RICK DiPIETRO IS RIGHT ON SCHEDULEBut what’s the schedule? What’s the plan?

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10:20 am – Rick DiPietro and the Islanders say the goaltender’s rehabilitation is right on schedule. They left out the part in their discusson with Newsday about what that “schedule” actually is – does he return to the NHL in October, November, in time for the second half?  But that’s just quibbling over minor details.

 

As much as anyone, I’m delighted to learn DiPietro’s “progress has not suffered any sort of setback” (really? Like, ever or just in the last few weeks?) and to hear him say that “this year I’ll be ready.” My respect for DiPietro has been shared – and often mocked! – since the birth of this blog.

 

In June of 2008, DiPietro underwent what the Islanders later termed “minor” surgery on the meniscus in his left knee. If you recall, the Islanders did not make the announcement. Rick talked about this procedure on an appearance on the “Bubba the Love Sponge” show on Sirius radio.

 

After playing just the final game of the exhibition season in September of 2008, he sat on the bench as a “healthy” backup while Joey McDonald started the first four games of the season. He played two games before a “lower-body injury” kept him out of the lineup and he had another knee surgery, announced on Nov. 1, 2008.

 

He made a somewhat shocking return in a victory at home over Toronto on Dec. 26 and played Jan. 2 in Phoenix. He didn’t play the rest of the season because of “swelling” in the surgically repaired knee. After the franchise player sat on the bench some more as a “healthy” backup, on January 20 the team made the formal announcement via conference call that DiPietro was done for the season.

 

Despite mounting evidence that the goalie may have had another medical procedure sometime in February or March, the Islanders have not confirmed that a third knee surgery took place over the last year to go with the hip surgeries he had in 2007 and 2008.

 

Nevertheless, as an admirer of the player and the person, I’m very happy to hear DiPietro is right on schedule.

 

When Rick returns right on schedule at his and the team’s stated goal of “100%” and when he represents the United States in the Olympics in February, there could be a time to reassess the events of this summer. After all, besides the slam dunk drafting of John Tavares and the costly maneuver to select defenseman Calvin de Haan, the only major moves the Islanders made were to upgrade their goaltending.

 

The Islanders – who did not spend big money at any other position in the free agent market – invested $3.9 million for this season in a pair of quality NHL veterans, Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron. Excellent signings without question, but if DiPietro was right on schedule did they need both? You could make the case they didn’t need both even if DiPietro wasn’t almost ready. The Islanders still have plenty of needs at forward and defense. Since they want to stay near the salary cap floor for now, some of that money could have gone for more skill or toughness.

 

With the first pick of Day 2 of the NHL Draft, the Islanders had the entire board to choose from at the top of the second round. Impressive prospect forwards such as Landon Ferraro, Ryan O’Reilly, Jeremy Morin, Carl Klingsberg, Zach Budish (a very strong U.S. junior evaluation camp, by the way) and Drew Shore were available. On defense, they could have chosen from Matt Clark, Charles Olivier-Roussel, Stefan Elliot, William Wren and many more. The Islanders chose 21-year old Finnish goaltender Mikko Koskinen.

 

With fewer picks than they started the weekend with because of the trade to get de Haan, the Islanders did hold on to the first pick of the third round. Apparently not convinced the goalie prospect chart was adequately filled by the 6-6 Koskinen, Swedish Elite leaguer Stefan Ridderwall, impressive Quebec League netminder Kevin Poulin and 2006 draft pick Jase Weslosky – just ruled “academically ineligible” at St. Cloud State, not exactly the Ivy League – the Islanders ignored other talents at forward and D and took 18-year old Swedish goalie Anders Nilsson.

 

You can say Nilsson and Koskinen – who at 21 has to be a more evolved prospect – do not have anything to do with today or the next few years. You can also look at today’s happy prognosis from DiPietro and Garth Snow and the 12 years left on his contract and wonder about the Islanders’ Summer of Goalie Glove. If DiPietro is going to be just fine in the very, very long run, what was it all for?

 

But that really is for another day. It’s just good to learn this morning that while Biron has been in full pads for a month facing shots from Tim Connolly and Patrick Kane, DiPietro – whose last announced surgery was ten months ago – “skated lightly” on Thursday. It’s good to hear Rick will skate some more this week and eventually “get into pads.”

 

It’s good to hear Rick DiPietro is right on schedule.

 

Have no fear, I can’t wait to get off this subject either. I should have a light, fun, little story later today.

And thank you so much for the support of my story on SNY.