Rick DiPietro: The Rhyme of the Ancient Islander

UNIONDALE, N. Y. –“We’re hanging a lot of our reputations on this kid…” Mike Milbury G.M. New York Islanders, June 24, 2000 Calgary Alberta.

Rick DiPietro, is gone, he is no longer a New York Islander. Whew, we all knew it would be so good to say these words someday, but like most of life’s experiences it was truly better than expected.

On February 22, 2013 Rick DiPietro was placed on waivers by the New York Islanders. Finally, laying to rest the most bizarre, and unfortunate career, the likes have never been matched in the annuls of sport.

One could literally hear the entire Island, from Brooklyn to Orient Point take a collective sigh of relief as the news broke last Friday that Rick DiPietro had been waived. Finally we can move on, and look forward to our future, a future without one, Rick DiPietro we’re all hoping.

Looking back on DiPietro’s Islander career is like shaving a 4 day old beard with a 3 week old razor.  However painful an exercise as this may be, it is necessary for closure so we can all move on together.

THE DRAFT

It started way back in history: June 2000.

Ah, I remember it like it was 13 years ago. TheMike Milbury led New York Islanders came into the draft all the buzz, with the 1st, and 5th picks overall respectively. As was the case with the majority of Rick DiPietro’s career by no fault of his own, his introduction into the NHL was an eventful one.

The 1999-2000 New York Islanders lacked so many things, goaltending was not one of them.  The one young “can’t miss” stud prospect the Isles did have in organization at the time was a 21 year old goaltender by the name of Roberto Luongo (perhaps you’ve heard of him?).

With the Isles franchise goalie in place, the fan base was very pleased to have 2 picks in the drafts top 5 headed in the days leading up to the draft.

It was on June 24, 2000 that fateful afternoon in Calgary, Alberta that Mike Milbury unnecessarily, selected goaltender Rick DiPietro with our first pick overall in the draft. Making Rick the first ever goalie to go #1 overall.

Milbury certainly made, and effected history that day.

I can vividly remember him on TSN, being asked why he would do such a thing? He simply responded to the reporter in a how dare you ask me tone, “because he’s Rick DiPietro, that’s why.”

And so it began.  With the head scratching ‘well throwing stuff at the T.V.’ trade of Luongo to the Florida Panthers the Organization felt it better to have Marc Parrish, Oleg Kvasha, and Rick DiPietro, over Roberto Luongo, Olli Jokinen, and Danny Heatley. Forget the TUMS my friends someone. Bring me the Simethicone STAT.

Rick DiPietro was coming to Long Island after just one season of collegiate hockey at BU.

As if handing over the keys to the entire castle to an 18 year old goaltender weren’t enough, the Islanders cashed in all their precious chips to make this happen.

Again none of this was ever DiPietro’s fault, but it is all part of the amazingness that will forever be scar tissue on our grey matter.

THE CAREER

The spin the Islanders attempted to put on this whole debacle was that, Rich DiPietro’s puck handling was going to revolutionize the game… Oh there was a revolution all right!

Those hanging reputations Milbury referred to in his post selection interview were certainly becoming a very tight noose, as Ricky’s first season with the Isles was disappointing at best.

Posting a 3-15-1 record with a GAA of 3.49, and a most concerning save % of 0.878. Granted he was on an awful Islander team at the time, and he was just an 18 year old kid.  However, when your the 1st overall pick, like in the private sector we expected results.

Now DiPietro’s career did at times look as though he may blossom into a decent net minder.

He went onto to pay his dues in Bridgeport, honing his game to the NHL level. The work seemed to have paid off, and DiPietro did have some very nice seasons.

From 2003-2008 Rick DiPietro was an above average NHL goaltender for the New York Islanders.

Averaging 27.75 wins a season, in 59.75 games a year, with a GAA of 2.69, and a save % of 0.908 in that span.  AKA “The Glory Years”.

DiPietro had begun to make a name for himself in the league, even Being named to an All Star Team in 2008, and had the honor of representing the United States in 2006 at the Torino Winter Olympic Games.

DiPietro played well in Torino as America’s starting goalie he posted a 2.28 GAA appearing in 4 out of the team’s 6 games, but only going 1-3 in the tournament.

Although DiPietro did play well in this 5 year span, he never lived up to being first overall pick, and certainly never came close to living up to what the Islanders gave up so he could be said pick.

In the end, even in his best of seasons, Rick DiPietro was never great.  He was never going to be the goalie that led us back to the promised land.  In his defense though, looking back, was it ever fair to hold him to these unrealistic expectations?

Unfortunately for Rick, those 4 seasons would certainly be the very best of his Islander career.  The rest of his time in New York was mired, by injury, after bizarre injury, and of course the contract.

THE CONTRACT

“I hope at some point I’m underpaid,” DiPietro said. “That means I’m playing really well, and becoming an elite goaltender.” 9/12/2006

On September 12th, 2006 Rick Dipietro signed a 15yr/67.5 million dollar deal with the New York Islanders.

One that would pay him $4.5 million a season, all guaranteed, through the spring of 2021,  after the completion of this season is only 8 short years away.

