November 28, 2009
On the day of Thanksgiving, everyone gathers around with family to express their thanks for all that they have in their lives or for what has transpired throughout the course of the year. Well Isles fans, I'm giving you a story to be thankful for.
The Islanders have been playing extremely well this season, despite having what many consider a "mediocre" lineup and "over-the-hill" veterans. They currently sit 12th in the Eastern Conference with 25 points, which many hockey experts were thinking they would end up with near the end of the season. They have recorded a 9-9-7 record in their first 25 games, and all of this without the help of Rick DiPietro.
Who you may ask? Oh yeah, isn't that that guy who signed a 15 year contract to play for a team that has a hard time making the playoffs, no less being a playoff contender? And isn't he one of the most injury-prone players in the league?
Well, it doesn't help matters when he's missed 160 games, or almost two seasons, due to injuries over the past five seasons. DiPietro has had surgery on both of his knees and has had extended problems with his hips and groin. He has also missed considerable time, twice, due to concussions.
DiPietro was the face of the franchise when he was drafted 1st overall by the Islanders in the 2000 NHL entry draft. For that reason and also his strong play, the Isles rewarded young DiPietro with a 12 year contract, which started an epidemic which is sweeping through the league: signing star players to long, extended contracts.
When DiPietro plays, it is obvious why he has been labeled as a number one goaltender. He has great agility, good lateral movement, a quick glove hand and is one of the best puck moving goalies in the league. It has been because of a few of his adventures out of the crease that have put him in trouble. One of the problems is that the Islanders rushed him into playing for the big club, resulting in DiPietro having to pick up skills along the way.
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