Islanders Goaltending Battles: In Defense of Cerberus

or; Are Three-Headed Monsters really all that bad?

I'm going to assume for the sake of discussion that the Islanders are heading into this 2011-2012 season with a three-man goalie rotation consisting of Nabokov, Montoya and DiPietro. The reality could be quite different, but the assumption allows me to put forth a very speculative take on what the benefits of a three-man goalie rotation could be for the Isles.

What do all three of these men have in common?

They all have something to prove. DiPietro needs to prove he can stay healthy and play at a level which is higher than "pretty bad, actually." Nabokov needs to shake off a poor previous showing in the KHL, a fair share of rust and the lingering stink from his snub last season. Montoya needs a chance to show that he's really an NHL-caliber netminder and that his successes last season weren't a fluky hot streak.

How does a three-man rotation help the team?

What I hope for personally (even if it's a bit ruthless) is that we'll see some Athletic Darwinism and the competition between three men for what are nominally two roster spots will cull the weak sooner rather than later. Maybe the fire will forge a clear leader and the other two will only squabble over the backup spot. Or maybe the pressure will break somebody (or even more than one somebody) early and the team can proceed with a decent starter and whoever proves to be the lesser of two evils most fit for the crease.

Entertain the thought of the following scenarios for a moment:

  • We can rebuild them, we have the technology - DiPietro and Nabokov both experience a rebirth and provide steady, if unspectacular, goaltending. Montoya doesn't quite live up to expectations but winds up bumping a pretender out of the Sound Tigers' own three-headed monster. The Isles can win as long as the forward corps is lighting the lamp.
  • No Russian - Montoya and DiPietro answer the Call of Duty and Nabokov departs the Island, vindicating all those folks who said we didn't need him anyway. DiPietro is an expensive backup but we've got to reach that cap floor somehow, right? Turns out Montoya is the Real Deal and he steals some games for his squad. In a world without Lundqvist, the Rangers would have been alright with El Cubano. 
  • Hip checks out - DiPietro breaks (in an unfortunately literal fashion) under the strain and starts a new chorus of "When are we getting rid of this albatross, anyway?" from the armchair GMs. Nabokov and Montoya are solid enough that even the organization starts having a hard time sticking by poor Ricky.
  • Goalpocalypse Now - Montoya flounders, Nabokov isn't able to return to form and DiPietro's skeleton disintegrates during warm-ups. Poulin packs his Tiger Balm for his trip to the Island and Garth Snow takes his suspiciously-large pads out of storage. The beleaguered Sound Tigers do the best they can with the scraps.

My money is currently on the third possibility. As much as I would love to see Rick succeed, it seems like a longer shot with every passing year. Nabokov might just be hungry enough to turn in a good season and I'm inclined to believe that Montoya is at least good enough to be a steady 1A kind of guy if not a no-question starter.

This position poses so many questions for this team that I think we're actually much better served by the glut and I'm excited, if somewhat terrified, of where the chips may fall. So what say you, Lighthouse residents? Are all these options a blessing, or should the team just trade Josh Bailey for Dwayne Roloson resign itself to another shaky year in goal?

<em>Submitted FanPosts do not necessarily reflect the views of this blog or SB Nation. If you're reading this statement, you pass the fine print legalese test. Four stars for you.</em>

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