Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Gordon Should Name Roloson Starter

While significant injuries to Mark Streit and Kyle Okposo have curtailed expectations for an Islanders playoff run in 2011, the braintrust of the organization has no choice but to proceed as if that run remains very much in the plans. Therefore, all roster and lineup decisions must address the two-headed monster of maintaining forward momentum of the youth development while attempting to win now.

In a sport that breeds constant chatter about players knowing their jobs, roles, and responsibilities, Coach Scott Gordon has not named the owner of one very important job. Who is the Islanders #1 goalie?

Gordon can go a long way toward starting the season with an air of stability by naming Dwayne Roloson his starting goaltender. Right now, it is the best option for the Islanders to play to their competitive peak.

Roloson played his best hockey last season when he served as the team’s undisputed #1. Sharing the duties with Rick DiPietro and Martin Biron seemed to soften what had been a very sharp edge in net.
It is in the best interest of this year’s team to have an established starter, whether it be Roloson or DiPietro. But, for this season, it should be Roloson for roughly 55 games. The soon-to-be 41-year-old demonstrated last year that he is more than capable of holding down the job and leading the team to victories. The Islanders will get the most out of him in this role.

DiPietro has not been a starting NHL goaltender since 2008. The team should not put itself in the position of forcing itself to see if he can do it again now, and risk losing him for another year or more. Let him re-acclimate to the rigors of an NHL schedule by not playing too much of it—let him play enough to show that his body can absorb the beating it will take, restore his technique and reflexes, and re-build his stamina.

If DiPietro has trouble getting into a rhythm due to sporadic starts, so be it. What the Islanders can get out of him this season is still a question mark. Let him answer that question over 25-30 games. Then, next year, Garth Snow can decide whether to re-sign Roloson as a backup or, more likely, promote one of Kevin Poulin, Nate Lawson, or Mikko Koskinen to serve as DiPietro’s understudy.

If it were clear that DiPietro would outplay Roloson this year, I’d say give him a shot to take the job. But I don’t see how you can say that. The Islanders have a greater chance of getting the most out of their goalies, now and in the future, by giving the starting job for 2010-11 to Roloson.

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