March 29, 2011

Montoya Re-Signs; Other Tuesday Tidbits

The Islanders have had a couple of very busy off days, despite the fact that the season is winding down and they were officially eliminated from post season contention over the weekend.

Speaking of which, I said it in our weekly podcast and I'll say it again: for a team that put itself in quite the hole back in November and December, to get eliminated with only six games remaining is something that they can hang their hats on. I have to give some credit where it's due, namely to many of the players who quickly turned their seasons around and Jack Capuano. Good job by all to have some sustained strong play for a good chunk of the season. For a young team to play as well as they have from mid-December on is a positive sign for next season and not just "playing loose and with nothing to lose."

Now on to the bigger news items that I wanted to bring up.

The Islanders announced that they have re-signed goalie Al Montoya to a one-year, one-way contract extension for the 2011-2012 season. The deal is much deserved for a goalie who his finally getting to live out his dream since being the 6th overall pick in the 2004 draft by the New York Rangers.

Al Montoya will return for 2011-2012. Photo by C. Hessel
After Kevin Poulin went down with an injury, some fans were upset that the goalie Garth Snow ended up dealing for was Montoya rather than a Michael Leighton or a Jonas Gustavsson. I'll admit I was a little disappointed, but at the end of the day was not surprised that Montoya was a guy the Isles would take a chance on given their situation and Montoya's.

The deal has turned out to be a bit of a steal thus far. As injuries up front and on defense continued to mount, the Islanders and Montoya have generally still found ways to win. More often than not, it was Montoya who was standing on his head being tested with 35+ shots a game. Considering how frequently that has happened, his 2.35 GAA and .923 SV% speaks for itself.

Over the weekend, MSG+ statistician Eric Hornick pointed out that Montoya was actually slated to become a UFA at seasons end, which was contrary to everyone's belief. Some feared that the Islanders would fumble the ball and not bring Montoya back.

In the end though, both sides did the smart thing. The Islanders gave Montoya his chance to prove he belongs in the NHL, and Montoya realized this was his best chance to stick in the league. He has looked so comfortable here, especially after Sudsie Maharaj tweaked his game a little bit. The cost was never going to be an issue for him when it came to next season.

The Islanders now have some very capable net minders in the system to spell Rick DiPietro. Montoya has been the number one since about a week after being traded for. Kevin Poulin showed us all flashes of what he can do when healthy. Mikko Koskinen was very up and down and is slated for a spot in Bridgeport next season, while Nathan Lawson will be seeking a new organization.

Snow said in one of the recent "GM Show" segments that he hopes to have five goalies in the organization next season. When we talked about this on our show, after Sean went through all of the goalies he would like to see them go after I told him not to get his hopes up. With the expected signing of Anders Nilsson, the Islanders would then have five goalies in the organization. This is of course, barring a trade of someone like Koskinen.

At the end of the day, Montoya deserved this extension and if you assume he can keep this up, gives the Islanders some more stability in net for next season. When it comes to that position, given DiPietro's constantly changing status, you don't mess with what is working when someone comes in and makes the most of whatever opportunity is provided to him.

WEIGHT DONE: The team also announced on Tuesday that Doug Weight will be out for the remainder of the season.

The expectation now is that Weight will retire and remain in the organization in some capacity. This has been widely speculated.

The series of evens that have surrounded Weight's time on the Island are really unfortunate. His first season here, he looked like someone who could help this team for a few years as his career wound down and the Islanders grew with younger players. But Weight started to suffer injuries, which cut short a pretty good 2008-2009 campaign. Since then, Weight has experienced various back issues, with the latest one posing a risk for permanent damage.

I am a little disappointed when I read some comments from Islanders fans on message boards when it comes to the captain of the team. While I understand the concerns people have about the captain not being on the ice with the team, the fact of the matter is that the players voted him in as the captain. It was pretty much unanimous. To say that he should have had the 'C' stripped is utterly ridiculous.

Doug Weight is likely headed to retirement. Photo by C. Hessel
Weight's career may not end the way many of us wanted to see it, but he can certainly keep his head high with all of the things he has accomplished in his career.
Weight was a guy I always liked and felt was always a bit underrated, so I was so happy to see him add that final Stanley Cup with the Hurricanes in 2006. Weight's next stop will be the U.S. Hockey Hall of fame, with a decent shot and the Hockey Hall of Fame.

When it comes to his post-playing days, I agree with what Deb Kaufman said on NHL Home Ice on XM this afternoon. Deb said that she felt that Weight was destined for a front office job more so than a coaching position seeing as how the thinking is that Weight wants to be more involved with the creation of a team similar to the way Steve Yzerman got involved.

JURCINA, GERVAIS HURT: Along with the Isles losing Andrew MacDonald for the remainder of the season due to a torn labrum in his hip (the 3rd one for the Isles this season), Milan Jurcina has tweaked his hip flexor while Bruno Gervais remained out with a foot problem. Both Dylan Reese and Mark Katic have been called up in case one or both of them cannot go Wednesday against the Devils.

If there was ever a time for injuries to mount, I suppose this would be it. However, the scary thing is that this has been happening quite frequently, especially in the case of Jurcina and MacDonald, who have suffered multiple injuries per season for the past few years.

As we said in the show, durability on the blue line is something that may need to be looked into in the offseason. Lets hope both can return and play the string of games out and not set the team back any further in their quest for a .500 season.

NEW PRICING ANNOUNCED: The Islanders announced their new pricing structure on Monday for tickets.

There is a significant slash across the board, with many seats appearing to have a 20% reduction. The Islanders were somehow among the league leaders in average ticket prices, having similar or slightly higher prices than the world champion Chicago Blackhawks and the previous winners in the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Along with the decrease, the Islanders plan to add and even bring back some of the perks for season ticket holders that have since disappeared.

The Islanders had a chance to score big with fan relations this offseason, and they have gotten the ball rolling early with these prices. I know of many folks who are rethinking their decisions on tickets, as many had previously decided not to come back.

Good stuff all around. You need to take baby steps when you have a fan base as loyal as this one that has been banged around so to speak. This is a start, and a great one at that.

LEVY QUITTING: Although it may not seem like anything Earth shattering, Steve Levy's announcement that he will not run for re-election as Suffolk County Executive is a bit noteworthy when it comes to the Isles.

In the past, lost among all of the talk of where the Isles should go if Nassau doesn't work out for them, is Levy repeatedly saying he would be welcome to having the Isles move further East. He has never been contacted, but on the rare occasion he was asked he repeated these same thoughts.

This doesn't mean that if Charles Wang was really willing to relocated to Suffolk that it can't happen anymore. I don't think Suffolk was ever being seriously considered as a destination for the Isles, but at this stage in the game any time a proponent leaves the picture you can't help but do a double take.


For those who haven't listened to or watched it yet, our weekly radio show can be seen on our UStream site or downloaded through our MyPodcast site. Enjoy!

Our friend Johnny Z. of Yes! Islanders has his latest installment of "Islanders Top Shelf" out with guest Brad Kurtzberg of Inside Hockey.

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