The contract is still binding even if DiPietro retires due to injury, and should he get hurt in Bridgeport then the Islanders are not allowed to buy him out at the end of the season.

It’s often referred to as “the worst contract” in professional sports history, and has been the butt of countless jokes that yours truly has had to endure from my good Ranger fan buddies whom I love so very much… But I digress..

I would ask you to consider these 2 points about The Contract:

  • On June 26th, 1981 Ervin Magic Johnson at the age of 21 signed a 25 year/$25million deal with the Los Angeles Lakers.  One that would not even kick in until 1984 paying him $1 million a year for 25 years through 2009.
  • Since DiPietro’s 15yr/$67.5 million contact of 2006, Alexander Ovechkin 13yrs/$124 million, Shea Weber 14yrs/$110 million, Sidney Crosby 12yrs/$144 million, and Ilya Kovalchuk 15yrs/$100 have all signed deals of similar constitutions.

INJURIES

Look, as a former 3rd string net minder for the Stony Brook Patriots club team (yep I’m olde) who had both knees torn up on the same play at practice, I see no need to list when, where, and how DiPietro got injured time after time.

Let’s just say this: Since the 07/08 campaign when he appeared in 63 games Rick DiPietro has appeared in a total of 50 games for the Isles.

I truly feel bad for Ricky, for he has had numerous injuries, and simply put his head down and somehow, someway, gotten himself back on the ice again.

We have no way of knowing the sacrifice, and disappointment he has had to endure countless times just to get back out there.

For this relentless will to play I salute you, bro!  Because once it’s over you can never lace em up again at this level.  At least DiPietro can say he gave it his everything he had, and in the end it’ll give him peace.

RECENT HEADLINES

Just yesterday a story broke from Long Island News 12 reporter Kevin Maher, that Rick DiPietro was so distraught over his demotion to Bridgeport  he had at times wanted to “drive his car off the Throgs Neck Bridge into a tree.”

And felt as though his “heart had been ripped out” when given the news by Garth Snow of the team’s intention to send him down.

These careless comments by DiPietro made headlines the Island wide, garnishing the entire back cover of Newsday this morning.  So let’s just tackle the 700lb gorilla in the room, so it can be put to rest.

Rick DiPietro comments were inappropriate, but inspiring at the same time.  It is very clear to me that he is just plain mad.

Perhaps at himself, perhaps at Snow, or Milbury? Perhaps at the whole world?  But he is upset about not only his demotion, but undoubtedly his career as a whole.

And can you blame the man? He has had the worst luck of any NHL player I can think of, and now perhaps he is the “healthiest” he has been in years, only to realize that his skills have eroded to that of a minor league goalie at best. Still, his love, and passion for the game are inspiring, even if his results are not.

His frustrations are, in my estimation, certainly understandable, but  he simply needs to express them in a more diplomatic manner is all.

GOOD-BYE RICK

Now I never would claim to know Rick DiPietro, heck I thought that was him hosting the Oscars the other night, but one thing we can say about him, he always had some of the coolest helmets in the NHL.

Always felt the mask said a lot about the man

Hindsight is always 20/20, and looking back, perhaps the saddest part of this entire ordeal is that for years fans, and perhaps even Ricky himself would just say, “just let the guy go.” Just cut ties, swallow your loses, and move on.

Both Ricky, and the Islanders, even with all of their tumultuous history, would have been so much better off had we just went our separate ways years ago.

But hindsight is 20/20 for a reason. Perhaps Ricky and the Isles were just yet another unintended consequence of the idiocy that are salary caps, and floors.

I don’t know, I’m no Mike Tanenbaum, but either way for whatever reason it just wasn’t ever gonna work out.

Naturally, because it’s the Islanders the door is still not entirely closed on Rick DiPietro.  He did report to the Bridgeport Soundtigers of the AHL after clearing waivers, and if need be can be called back up to the Islanders.

Your gonna tell me stranger things have not  happened to this organization?  However with all the aforementioned, I would still bet you a dozen doughnuts that we have seen the last of Rick DiPietro in an Islander uniform.

 

Well, it’s been some 13 years, and I am glad this era has ended.  But one question lingers in my mind.  Was Rick DiPietro the albatross around our neck, or were we the albatross upon his???

Moving on…

Scotty Bonner  (Always attempting to catch the spirit of the thing)
 
Follow Scotty: @moosiestmoose42
 
 
P. S.

Dear Rick,

I wish you all the best in all your future endeavors. May you go onto to resurrect your net minding career (elsewhere), win the Stanley Cup, and the Conn Smythe in doing so. None of this (except getting you face broken) was your fault. You were drafted into a “no win” situation, by the worst General Manager in league history. I can’t blame you for signing that absurd contract, heck I would have had it signed before Snow had a chance to lay it on the table. And all you did was try your hardest, time, after time to come back from injury to play the game you love. I think, I speak for most Islander fans when I say we don’t hate you, your not Kirk Muller or Dale Hunter. It just never worked out… OK it was a disaster of Biblical proportions, but it truly wasn’t all you. Please be well.

 

 

Topics: Charles Wang, Garth Snow, Islanders, Isles, Mike Milbury, New York Islanders, NHL, Rick DiPietro, ROBERTO LUONGO

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