Wednesday, July 11, 2012

It's All About the Net

For all intents and purposes, the NY Islanders are currently set with their roster for the 2012-2013 season. They're already handing out jersey numbers.

I did throw a few names around at those in the know and was basically -- laughed at. Well that's why I'm not a GM. But many people have questioned the strength in net; the most crucial position. I even made a new friend who is an aspiring writer herself out on the West Coast. After a few exchanges I asked her to write her thoughts so everyone here in the blogosphere could become familiar with her name.

So, please let me introduce you to Rebecca Wilcox, and here is what she thinks about the Islanders and the competition in net.

Islanders Prospects for 2012

Everyone who knows anything about hockey knows that the goalie is the most important player on the squad. It doesn't matter how many Gretzky-esqe power forwards or how many Chara-ish defensive monsters are on your team--if you don't have a Vezina behind the net, you're toast. From a lightning-fast glove to astounding acrobatics in the goalie pads, a  solid netminder is crucial.

The New York Islanders have been lucky in that regard. There's no question that Evgeni Nabokov has consistently been a machine and is one of the better goalies in the NHL right now, but at 37 years old, he's going to need a solid back up. Of course, the Isles have Rick DiPietro for another nine years, and he's a superb goalie--when he's healthy. DiPietro's injuries have been tough on him and on the team, and since Montoya's departure for Ottawa, the Isles are going to need another reliable netminder to split time with Nabokov and fill in the blanks if DiPietro once again finds himself plagued by injuries. The Islanders need a goalie who can develop with the team and stick around for the long haul, something the franchise had hoped to get in DiPietro.

The natural choices for this job are, of course, the two minders that the Isles have been grooming, Kevin Poulin and Anders Nilsson. Poulin was called up from the Bridgeport Sound Tigers last year when DiPietro got hurt, but like the goalie before him, Poulin's season quickly ended when he injured his knee. He's had the whole off-season to recover though, and while he'll likely begin the season on Bridgeport, expect to see more of this 22-year-old contender.

If the Isles are going to stay with their current goalies, Anders Nilsson would be an excellent addition to the permanent staff. Nilsson played in few games last season and did really well; he was actually the first Islander to record a shutout as his first win, and better yet, he's young and healthy.

While Nilsson and Poulin are surely talented, they might have some competition. Ty Conklin became a free agent in late June, and he's unlikely to stay with Detroit. Conklin's proven himself to be solid and healthy, so he'd certainly bring a much needed stability to the Islanders. Also, there's been some buzz about Mikko Koskinen returning to the Isles from KalPa in Finland where he's currently playing.

The Isles have a great shot this year, but they're going to need someone to help Nabokov, and one thing's for sure--whoever they select will have some impressive goalie pads to fill.

So how do they stack up to these five goalies in the League? Let’s see what Rebecca found out:

The 2011-2012 Hockey Season was highlighted by some of the finest goal tending hockey fans have ever seen. Let’s look at these men behind the mask and then think of how Nabokov, DiPietro, Poulin or even Nilsson will compare.

#5: Henrik Lundqvist (Rangers): Over the past several years this NY Islander nemesis has stonewalled superstar player after superstar player. He caught fans by surprise a few years ago when he almost eliminated the first seed Washington Capitals from the playoffs virtually single-handily. More than one all-star has been robbed of a goal by King Henrik's glove, but this year, fatigue may have caused the King to fall in the Rangers' quest for the cup.

#4: Tim Thomas (Boston): Although he has decided to take the 2012-2013 year off no fan can deny that Tim Thomas has been one of the great keystones for the Boston Bruins. He hoisted the Stanley Cup in 2011 and held the Bruins together through seven games of the 2012 playoffs before being defeated in overtime of the last game. The Bruins never lost in the 2012 playoffs by more than one goal. Should Thomas decide he wants to play this coming season, the biggest question will be if it is for the Bruins.

#3: Martin Brodeur (New Jersey): Although he's not quite the goalie he used to be, the man who holds almost every goalie record that's worth anything is still a force to be reckoned with in the crease, a fact the entire league was quick to learn when he led the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup finals again this past season. It would have been his fourth Stanley Cup had they won, but even though they came very close to victory they were not quite able to reach it. Even at his advanced age (for a professional hockey player), he can stonewall just about any player in the NHL. For the Islanders, their best bet is to score on him early.

#2: Pekka Rinne (Nashville): In the last few seasons the Nashville Predators have gone from being a team that most hockey fans don't know too much about to one of the top teams in the NHL, and Pekka Rinne is a huge part of the reason. He led the league in 2011-2012 with 43 wins, and this 6'5" beast of a man is virtually impenetrable when strapped into his pads, as the Detroit Red Wings learned first hand in the first round of the playoffs.

#1: Jonathan Quick (Los Angeles) Quick took the nation by storm last season when he led the Los Angeles Kings to their first ever Stanley Cup victory, and deservedly won the Conn Smythe trophy as the MVP of the playoffs. He had 10 shutouts in 2011-2012 and many have argued that the Kings wouldn't have even been in the playoffs, let alone be the champions, without Quick in the net. Any person who wonders if a goalie can lead a team to Stanley Cup victory they need look no further than Jonathan Quick. (He is also the first NHL Player whose name begins with a “Q” to have his name engraved on the Stanley Cup.)

There are many, many goalies in the NHL who have earned great honors for their team and themselves. A list of just the five best goalies is so hard to compile because there are simply so many good choices. But when the 2012-2013 season begins, the Islander goaltenders will be looking at these five for inspiration -- inspiration to be better, one game at a time.

--Rebecca Wilcox

If you would like to respond to Rebecca, please do so in comments.

And if any of my readers would like to know the name that REALLY got me laughed at it was -- Ty Conklin.  Come on!  Just as an insurance policy!  We went through six goalies last year! *This entry also appears at -- because it's July.

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