February 23, 2013

Rick DiPietro sent to Bridgeport, Isles Likely Ready to Move On

In a somewhat surprising and long overdue move, the Islanders waived goalie Rick DiPietro on Friday, effectively ending his season and possibly his career in a New York Islanders uniform. DiPietro officially cleared waivers on Saturday afternoon and will head to Bridgeport.

The move brings a likely end to one of the most tumultuous tenures in the history of the team. A polarizing figure among fans and what seemed like some players, DiPietro is as much a figure of comedy and tragedy as one could get.

'DPs' tenure appears to be reaching an end. Photo by C. Hessel
We don't need to go through the injury history. That is well documented. It's almost as if that everything that could go wrong from the moment the Islanders drafted him 1st overall in 2000, well, pretty much did.

It's not a given that the Islanders will rid themselves of DiPietro and the deal he signed this summer. However, when you really dig into the details, it is one of the only ways that this story could end.

The Islanders 'shoot their horses' the same way. Demoting a veteran to Bridgeport is something the team seldom does unless they truly are not in the plans anymore. Brendan Witt and Brian Rolston were the last players this happened to. Rolston's deal was expiring, but the Islanders still had years remaining on Witt's contract and would buy those out after the 2009-10 season.

What remains to be seen is how the Islanders handle a potential buyout. There's lots of talk about the amnesty clause, but I'm not certain Charles Wang is willing to pay a player to go away without it having count towards the cap. That is, if Wang were not seriously thinking about selling the team and having it change hands.

We spoke last week about the New York Post article and how it's to be taken with a huge grain of salt. But when you pull the thread on the series of events that have occurred since the move to Brooklyn was announced - this, the Tim Thomas trade, the potential defaults on loans - it is possible that there is an underlying story here.

Any potential investor isn't going to want DiPietro around. Any other management group would have stuck him in the minors years ago to see if he still had anything left. A lot has been made about the Wang/DiPietro friendship. I see Wang taking care of his friend and paying him via a buyout and not forcing him to retire and walk away from all of that money (unless of course its deemed he's medically unable to play any longer after the season).

Wang would absolutely, in my opinion, pay money to his friend that doesn't count on the books if he was selling because quite frankly, he's going to make up that money in a sale. And, lets not forget once the team changes hands it will not be his burden anymore anyway since buyouts are not paid out in a lump sum. So there's that line of thinking here.

Either way, this seems like it's headed for one final and logical conclusion. DiPietro will be given his chances in Bridgeport to see if he has anything left when playing at a more consistent basis (Anders Nilsson is injured and Kevin Poulin is up with the big club, so it'll be DP time in Bridgeport). With it being unlikely that DiPietro will show anything of substance that the Isles can work with next year, that will mark the official end of this sad, strange saga.

You can fault him for coming back from injury too soon and not listening to doctors. You can fault him for not being humble enough these last few years, let alone throughout his career. This is a guy who was supposed to be one of the top 1% at his position in the game of hockey, and looked to be getting there before these injuries struck, when the infamous contract was signed. We'd all have done the same when offered a 15-year deal. We all can't say that we would have signed a deal of such magnitude with the Islanders however, when the cool thing to do was laugh and scoff and run for the hills when they came calling. So for those of you pontificating about how you have no remorse because he's still a millionaire, remember the player many of us fell in love with when he came in and helped the Islanders clinch a playoff berth in 2003-04. The only one who was willing to take a chance and be 'the guy' on LI for years to come.

Ironically enough, this season was really the first where we saw a humbled DiPietro, who accepted his role as the back-up despite it being painfully obvious he just doesn't have the physical ability to be an athlete anymore. And what makes this story tragic is that after all these years, and all these events it finally sunk in for him. The attitude had to change. It took him far too long to reach this point since he let the thoughts of being a 1st overall pick get to him.

And now, he's gotten his most humbling experience of all.

The Islanders will undoubtedly play better as this move is addition by subtraction. The performance is night and day between him and pretty much any of the other goalies we've seen take the ice these last four seasons.

Nabokov(20) and Poulin, the tandem for the year. Photo by C. Hessel
With two solid guys between the pipes, maybe the Islanders can find themselves settling down a bit, knowing that they have as good a chance as any to win every night with these guys in net. Having what had amounted to a guaranteed loss every week was unsettling, and I think the attitude permeated into games where Evgeni Nabokov was even playing at times.

Some things still must change however, and the Islanders need to tighten up defensively. They did a good job of that for the final 30 minutes in Montreal, and came out with a character win in overtime. To have this news follow it, given the reactions of select teammates after games DiPietro started, will bode well and give guys a spring to their step no doubt.

The games against Buffalo and Carolina this weekend will be very telling. Will we get a more consistent, competitive Isles team? If so, it'll be very easy to either confirm or deny what many figured was one of the biggest problems with the team's performance these last few years. We all said getting this weight lifted off our shoulders would make things go smoothly, even though there are plenty of other holes on the roster. Now we'll see how right or wrong we all were, and how much closer it brings us.

- Chris

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