Written By: Alex Lowenthal

Rick Dipietro is the face of the New York Islander franchise.  I guess that’s expected when you sign the 2nd longest contract in North American sports history since Magic Johnson signed a 25 year deal in 1981 for the Las Angeles Lakers.

However, due to injury, he played a whopping 5 games last year, and just returned this year on January 8th, making 8 starts since this return.  In the last 2 seasons, Dipietro is 3-8 in 13 starts.  Normally I would be thrilled for him to return and help the lowly Islanders who haven’t made the playoffs since the 2006-2007 season.  But this year is different…..

The Islanders are full of new, young faces, and have a ton of talent.  They have shown team chemistry, the ability to win against good teams, and there has been a new buzz in the Nassau Coliseum that hasn’t been present in years.  Until Dipietro’s return, they were doing well, with the playoffs looking more than feasible.  However, since his return, things have changed.

On January 7th, 2010, the Islanders were 1 point behind Montreal for the final playoff spot, and they were playing well, going 6-4-1 in their previous 11 games.  This was largely aided by great goaltending….from DWAYNE ROLOSON.  40 year old Roloson was at the top of his game at the time.  He was 5-0-1 leading up to Dipietro’s return.  In his last 12 starts, Roloson has only allowed 29 goals on 371 shots, which is good for 2.41gaa, and a .92SV%.  And let it be known that 10 of the 29 goals allowed were when the Islanders were short handed.

Dipietro then returned.  His first game was in Dallas, and he looked sloppy in a 4-3 loss against the Stars.  Since his return, he has started 8 times, and the team is 2-6, as he is 2-5 in those games.  He was pulled early after allowing three goals against Washington on January 26 in a 7-2 loss, and he has lost his last 5 starts.  Its obvious that Dipietro is not playing his best hockey, allowing 20 goals in 201 shots faced, which is good for a weak .900SV%.  The Islanders are 5-9 since their star goaltender has returned, and now find themselves 5 points out of that coveted 8th spot, with only 24 games remaining.  It seems like their playoff hopes are slipping as quickly as Dipietro’s fan base.

I’m in no position to make managerial decisions for a professional sports franchise, and yes there have been other injuries and factors during this awful stretch from the Islanders lately.  I also believe that Dipietro is one of hockey’s premiers goaltenders.  However, i’m not a big fan of the decision of trying to get Dipietro right back into the thick of things when the team has (or had) a legitimate shot of making the playoffs behind veteran goaltender Dwayne Roloson.  Call me crazy, but when you have something that’s working and you’re playing better then you have in years, why change it?