For Part 2, we will examine the state of the goaltending for the Islanders.
Ever present is Rick DiPietro with his 11 years remaining on his contract.
Rick has suffered through major injury after major injury the past three seasons, and his health is always a major question.
Showing very brief flashes of his former self in the 26 games he got to play this season, Rick's comeback was, shall we say, unremarkable?
Some would call it downright awful as Rick had the lowest save percentage and highest goals against average of any goaltender in the entire NHL who played 20 games or more.
All this being said, Rick will be back in 2011-12 barring another injury. Can he turn it around?
That question is still way up in the air, but the answer to it says that the Islanders could be in a position to contend for a playoff spot next season and they will not be able to afford to throw games away anymore while Rick tries to find his game.
That is what the AHL is for.
You read it here first. If Rick does not perform somewhere close to the level he has been capable of in the past, then Garth Snow will be forced to send Rick to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers much like the Rangers did with Wade Redden.
The thing is, I believe Rick still has game in him. How much he can help the Islanders is anyone's guess. I am rooting hard for him, and if the Islanders fans I have spoken to are any indicator as to what the support for Rick amongst the fan base is, well, let me just say his support is waning.
Rick will be an employee of the New York Islanders for at least next season, but he may be wearing out the Port Jefferson Ferry.
He is also not immune to a buyout as Islanders owner Charles Wang has done in the past with monster contracts. Alexei Yashin, anyone?
Rick aside, the Islanders have some viable choices with another amazing pickup by Snow when he plucked Al Montoya out of goaltender hell in San Antonio, the AHL affiliate of the Phoenix Coyotes, and stuck him in as the No. 1 goaltender because of injuries to DiPietro, Kevin Poulin and Mikko Koskinen, the trading of Dwayne Roloson and the immaturity of Evgeni Nabokov.
What the Islanders got was nothing short of remarkable. Montoya played 20 games for the team, going 9-5-6 with a sterling 2.39 goals against average and an equally sterling .921 save percentage.
Montoya earned the first one-way contract of his career and will be an Islander next season.
So if Rick is to spend time in Bridgeport barring a career resurgence, who will be the No. 2 man?
Poulin, a young 20-year-old just out of juniors, was lighting up Bridgeport with a .932 save percentage and a 2.19 goals against average in 15 games. There was no way his success would translate to the NHL, right?
In 10 games, Poulin posted a 2.44 goals against average and a .924 save percentage in the NHL before a freak knee injury ended his season.
He will be back next season, and if Rick falters or gets injured, then the young netminder may just up and take his spot.
In any event, the future of the Islanders' crease with or without DiPietro is secure.
What about Evgeni Nabokov? Well, the Islanders are going to toll his contract, meaning he will be Islander property next season. Whether that is a good or a bad thing remains to be seen. He can't likely be traded, as the rules governing his contract still apply because basically its the same contract he signed last season.
If the Islanders were to trade him, he would again have to pass through waivers before he could be dealt.
Maybe coming in at the end of the season this year makes more sense to Nabokov now. If it doesn't, it sure will when he is sitting on his couch in San Jose watching what is left of his career tick away.
In any event, the Islanders would appear to be set in net.
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Stay tuned for Part 3 - Respect and how the Islanders are getting it back.
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