The return of former San Jose Sharks goaltender Evgeni Nabokov has taken a turn for the worse. The comeback story that one time held a feel good effect has now lost its spark at the hands of the New York Islanders.
Once the Detroit Red Wings backup netminder Chris Osgood was placed on the injured reserved list after tearing his groin, the Red Wings needed a new goalie to back-up Jimmy Howard.
On January 20th, the Detroit Red Wings claimed the Russian goalie, Evgeni Nabokov, off waivers to fill this hole. Detroit’s front office and coach Mike Babcock felt that Nabokov would be a great fit into the Red Wings’ locker room.
Evgeni Nabokov made it clear that when he returned to the NHL, he wanted to be apart of a team that was a Stanley Cup contender. Leading the Central Division and sitting comfortably in second place in the Western Conference, Detroit seemed like a perfect fit.
The turn for the worse came two days later. On January 22, it was reported that the second worst team in the NHL, the New York Islanders, claimed him. But I thought the Red Wings claimed him? What is the deal with the Islanders?
The waiver rule in the NHL is simple. Any team can claim a player off of waivers during the waiver period. In the event of more than one team claiming a player, the team with the lowest amount of points at the time has the rights to the player.
Congratulations, New York! Your team is so bad that you literally have the right to any player on waivers at anytime.
Nabokov did not like the idea of playing for the Islanders. If it were the other New York team that had claimed him, he would have much rather suited up as a Ranger because they actually have a shot at being playoff contenders.
But the Islanders, 22 points out of a playoff spot and one of the laughing stocks in the NHL, were not a place of interest for Nabokov. Nabokov missed his first two flights to New York and he reportedly hung up on Islanders general manager Garth Snow.
Because Nabokov did not report to the team, the Islanders have two options. They can either suspend Nabokov, leaving him ineligible to play this season, or they can place him back on the waiver wire. As of January 27th, the New York Islanders have suspended Evgeni Nabokov.
Garth Snow made the decision that if the Islanders can’t have him, no one can.
Evgeni Nabokov seems fine with Snow’s decision. He said that he has no interest playing for New York and will stay located in his California home.
This is an unfortunate situation for Evgeni Nabokov. In 2001, he was awarded the Calder Memorial Trophy (NHL’s rookie of the year). Nabokov played his entire 10-year career in San Jose, and took his team to the playoffs in nine of those years. He made two All-Star Game appearances and is the only goalie in NHL history to score a power-play goal in an All-Star Game.
Nabokov has earned the right to play where he desires, and it is very disheartening that the stubborn Islanders are keeping him from playing for a playoff team.
This has been a sad ending to a once great comeback story. All Nabokov wanted to do was play for a team that had potential to win in the playoffs. I give kudos to Nabokov for sticking to his guns and doing what he wants to do. There is still the chance of the Islanders putting Nabokov back on the waiver wire.
Evgeni Nabokov and NHL fans everywhere (myself included) are still hoping New York does the right thing.