With the season getting closer, there are a lot more people putting out their predictions. For the Islanders the most commonly cited negative is the easiest one to spot. Our beloved curmudgeon in crease, Dwayne Roloson, is turning 41 this season. Common sense in the NHL says that 40-year-old and beyond goalies are in the absolute twilight of their career. Thus most analysts are quick to pick out Rollie as one of the main reasons the Islanders won't be competitive.
It makes sense, at least until you look closer at the numbers. Yes, 40 and older goalies are a rarity in today's game. But to say that Rollie is going to drop off just because he's 40 or he's more likely to be hurt because of his age just seems silly. Among active players Roloson is eighth in games played at 512, with Marty Turco (509) and Jean-Sebastien Giguere (492) right behind him. Meanwhile, ahead of him is Tomas Vokoun (575), Roberto Luongo (612), Chris Osgood (733) and Martin Brodeur (1076).
Health-wise we all know of Brodeur and Luongo's recent injuries. Vokoun has a long history of dink and ding type injuries, including finishing last season on the injured list. Although Osgood isn't projected to be the starter for the Red Wings, he is expected to be an adequate backup. In that mold he too has a history of small injuries especially to his hands. Giggy has a recent history of groin injuries. Turco and Rollie are most alike, suffering from a few bouts with the flu over both their long careers. Yet of all these goalies, it seems to be Rollie that is getting the most attention to suffer an injury and hurt the Islanders chances.
Instead, I want to offer you this idea. That Dwayne Roloson may still be a quality starter for the Islanders not just this season, but next year as well. Yes, if the Islanders don't trade Rollie at the deadline I can see him returning to help ease in one of the prospects or even Rick DiPietro. The last two seasons were the first time in Rollie's career that he's played back to back 50+ game seasons. For a very large portion of his career he's been struggling as either a backup or in a platoon system.
From the 77-78 season until the 05-06 season, only one goalie even played at 40 years old: Tony Espositio. Since 05-06 Dominik Hasek, Eddie Belfour, Sean Burke and Curtis Joseph have played at 40 or older. Of them only Hasek and Belfour played as starters, getting 40+ games on the season. Why then believe that Rollie can make it to 42?
- Curtis Joseph was at 900 games played before he even turned 40
- Sean Burke was at almost 800 games played before he turned 40
- Eddie Belfour was at 850 games played before he turned 40 and before his final season at 41 had 900 games played
- Dominik Hasek before his final season at 43 was at 690 games played
At this point to even catch up with Hasek's total, Rollie would have to play back-to-back 80-game seasons and he would still be 18 games away. While teams have gotten more patient with goaltenders, there are always going to be guys like Rollie who don't break into the league until their late twenties, and training techniques and conditioning have improved to give goalies longer careers.
You don't have to be a great goalie whose kept around in the twilight of his career in the hope of recapturing the magic. Burke and Joseph were hardly great goaltenders, but they were able to stay at least average long enough to reach 40. If you sign Rollie you aren't expecting the world, instead an average steady goalie who can keep you in games. As long as those are the expectations on him, and people aren't expecting him to top his .930 SV% when he took the Oilers to the finals, he'll be able to deliver.
Last season every team looking for a goalie passed up on Rollie because he wanted two years. Last year we heard the same people saying the same things about Rollie that they are saying now. When you look at more than just his age, you can see why it's easy to believe he'll be back again.
Also, Rollie has a history of surprising people. I'm sure the Wild when they traded him didn't expect him to lead the Oilers to the finals. Or that he would still be playing at a high level while Manny Fernandez got traded for Petr Kalus and Fernandez sits by the phone waiting for a call. I'm sure the Oilers didn't think Rollie was the only thing holding their team in competition when they let him walk for the Bulin Wall.
Rollie has a long history of being a fighter; I'm sure a part of that is making the league at 27 and knowing how lucky you are to even be there. Unless something crazy happens, I'd expect Rollie to still be ready to go at 42 or maybe even 43. Can he fall apart between now and then? Sure, but the same could be said for just about every other goalie in the league. Don't count Rollie out till he's out.