9:30 pm: ESPN hockey columnist Pierre LeBrun referenced a recent Point Blank video segment in a report on Sunday. In response to a reader’s call-in question on Wednesday, I said the Islanders would never have considered Rick DiPietro starting this season in Bridgeport. However, if the comebacking goaltender continued to struggle for “another week or two,” then it would be fair to begin the discussion about whether DiPietro would be better served by some time in Bridgeport.
In his weekly recap for ESPN on Sunday, LeBrun reported that he spoke about this speculation with Garth Snow. The Islanders general manager outright dismissed the notion of DiPietro to Bridgeport. “There’s been no conversation in that regard at all, internally or externally” Snow told LeBrun. “(Dwayne Roloson) is just playing well right now. We have two No. 1 goalies, but right now, Rollie is playing really well and we need wins.”
DiPietro is 44th in save percentage (.854) among the 44 goaltenders to play in the NHL this season. He is 43rd in goals-against average (4.21). Even novices have noticed DiPietro’s lateral movement is not yet nearly as explosive as it used to be.
As LeBrun noted in his article, the Islanders currently have three goaltenders in Bridgeport. But that certainly would not be a hindrance if it was decided DiPietro needed more time to improve his game in the minors. AHL affiliates serve the NHL club. One goaltender would come up to backup Roloson, another (like Nate Lawson) could be sent to the ECHL or another AHL club on loan. This is not rocket science.
On the other hand, the demotion of DiPietro and his $4.5 million salary cap hit could put the Islanders under the CBA-mandated cap floor. How about that?
Over the last two seasons, DiPietro played 13 of a possible 164 NHL regular season games. Rust would only be natural. On Saturday in Los Angeles, Dwayne Roloson started his fifth consecutive game. When DiPietro starts (as expected) against Tampa Bay at the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum on Wednesday, he’ll have gone a full two weeks between games.
As I said in the video segment last week, you wonder when the conversation turns to what is best for the long-term playing future of Rick DiPietro. If the goalie is not yet at his best, no one is doing DiPietro any favors. LeBrun also noted in his column DiPietro’s “close relationship with Islanders owner Charles Wang.”
Likely starting Wednesday, DiPietro will have the chance to play hero. He can help the Islanders start winning games after a drought of almost four weeks, and begin his candidacy for the Masterton Award. What DiPietro is trying to overcome has been minimized by the national media. The only question that should be answered in the next two weeks is, where is it truly best for the goaltender to be attempting his comeback?
Comments on this subject ONLY are invited. The Islanders return to practice on Monday.