By Steve Silverman
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What are the New York Islanders thinking?
Could they possibly believe that they are going to pick up where they left off last year with Evgeni Nabokov in goal?
Nabokov was half-decent for the Islanders in the regular season last year when they surged in the second half of the season and earned a playoff spot. He had a respectable 23-11-7 record with a 2.50 goals against average and a .910 save percentage.
However, the Islanders played well enough in the postseason to extend the Penguins to overtime of the sixth game before succumbing to the Penguins.
But they got no help from Nabokov. Even after the Penguins showed their vulnerability on defense and in goal, the Islanders could not come up with the upset. That's because Nabokov was awful.
He had a 4.44 GAA in the postseason and his save percentage was a revolting .842. Those figures are unacceptable for any team that has a chance to return to the postseason.
There were several goaltending options available for the Islanders, and the best one was probably Chicago Blackhawks backup goalie Ray Emery. He signed a free-agent deal with the Philadelphia Flyers for $1.65 million.
The Islanders may have financial issues of their own, but they could have afforded to outdo the Flyers for Emery. He had a 17-1-0 record last year and played as well as Chicago's No. 1 goalie, Corey Crawford, during the regular season.
Emery is going to have a chance to compete with Steve Mason for the No. 1 job in Philadelphia. He will beat Mason out, just as he would have beaten out Nabokov with the Islanders.
The Islanders could have gotten heavily involved in the Cory Schneider sweepstakes. The former Canuck ended up getting traded to the New Jersey Devils, but where were the Islanders?
Asleep at the switch.
Perhaps the Islanders were not going to beat out the Devils for Schneider, but what about Anton Khudobin of the Boston Bruins. He was the backup for Tuukka Rask in Boston and he had an excellent rookie season, giving up 2.32 goals per game and recording a .920 save percentage.
He's a young goalie on the rise, and he was signed by the Carolina Hurricanes to share the workload with Cam Ward.
Khudobin would not have been a guarantee to become a star, but he is a young goalie on the rise. Nabokov is 37 years old and he is barely hanging on. Yet the Islanders signed him to a one-year, $3.25 million contract, according to CapGeek.com.
That's bad judgment on the part of Islanders general manager Garth Snow. This former goaltender has shown no instincts or expertise whatsoever for handling the team's goaltending needs.
The Rick DiPietro fiasco will hang over the Islanders until they get a first-rate goaltender. They have not done anything to move closer to that with any of the moves they have made.
It seems likely that the climb up the Eastern Conference ladder to the playoffs last year was just a temporary stay. The goaltending stinks and the Islanders know it.
Tim Thomas is still not signed. Give him a call.
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