Sometimes when you're doing research for a post, you know really early if it's going to turn out bad. This is especially true when talking about goalies and one of the first results your search returns is Dan Cloutier. Quite simply, with an .854 SV% and 4.21 GAA, Rick DiPietro is off to a historically bad start. How bad? Only 12 goalies have finished the season with a sub .875 SV% and more then 13 games played since 99-00. Of that group, only Brian Boucher is still playing in the NHL today.
The other 11 didn't exactly set the world on fire. Only one goalie played two seasons after his sub .875 performance, Damian Rhodes. Of course the expansion Thrashers used five goalies in their first season, four goalies in their second and five in their third. It was quite the rotation. Only four goalies played a season after their sub .875 year:
Kevin Hodson posted a 3.67 GAA and .856 SV% in 24 games during 99-00 for the Lightning. He drops off the face of the planet for two years and signs with Tampa in 02-03. In 7 games he had a 2.54 GAA and .881 SV% before announcing his retirement in January of '03.
Byron Dafoe in 02-03 had a 4.36 GAA and .862 SV% in 17 games with Atlanta. During the following campaign with Atlanta he played 18 games with a 3.14 GAA and .898 SV%.
Dan Cloutier in 06-07 played 24 games for the Kings and had a 3.98 GAA and .860 SV%. The following season in 9 games he had a 3.44 GAA and .887 SV% for LA.
Hannu Toivonen in 06-07 had a 4.23 GAA and .875 SV% in 18 games for the Bruins. For 07-08 he signed with the Blues and in 23 games had a 3.44 GAA and .878 SV%.
The thread that ties everyone together? Rhodes, Dafoe, Cloutier and Toivonen all suffered significant injuries before their fall.Rhodes missed a chunk of time in his first year in Atlanta due to an ankle injury. His second year saw him rack up a horror show of injuries including his knee and groin. Dafoe had his 99-00 season ended by a knee injury and he never returned to his Vezina form. Cloutier in December of '05 had his collision with Rob Niedermayer, which led to a partially torn ACL and him missing the rest of the season. Toivonen suffered an ankle injury in January of '06 which caused him to miss the remainder of the season.
That is not a good trend for Islander fans. The return to form of DP is something that could help the franchise in the long run. But his struggles this season raise the question of how many games does he start? He will most likely be given every chance to prove himself and hopefully these stats are just due to a small sample size. But it's worth noting you have to go back almost 15 years to find the last time a goalie played 30 games or more and finished with a sub .875 SV%.
There's a reason for that, in today's game you just don't win with that low of a save percentage. If you have a glaring weakness, teams are going to take advantage of it. The Islanders are in the middle of the league when it comes to shots against. Just like last season they are in the top 10 of blocked shots.
If this was just an issue with the team that's been put together and put on the ice, the difference in stats between Dwayne Roloson and Rick DiPietro wouldn't be so night and day. They each have faced an average of 29.2 shots per game. But DP is giving up almost two full goals more in GAA and almost .070 worse in SV%. It's a small sample size, but it is definitely a worrisome start.
DiPietro is going to be given every chance to recover. He's going to be given every chance to show that he can still play at an NHL level. But how many games do the Islanders give him if his play continues at this level? He's only had one game in which his save percentage was above .900. In 8 games last season he at least showed flashes of being his former self. His struggle with side to side movement, his continued escapades out of the crease and his determination to glove every puck are all worrying habits.
If his play continues this bad, in the end we can at least hope to find out that he wasn't really 100%. That he will never manage to return to his old form and the Islanders move on with the future. For now though we just have to hold out hope that we start seeing some more flashes. That some of the DiPietro that carried the Islanders to the 06-07 playoffs comes back. Because when someone has a 15-year contract, there's no easy answer for what to do with them.
PS: Since there's a lot of discussion over the failings of the defense, I went to the NHL gamecenter and got a snap shot of all the shots/goals DP has faced. Just to give people an idea of where shots and goals are coming from.