The New York Islanders were castigated by hockey writer Larry Brooks for carrying three goalies. Does his three goalies/Al Arbour story stand up?
It is fairly easy to say that carrying three goaltenders is an untenable situation for the New York Islanders, that it has never worked, and that a GM would have to be self-destructive to even attempt it. The New York Post’s Larry Brooks even told a whimsical tale about how Swedish goaltending pioneer Goran Hogosta finally got into a game with the Islanders of Smith, Resch, Arbour and Torrey.
Hogosta pitched a shutout (in his nine minutes of play) and Arbour remarked that apparently he now had three number one goalies. What Mr. Brooks is trying to tell you is that hockey minds as brilliant as Arbour and Torrey would never have allowed themselves to get stuck in one of these endless three goalie swamps.
History Tells a Different Story
Let’s look at the some of the three goalie situations the Isles have faced historically and what the GM, specifically Torrey, did about it.
The first one was at the very first Islander training camp. Torrey had picked Billy Smith and Gerry Desjardins in the expansion draft but wasn’t comfortable. So he added solid veteran Denis DeJordy to the mix by acquiring him (and Glenn Resch) from Montreal for a 2nd Rd pick.
That only lasted til October 4th when Torrey dumped DeJordy for a bigger need, a veteran defenseman. That was Ex-Ranger and grizzled vet Arnie Brown. Brown enjoyed his time in Uniondale slightly less than Kirk Muller. But that’s another story.
When the WHA was absorbed into the NHL in the summer of 1979, the Islanders absorbed a potential star goaltender whose rights they already held; Richard Brodeur.
“Cap”, as he was called during his time in the Isles’ system, was magnificent in the minors and threatened to take time from Smith and Resch. Yep, the same Resch from that DeJordy trade. Brodeur was also vulnerable and could have been forfeited for nothing in the old “equalization draft”. So Torrey sent him onto Vancouver during the 1980 training camp. Brodeur took his team to the finals in 1982. But you should know that already.
The year after Brodeur left, Rollie Melanson showed up. After Melanson claimed a roster spot in 1981, Torrey wasted little time trading popular but diminishing Chico Resch to Colorado for Mike McEwen.
But such is the circle of life that is the NHL. By 1983 Kelly Hrudey made his way to the NHL. This was really Torrey’s toughest choice. The coldhearted truth was that Smith was aging. But the GM might get the best return for him. And the two young guys could carry the load.
But this was Billy Smith of four straight Stanley Cups who just got you to a fifth straight Cup final. So in 1984 Melanson went to Minnesota for a first-round pick.
Three lessons reside herein. (1) The circle of life is strong, and you who step in to replace another player might find yourself replaced soon. (2) Bill Torrey dealt with these situations swiftly before long-term festering took hold. (3) There was once a time when the New York Islanders constantly turned out All-Star level goaltenders the way Facebook turns out memes. What wouldn’t you give for that pipeline today?