This has been so expected that I almost forgot it wasn't yet official news, but yes, Rick DiPietro is officially being shut down for the season. A move some fans called for back after 2008 surgery #3 (4? 5? Who can count?) in October, and many have called for ever since it was clear something in his knee wasn't responding right -- with full recognition that this season isn't about 2008-09 anyway.
I'm almost tired of rehashing my thoughts on this issue here and elsewhere, so in short: It's a frustrating time for a still-young, very competitive athlete who (in theory) could have many games left in his career. It's also nearly the worst-case scenario for a long-term contract -- but exactly the reason for which I would sign no athlete to such a deal.
Beyond that, I'll just
pompously lazily quote previous posts, both here at Lighthouse Hockey and at Winging It in Motown in my "Behind the Blog" Q&A, because my feelings -- essentially, my degree of comfort with risk -- haven't changed:
Aside from the concussions, which you can never anticipate (until they've started recurring), I figured injuries like this wouldn't pile up until DiPietro's 30s. I figured at worst, his style wrecks his hips and he spends the last half of this deal as an injured goalkeeper/consultant. Best-case, he's mostly injury-free until a decline in the final few years (age 37-40) of his deal, when the Josephs, Roys and Haseks of the world broke down.
From the Winging It in Motown Q&A:
Q.8 - What was your initial reaction to the Rick DiPietro signing in November 2006 and what do you think of it now?
I found out about it on the bottom line ticker on TV., and I fell out of my chair. Couldn't believe it. I thought we were done with absurdly long deals after the Yashin fiasco. It had Charles Wang's handwriting all over it. In both cases, I see what Wang was after: a franchise identity, some long-term stability, an outward sign that people are here to stay. In the DiPietro case, there was also the likelihood of his salary ($4.5M) eventually becoming a bargain rate for a #1 goalie, which is a defensible idea in theory.
But bargain rate or not, you know a very active, butterfly goalie is not likely to play to 40 without some injuries and without serious decline. You know whenever that decline happens, it's going to be an awkward transition to whoever becomes the new #1. If I ran a business, I wouldn't tie myself to 10- or 15-year deals to guys whose productivity depends on their body's limited peak time window, and whose professional happiness depends on success and whim. But I don't run a business.
Today, I don't feel too much better about it thanks to DiPietro's hip and knee surgeries -- those started earlier than I expected. Modern medicine is great; maybe he's fixed and "good as new" for the time being. But today's butterfly goalies succumb to hip issues all the time. I'd never make a 15-year bet that any one of them -- whether he's Patrick Roy or Patrick Lalime -- would make it to 40 as healthy, NHL-caliber goalies.
At this point, if we're lucky, DiPietro returns healthy after significant rest and rehab, providing three to five (more) top-tier seasons. But with the concussion history and the surgeries to hips and knees, that's about best-case scenario, and he's likely to always be an injury risk. The Islanders would be wise to start developing some goalies who are likely to attract more confidence from the club than what Scott Gordon has shown in Yann Danis.
You might disagree with my reasoning -- or maybe be okay with 10-year+ deals but with other players (Ovechkin, perhaps?). If so, I'd love to hear your thoughts.