Friday, October 3, 2008


With the days inching ever closer to the start of the season for the New York Islanders, many questions still remain. Yesterday, one big question was answered when Josh Bailey received his entry-level contract on his 19th birthday. However, there remains an even more monumental question: Who will backup Rick DiPietro? The competition during camp has been spirited between Yann Danis and Joey MacDonald. Let's take a look at the their strengths and weaknesses and possibly a radical solution to the problem.

Joey MacDonald was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Detroit Red Wings for the 2001-2002 season. He played for their AHL affiliate, the Grand Rapids Griffins, where he enjoyed a prosperous several years. However, once he cracked the NHL as a backup, he was never truly able to prove himself. Subsequently, after being called up to the Red Wings in the 2006-2007 season, he was traded to Boston where it seems he found his game again. The Islanders then signed him on July 5th, 2007 and inserted him into the Bridgeport Sound Tigers lineup. Last season was a mediocre one for MacDonald but his one-way contract beginning this season will require him to pass through waivers to travel back and forth, thus making him the de facto backup for Rick DiPietro.

I got a chance to see MacDonald in action first hand on Wednesday night and as I said in a previous post, this is only preseason. What concerns me about MacDonald is his positioning. He's a big goalie so he covers alot of the net simply with size but movement side to side and his ability to keep himself square to the shooter looked like a struggle. I'll give him a pass for now considering the team is still tuning up for the season but I will be sure to revisit this issue after the season opens.

The other candidate for the backup job is Yann Danis. He was signed by the Montreal Canadiens after 4 solid years at Brown University where he collected many accolades and drew quite a bit of attention for the Ivy League school. He has been playing for the Canadiens AHL affiliate in Hamilton, ON since 2004 and had a call up to the big club in 2006 where he went 3-2-0 with a 2.69 GAA and a .908 Sv% and 1 shutout. Unfortunately for Danis, that was the last he saw of the NHL until this year when he was signed as a free agent by the Islanders. One thing to note about Danis is that he was caught in the middle of a glut of skilled goaltenders in Montreal, between the likes of Cristobal Huet, Jaro Halak and Carey Price. Danis was the odd man out and I think he will find the Islanders will certainly have a place for him.

From what little I've seen of Danis via ITV's broadcasts of the preseason games and what I remember from a couple of years ago, he is a solid positional goaltender with decent side to side mobility. He won't challenge for a starter position at the NHL with DiPietro between the pipes, but he will certainly challenge MacDonald for a share of the backup role. This brings me to my radical solution for the backup situation for the Islanders.

Now many fans have been stating that the Islanders should have gone out and gotten a proven backup goaltender who could play 20-30 games so that DiPietro could rest during the season. While of course I don't disagree, I think there might be a way to work out a solution with the players that already exist in the system. Due to MacDonald's one-way contract, Snow is forcing him to stay with the big club. That does not mean he can't sit in the press box for let's say 10 or 12 games during the season. Let me explain.

First, NHL teams are allowed a maximum of 23 players on their roster at all times. This does not include players on IR as evidenced by Jon Sim last season. Now let's say that the Islanders are carrying 22 players (only 20 of which can be listed on the game roster) and they used BOTH MacDonald and Danis during the season. Think of it as a modified platooning of goalies. Rather than two goalies sharing the starting duties much like what happened in Tampa Bay last year, you have two goalies who can play 10-12 games out of the backup role. Then you have about 20-24 games where DiPietro can rest and you get a backup in each of those games that will also be well rested and ready to go. If this situation doesn't change via trade or waiver pick up, I think this is an ideal way of handling the issue. Both MacDonald and Danis are at similar points in their development and if they are given the chance to really take the reins for that number of games and if they could at least win half of the ones they play in, then it would ease the pressure on DiPietro and give the team a viable option for the backup situation.

I am open to suggestions and criticisms. Let me know what you think as fans.

Photos courtesy of (Yann Danis) and (Joey MacDonald)

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