Islander fans should not have been surprised by Rick DiPietro’s fair performance in his return Friday night in Dallas.
The Islanders lost 4-3 and DP definitely showed rust. The fourth goal in particular was a soft one in which the Isles’ franchise goalie gave up a fat rebound which Brad Richards easily converted for the game winner.
The rust had to be expected. This was DP’s first NHL action in more than a year and he had only limited time in the AHL. Last season, DiPietro played only five games with the Isles before injuries shut him down for the rest of the season.
The injuries had a definite effect on DiPietro: he’s more mature and has a different perspective on the game. DP seems more humble in the locker room and the fact that he came so close to losing his career as a professional athlete has made him appreciate what he has that much more.
It will probably take about 3-4 weeks before DiPietro gets back to something resembling his old form or whatever he is now capable of playing like. He may cost the Isles a few games in the meantime with his inconsistent play. But this is not a problem for the team. A rusty DP returning to the lineup is a case of taking one step back to take two or three steps forward for the team. In the long run, the Islanders are better off with a healthy DiPietro in the lineup than without him.
Dwayne Roloson has played very well for the Isles in DP’s absence. It would be surprising for Roloson not to retain the number one spot at least through the Olympic break if not for the remainder of the season.
Like it or not, the Islanders are probably another season away from becoming true playoff contenders. Garth Snow has implemented a very smart, long term rebuilding plan that has already started to show progress with the development of youngsters like Tavares, Okposo and Bailey.
Anything they manage to do this season is a bonus. In fact, too much success too soon may slow down the rebuilding process by costing the Isles a high draft pick in next year’s draft.
The next step in the rebuilding process probably involves trading Martin Biron for a player or draft choice that can help add another piece to the future of the franchise.
Keeping things in perspective, the return of Rick DiPietro is a good thing for the New York Islanders…even if he costs them a few games in the short run.