowing the facts you had… that it was a race between those two players to be the first overall pick that year, and that you had Luongo already — are you telling me you would have done what Milbury had done, or would you have taken one of the two and kept Luongo?

      DP gets the attention because of his deal. It is not his fault he got hurt. I have never said it was. It was not his fault someone gave him that contract.

      My “venom” to DiPietro has to do with his play, not even his injuries. The biggest flaw is not his hips or his knees. Its the lump of coal that sits on his neck. That is, and always has been my issue with #39. His judgment is an atrocity to hockey. That would be my feelings if he were physically healthy. I feel he gives games away far too often and it has little to do with his injuries.The injuries simply exacerbate this flaw.

      DiPietro has in essence become the albatross to the franchise — much in the way Yashin was — and it was not because Yashin was a bad player per se. It was because Yashin could never live up his contract — just like DiPietro. Yashin’s issue was not health related or because of mental issues — it was that a guy earning $7-8 mil per season should be putting up 95-100 points — and Yash never approached those numbers.

      DiPietro is not the direct problem thus far to the Islanders issues this year. But his impact is part of the problem.

      Having the need for 3 goalies because of his history is an impact. It eliminates a roster slot, and roster flexibility as we saw through the early part of the season. It casts uncertainty on who is dressing and when among the 3 goalies, and goaltending is about getting into a groove.

      Say what you will about Luongo — but I would not have been too upset the last several seasons being in the race every year — considered a league powerhouse, and favoritie to win it all. Further, I would not have been crying to much to get to the finals.

      Perhaps once you win regularly it is very upsetting. Believe me…I remember how bitter 1984 was… I watched it all happen. But, those are memories. Fading away. Most NHL fans don’t even remember the greatness of those players and those teams. Certainly credit is not given.

      So for right now — yes — I would take a Luongo and Heatley mix, thrown in with Chara as my core over DiPietro any day. I may not have a cup ring, but I would not be the joke of the league, and my guess is I could very well be a perennial favorite.

  4. Scott says:

    Obviously, I would take Luongo and Heatley over DP, Parrish and Kvasha, I am not an idiot. I am just saying it is old news and we all agree Milbury set the franchise back 10 years. Trading Chara, Spezza, Brewer, Bertuzzi,etc., all had nothing to do with DP. As for DPs puck handling, I believe if he stayed healthy and played with the same D for a period of time, the kinks could be worked out.

    You are a good Islander fan so I really take no issue with your opinions but it bothers me to see so many Islander fans (not you) make DP into such a villain and they ignore the other glaring problems and failures of this team. They were shut out 5 times at home before the end of November and all the message boards were screaming about DP. I think he has said all the right things this year but unfortunately, his skills are gone.

    Happy Holidays and all that

    • HyeDray says:

      One could argue with real merit your point. A steady “D” in front of him, for a series of seasons, and not rushing him would have made a difference. I don’t think he spent a season in BP, where he probably should have spent 2 or even 3 seasons. I think there is air of entitlement with DP without merit, and he would have developed into a far better player had he been handled correctly.

      But, in a Milbury era, that was never going to happen.

      Like I said — he is the villain because he is the easy target — the behavior, attitude, bad play and contract all before the injuries. I absolutely don’t blame him for getting hurt, or for making bad moves with his development or other trades. Of course!!

      There are other issues with the team besides DP. A more consistent overall effort will help. Further maturation of young players will happen. A steadying defenseman who can be the younger Adrian Aucoin that we had in 2001-02 would be nice….

      All of which I will write about post Christmas….work has been brutal too :-)

      Happy Holidays to you as well Scott…

  5. Scott says:

    Last thing, Luongo accomplished nothing in Florida with a bad team.