New York Islanders Should Let Evgeni Nabokov Begin Season as No. 1 Goalie

Evan LeBlancCorrespondent IIAugust 23, 2011

Al Montoya was a great story with his surprising play during the second half of last season, which was excellent to an organization that has had trouble with their goaltending situation for a few years now. Having to always worry about the status of Rick DiPietro is something that seems to throw the two-goalie system off on the Island.

Some people have said that this job is Montoya's to lose, which, if true, means he will almost certainly lose it. He is simply not as good a puck-stopper as Nabokov is.

Having Nabokov in net might even convince analysts that the New York Islanders are good enough to contend for the playoffs. There are not as many questions once the goaltending situation is cleared up, and starting the year with Al Montoya may make for a good story, but it is not the best choice for winning games.

Nabokov may have provided a slap in the face of the Islanders organization by refusing to report last year, and I understand that some fans are less than happy with that. I am more than willing to forgive and forget in exchange for his solid play this season.

We already lost Dwayne Roloson last year, and even though Kevin Poulin showed some promise last season, he figures to be out of the equation barring injuries this year. I figure that Nabokov should be able to give them a few years of stability in net.

Nabokov has won 293 games in his career and has a career GAA of 2.39 and a .912 save percentage. In his last season with the Sharks he had a 2.43 GAA and a .922 save percentage, so he obviously still has a lot left in the tank as an NHL-quality goalie.

The Islanders really do need to make the playoffs in one of the next few years to reward the patience of loyal fans who have watched them progress gradually. Every year the Islanders are viewed as a team that is on the rise, but this season, they need to make it to the dance somehow.

Nabokov would be the goalie to reverse the fortunes of the Islanders and provide them with a chance to showcase their young talent in the postseason. Without solid goaltending, the Islanders may be flirting with the idea of being a bottom-dweller with a bright future like Edmonton has been in the past, and may be again this season.