Staff Face-Off : Merits Of Tim Thomas vs. Evgeni Nabokov

By Joe Pantorno
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Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Islanders Should Have Kept Thomas (Pantorno)

Goaltender Tim Thomas, who helped the Islanders reach the cap floor last year, officially signed a one-year deal with the Florida Panthers last week for a base salary of 2.5m but with incentives reached could be as high as 3.75m.

Though his signing was clearly for financial reasons, there was an inkling in the brains of many Islanders fans that thought the team had acquired a stand-out goalie. The 2011-2012 season, the last year he played before his holdout with the Bruins, Tim Thomas went 35-19 with a 2.36 GAA. In 2010-11, it was just 2.00.

So as the Islanders made a surprising run into the playoffs on the back of Evgeni Nabokov and scrapped their way to six games against the Penguins, in what seemed like an extended season, a few dents were exposed in their armor. One of them being Nabokov.

In order to be considered a threatening team in hockey, you’re going to need a goalie that can make ‘the big save.’ Especially with such a young defense like the Islanders have.

Tim Thomas was more than  capable of bailing out a defense. That was evident with Boston and having that on the Island could have been a saving grace.

Sitting out a season, Thomas could have lasted a bit longer than Nabokov. Both were taken in the 1994 draft, but the former Bruin has seen his most successful days more recently than Evgeni.

There were a handful of games, including those in the playoffs, that were lost by goaltending. Thomas provides the opposite, even if he’s 39. He is the kind of goalie that can single-handedly win you a game. Not to the extent of a Henrik Lundqvist, but he can stand on his head when it matters.

There might be a period of games this year when Nabokov runs out of gas or just has a stretch of bad outings and that might just hold the Islanders back or even out of a playoff spot. Kevin Poulin is a capable back-up and Anders Nilsson needs a bit more developing, but the two youngsters could possibly take much more away from learning under Tim Thomas than Evgeni Nabokov.

For now, the team will have to live with the Kazakhstan keeper. It’s not necessarily the worst-case scenario for the Islanders, but it could have been better.

-Joe Pantorno

Rich Dias continues this discussion with his rebuttal on the next page. Please click ‘next’ to read his counter-point.