Goal Tenders have always been described as strange and often temperamental individuals. Well, this year the goaltending situation for the New York Islanders could well be described using the same adjectives.
The New York Islanders have a goaltender who is by all accounts the number one; Jaroslav Halak. One of the best inconsistent netminders in the league. One minute Halak’s standing on his head keeping the team in the game, the next pucks go through him like he was a hologram from a sci-fi movie.
Then there’s his backup; Thomas Greiss. With all of his heroics last season he can’t seem to convince anyone, including the management of his own team, that he deserves the crease full-time.
And then, after the first two is ; J.F Berube. From what we’ve seen he’s an able backup. But we don’t watch him week in and out to see what the coaches do at practice, so it’s hard to make a judgment on his potential.
Like you and I, could it be that the Isles just don’t know what to do?
Reverberation of Discontent
Halak made it publicly clear last season and this, that he is not happy with the three-way system. Regardless of the role any of the three take, on the ice or in practice, they are part of the squad and any issues of morale or rumblings of discontent can reverberate to all corners of the dressing room.
This season the Isles responded by giving Halak seven straight starts. Are they putting him in the shop window? Or are they saying you’re our number one and we will make sure you’re happy?
That’s a rhetorical question because I don’t think anyone knows. What we do know is seven straight games is a pretty big shop window and it’s more likely that the Isles are giving Halak a run to establish himself and find a run of form.
If you look at the 3 guys individually, Halak is not consistent enough to pull us out of this slump on his own. Greiss is often solid as a backup and in the big games has shown he can perform, but he has no long-term experience as a number one.
Berube…… well he is currently taking half practices and getting no competitive game time at all. The Isles will not risk him being placed on waivers and claimed by another NHL team.
At this point he’s taking up a roster spot, earning dead money. You have to think the Islanders are stumping his development. If the Isles see the potential in him why has he not played?
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Stange and Awkward
Amidst the very strange and awkward position we should not forget that a year ago there were many that considered the isles to have one of the best 1-2 combinations in the NHL. What happened?
Jaroslav Halak is a goaltender that is probably never going to win a cup as a starting goalie. He has moments of brilliance as we have seen from time to time and as the world cup showed.
Despite these moments there is always the underlying problem of inconsistency. He is, however, more than capable of providing a base to a team that currently has bigger issues than him.
I don’t see a team taking on his contract for the next season and a half unless a serious injury occurs to their current stoppers. So if the Islanders are saying Jaro is our number one they need to decide what they are doing with their backups, both of which are out of contract at the end of the season.
The team is struggling, they need to find their identity. Until the coaching and management team can work out what direction they are going in things will not get any better. Maybe starting with resolving this key position is a good place to start.