Could Al Montoya have walked into a better situation?
After the Islanders were spurned by a whining Evgeni Nabokov. Then left in a lurch when oft-injured Rick DiPietro went down with a season ending injury (that’s as lightly as I could put it) and top prospect Kevin Poulin went down with a dislocated kneecap. As if the Islanders weren’t decimated by injuries already, left GM Garth Snow to scramble to find a goalie on the trade market. Islander fans were speculating names like Mike Smith and Michael Leighton, Snow struck a deal with Phoenix to acquire former Ranger 1st round pick Al Montoya for just a 6th round pick. From there, it would seem that former Sound Tiger, Nathan Lawson would be given the opportunity to win himself a job for next season. After a few bad outings (and that’s putting it lightly), Montoya was summoned into duty. After 2 relief appearances, Monty (as they call him), earned himself a start against the high powered Los Angeles Kings. He was brilliant in a 3-0 shutout that night and hasn’t looked back since.
Montoya, who was drafted by the Rangers 6th overall in the 2004 NHL Draft, was chosen 1 year before the beginning of the Henrik Lundqvist era at the Garden. Montoya, hung around the Rangers system by was hopelessly blocked by Lundqvist. On deadline day 2008, the Rangers shipped Montoya to the Phoenix Coyotes in a deal that saw the Rangers acquire Fredrik Sjostrom. From there Montoya saw himself injured and again blocked, this time by waiver acquisition Ilya Bryzgalov. It wouldn’t be till Snow came calling that Montoya would get another NHL opportunity and as it seems right now, is taking full advantage of it.
Snow, over the past few seasons has found some absolute gems (Matt Moulson, Michael Grabner, PA Parenteau and Milan Jurcina just to name a few off this year’s roster). Though Montoya may be the most impressive considering how under the gun he was to get someone (showing his trademark patience), and how little he had to give up (again considering the circumstances). If you watch the games, you see the calmness and confidence Montoya has brought to the Islanders defense, and the outstanding play is a direct result of how quickly he and the defense in front of him has gelled.
Heading into the summer, Snow has to be thinking about how he intends to shore up his goaltending for next season, since it’s his biggest hole. Montoya, without a doubt, has earned himself another contract and the opportunity to come back next year. It also, in my opinion, should give him the opportunity to be the 1A to DiPietro come next season. As we have seen, Rick isn’t ready to handle the #1 job yet (if ever). Having Montoya to slpit time with him (until Kevin Poulin is ready in a year or 2) gives the Islanders some options and allows the team to bring Poulin along slowly.
Regardless of what Montoya has done, Snow has to sit his friend (DiPietro) down and set him straight. After everything that has happened the past 2 season, heading out to fight Johnson was the absolute wrong thing to do. It set back his rehab and left the Islanders with more questions they don’t want to have to answer. You have seen enforcers (Eric Cairns had this problem a few times) where they suffer a hand injury and are unable to fight. Well, 4 knee surgeries and 2 1/2 season in the trainers room should be all that Ricky needed to not tussle with Johnson.
What’s done is done, and because of the Johnson fight, Montoya is here, and he deserves to stay.
About the Author: The New York Islanders have been a huge part of my life since I was 7 years old, and during the past 27 years I have experience many ups and downs with this team. The back end of 4 straight Stanley Cups, the Drive for 5, the Easter Epic, trading of my heroes John Tonelli, and Kelly Hrudey. Mike Bossy's early retirement, Pat LaFontaine for Pierre Turgeon, Dale Hunter, David Volek, Ron Hextall, Al Arbour's retirement, Bill Torrey to Florida, Mike Milbury, John Spano, The Milstein's, Hoistgate, the sale to Charles Wang, Draft Day 2000, Alexei Yashin and Michael Peca, Milbury's "reassignement", 40 days of Neil Smith, Ted Nolan, The Lighthouse Project, Kate Murray, Scott Gordon, going from 5 to 7 to 9, Josh Bailey, John Tavares, Calvin deHaan, El Nino, the 2 Kirill's and hopefully.....much, much more. I have been an Islanders blogger for the past 3 years, starting on Myspace, then for IslesNation.com and currently for HockeyIndependent.com, and I have been selected to the 2010-2011 New York Islanders Blog Box. I am an IT Manager for a quite large facility working for a government agency. I am married for 7 years to an incredibly patient woman and am the proud father of a beautiful 1 year old daughter. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: Twitter.com/tonystabile