Islanders Summer Report Card: Evgeni Nabokov

May 11, 2013; Uniondale, NY, USA; New York Islanders goalie Evgeni Nabokov (20) leaves the ice following the overtime period of game six of the first round of the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum. The Penguins won the game 4-3 and won the series 4-2. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports


Faculty Data

  • Name: Evgeni Nabokov
  • Evaluation Year: 2013
  • Age: 37
  • Undergraduate: 1999
  • Days Absent for 2013: 7 (coaching decision)
  • Scholarship(s): 2006-10 four-year deal (with San Jose) worth 21.5M; 2011-12 one-year deal (with New York) worth 570K; 2012-13 one-year deal worth 2.75M
  • Achievements:  Playoff berth: 681:45 TOI, 7 W, 0 L, 4 OTL/SO, 20 GA, 277 SA, 257 SV, .928 SV% — all in April 2013

Overview of Subjects ‘Taught’ (as a New York Islander)

  • Games Played:  83
  • Games Started:  82
  • Wins/Loses/OTL: 42, 29, 10
  • Goals Against: 204
  • Goals Against Average: 2.52 (approximately)
  • Save Percentage: .912 (approximately)
  • Shutouts: 5 (3 this past season)

Grades for 2013

  • Regular Season: B+
  • Post-Season: C+


Professor’s Comments: Evgeni Nabokov single-handedly pushed the New York Islanders through to the post-season this year. And some would argue that he single-handedly took them out of it with some shoddy goaltending, especially in game 1 at Pittsburgh.

Moreover, rumors are circulating that the Islanders are in talks with Roberto Luongo for a possible trade that may or may not involve Nino Niederreiter, and perhaps, as an equally long shot, Jonathan Bernier for the same or not, and an exorbitant amount of money.

Let’s put it this way, neither trade comes cheap, but more importantly, for me anyway, neither trade makes sense. Here’s why:

  • Evgeni Nabokov took just two seasons to help bring ’round the New York Islanders to some true sense of respectability. All this amid the Rick DiPietro fiasco and platooning with Al Montoya all of last year. Nabokov had difficulty finding his rhythm because the Islanders were plucking disharmonious chords on their once broken and tattered guitar, mainly deciding who to start at the position. Poor extended metaphors notwithstanding, once DiPietro and Montoya were no longer consider members of the team, Nabokov took hold of the reins and drove the Isles straight into the playoffs. Say what you want about him after the fact, without Evgeni Nabokov’s April run there isn’t a postseason to deconstruct this year.
  • Expectations are high because of what’s on the frontlines: John “MVP” Tavares, Matt “Lady Byng” Moulson, Michael Grabner, et al. But if you think the New York Islanders were going to hoist the cup this season, by all means let me sell you this bridge I know in Brooklyn. Yes, Nabby cost the team goals during the most inopportune moments, and yes, the Isles did have a chance to beat the Penguins. And yes, it was frustrating to see them out done by bad calls, etc. But again, the Isles were in a position to have all that happen to them because of Nabokov’s stellar play this season.
  • If you’re of the ilk that believes the Isles stand a better chance with Roberto Luongo, or Jonathan Bernier, or Kevin Poulin, or Anders Nilsson, or any combination therein, then consider that the risk is the same with Nabokov remaining on the Island. Luongo is a reset of Nabokov (a tad better yes, but still an unknown variable at present), Bernier is still somewhat ‘unproven’ as a permanent installation between the pipes, and both Poulin and Nilsson need mentors, and I’m rather hesitant in believing Luongo is coming back to New York to be a teacher.

The Islanders have their identity now, that much is clear from their play against the Penguins. All of it comes from a foundation Nabokov laid earlier in the season. Yes, as foundation columns go, Evgeni is not the sturdiest of supports, but he does provide the necessary grunt work needed during this period of continued restructuring. And rest assured, Islander fans, the rebuild is upon us and the fruits of Garth Snow‘s labor are ripe for harvest.

Allowing Nabokov to go would stir the pot, as it were, while things are on the uptick, disrupting the recent vibe exuding from the Island.

No one is saying to sign this man to a multi-million dollar deal, and Nabby isn’t asking for that either, at least not that I’ve heard. Offer him the one year deal, allow for Poulin and/or Nilsson to come into their own, and then see where you are.

I believe Evgeni Nabokov still has something to prove, and he will do so next season. He’s earned it, Islander fans. He’s earned it.

Professor’s Recommendation (Written with the notion that Nabokov, is, in fact, a professor. Allusions abound. You’ve been warned): Presently, there is no one faculty member/student-teacher in Professor Nabokov’s department capable of stepping into and managing his chairman’s duties, let alone his coursework.

The Islanders apparently have reached out to other ‘universities’ (one in British Columbia, another in California) that are undergoing similar restructuring, hoping to entice disgruntled and/or opportunistic faculty members there to join this reemerging center for honest, hard-nose hockey “instruction.” No official word yet as to the validity and progress of these negotiations.

At first glance, it appears as if Professor Nabokov’s future with this institution is tenuous at best. And I assume Dean Snow and President Wang are arriving to the sobering conclusion that in order to secure a bright future for all members of Coli U, a revamping of the mission statement, and thus, all subsequent curricula  is in order, leaving Nabokov out in somewhat murky waters with little to allow for buoyancy.

But if I may deter from my aforementioned suppositions for a moment to add the following on behalf of a fellow professor: True it is that Professor Evgeni Nabokov’s expertise has dwindled considerably from his earlier ventures as a stalwart member of San Jose. There, Prof. Nabokov brought with him a touch of Eastern European prowess that truly inspired all those attending his former institution, giving it some much needed national attention and laud in the process.

But consider, if you will, how fortunate this Islander community has been these past two years, absorbing the worldly experience Nabokov brings to those with whom he commiserates, especially during ‘faculty meetings’. He may be accused of many things, but no one can say that Professor Nabokov isn’t a diligent and responsible and talented member of his department.

(Note: During his hold-out period, much of Long Island shunned Nabokov’s seeming arrogance at not wanting to attend Coli U. But once the negotiations settled, Professor Nabokov was the first to attend the mandatory faculty meeting to start the 2011-12 hockey-demic year. No questions. No complaints. Prepared for work.)

Nevertheless, Nabby’s–as his close friends in Hockey-demia call him–accrued acumen is the material by which burgeoning hockey institutions like the Islanders use to mold future laureates.

Having attended and closely scrutinized courses held by both Rick DiPietro and Kevin Poulin, I can say, without hesitation, that neither individual has the ability needed to take this institution to the next level of desired success.

In fact, without Professor Nabokov’s assistance (even if for one year more), I cannot foresee the Islanders revisiting this past semester’s short-lived but much heralded renown.

Obviously there’s isn’t an Emeritus title in the works for him,  but Professor Nabokov can proffer much needed assistance to current and incumbent faculty as stated earlier.

Dean Snow never expected the aging Georgian to elevate his campus to world elite status, and the recent resurgence in student attendance is due in large part to Professor Nabokov’s late semester alterations to current Islander curriculum.

And although the eminence and prominence of Nabby’s new-found ‘ideas’ and subsequent delivery were short-lived, both students and fellow faculty members were, nevertheless, overwhelmingly inspired.

Shameful it would be not to give this man one more opportunity at tweaking and then executing it all over again, this time with some considerable aforethought.

But, regrettably, these are not my decisions to make.


What do you say, Islander country: Do we revoke Professor Nabokov’s tenure, or keep him on the faculty?