The Mismanagement of Rick DiPietro
By: Steve Kotchek
Complete and utter frustration and disgust is the only way I can describe the saga that is Rick DiPietro’s 2008-2009 season. At this point, we all know that him backing up Joey MacDonald for the first few games of the season was a desperate public relations stunt gone horribly wrong. Any player who can sit on a bench, with equipment and a jersey is theoretically completely able to play. But DiPietro wasn’t, and in my opinion, the fans let the Islanders off the hook for that. But it was an insult to our intelligence nonetheless for anyone from the Islanders to say he was a capable backup goalie. When MacDonald had that horrible game (I believe against Buffalo where he let up 4 or 5 goals), and he wasn’t pulled, Gordon said “I don’t believe in pulling a goalie because he let up a few goals”… c’mon, we all know the real reason was that Gordon had no choice, because MacDonald was the only goalie on the roster! But what happens if MacDonald went down with a legit injury? Were the Islanders really going to put DiPietro in the game and risk their foreseeable future? The answer is yes, they were seriously willing to do that in order to save face for an inexplicably long contract that drew criticism from every angle. The Islanders were going to avoid a collective “I told you so!” from everyone at any cost. That’s my opinion, and I believe its true.
So we all had a sigh of relief when DiPietro was put on I.R., where he should have been in the first place and Yann Danis was called up to be MacDonalds healthy backup. In every message board and blog that I read, fans were willing to part with DiPietro for the entire season so he could be completely healthy for upcoming seasons where its going to really count and the Islanders are going to depend on him to be the superstar they drafted #1 over Heatley and Gaborik. But all of a sudden, without a conditioning stint in Bridgeport, or without a week or two of full practice, back in goal is Rick DiPietro.
And granted, Rick DiPietro played well and the Islanders snapped their NHL-worst losing streak. But in the back of my mind, I knew this circus wasn’t over with and I bet neither did you. And then the news broke that DiPietro wasn’t going to go with the team to Buffalo. I am no doctor (I did the second best thing and went to law school), but I can imagine when an athlete such as a hockey goalie sits for 2 months, your groins going to be pretty sore after playing a regular season game. Especially so if you haven’t leaned your way back into playing by participating in practices or a game or two in the minors. And then the news broke yesterday before the Ranger game that DiPietro is out “day-to-day” because he was rushed back into playing and now has groin issues. Did no one see this coming? Isn’t the GM a FORMER GOALIE?!
From a fan’s standpoint, I don’t know who to blame. But I insist on blaming somebody. I can assume from all the locker stories we have heard about, DiPietro could’ve insisted on playing because he felt he was “ready”. I can assume that Snow or Wang became frustrated with the freefall the Islanders where in and rushed DiPietro back into the net, they certainly didn’t mind doing the in the beginning of the season. Nor did Gordon, he’s a rookie coach who was naïve enough to make DiPietro an injured backup goalie to begin with.
Gordon goes on to compare this situation to the one Mike Sillinger recently went thru, returning to play and then leaving for a game or two because of groin issues. But here’s the differences: precautions were taken for Sillinger (he played 3 games in Bridgeport and was reported practicing for awhile prior to that), Sillinger is in his mid/late thirties whereas DiPietro is in his mid/late twenties, and with all due respect to Mike Sillinger… he is nowhere near as important to the Islanders future chances of success as Rick DiPietro is. So for Gordon to even compare the two situations is beyond me. Islander fans deserve better than this type of management. All I can say is I am thankful that this crew doesn’t make the major decisions in my life.