The history of starting goalies for the Islanders has been consistent for the better part of 30 years. Even the seasons that the goalie depth in the NHL was weak, there were prospects waiting for their chance. This summer we saw the possible future in goal, as the reality is that Rollie is turning 41 and Rick DiPietro's future is unknown.
Mikko Koskinen, Anders Nilsson, Kevin Poulin all stand ready to continue the rich goalie tradition on Long Island. It's a tradition of mostly home grown goalies coming up through the system and translating their potential to the NHL. There have been some hits and misses, along with some outside veterans brought in to bridge the gaps, but it's worked.
If you take the shortest route in getting from Billy Smith to Dwayne Roloson, it looks like this:
Smith - Hrudey - Healy - Hextall - Salo - Beezer - Osgood - DiPietro - Rollie
There are a lot of teams that would be jealous of that list. Nearly every goalie has been a part of either a Stanley Cup winner or finalist. This list includes every goalie that played more then 20 games during a single season with the Islanders. There are actually very few players on this list who played just 20 games. Many of them started for the better part of a season or shared starts with someone else. After the jump, the list begins with two goalies taken in the expansion draft and ends with a 40 year old proving he can still play.
It's tough to find someone with worse NHL luck. Finally getting a chance to start for the second year Kings, Desjardins was a bright spot on a poor team. Across two seasons he had 63 losses in 103 games before being replaced and traded to the Blackhawks. After three seasons of backup in Chicago, he was picked up in the expansion draft by the Islanders. In two seasons splitting starts with Billy Smith, he racked up another 52 losses in 80 games. Looking for a new start, Desjardins bolted for the upstart WHA. While the Islanders retained his rights, they traded them to the Sabres. An out in his contract allowed Desjardins to return to the NHL and start for the Sabres. Unfortunately after two winning seasons for the Sabres, a freak eye injury ended his career early.
The Man, The Myth, The Legend, Billy Smith was taken in the expansion draft and split starts with Desjardins to being his career. Seventeen years later he had four Stanley Cup rings, the career record in playoff wins, a Conn Smythe, a Vezina, and was the last original Islander still with the team. Unless Rick DiPietro plays out his whole contract, Smith will most likely be the longest tenured player in Islander history.
Picked up by the Montreal Canadiens as an unsigned free agent, Resch found himself buried in the Montreal system behind a plethora of experienced veterans. Bill Torrey took a chance on the long shot prospect in a June 1972 trade which paid off by the 74-75 playoffs. Chico was not just in net for the historic comeback from 3-0 against the Penguins, but in the comeback from 3-0 against the Flyers that fell just short. Chico and Billy were one of the all time best goalie tandems as they split starts for most of the 70s. Chico only got one start during the first Stanley Cup run and was traded the following season to the Colorado Rockies. He struggled along with the rest of the Rockies/Devils for 4 seasons before being traded again to the Flyers. With the Flyers he watched the rise of rookie superstar Ron Hextall before hanging up the pads.
The original Rollie the Goalie was a 3rd round pick of the Islanders. Taking over for Chico, Rollie never reached quite the same heights. He was a solid backup and allowed the Islander to keep Smith under 50 games during the regular season. Rollie was eventually pushed out by budding youngster Kelly Hrudey and traded to the North Stars. After two years backing up in Minnesota he found his way to the Kings and was their starter for two years. He was replaced by Glenn Healy, who was then traded for fthe same Kelly Hrudey. Following his LA stint he played a handful of games for the Devils and Canadiens before retiring.
Hrudey continued the tradition of quality goalies for the Islanders. After being taken in the second round of the 1980 draft, Hrudey spent time in the minors before getting his first callup in 83-84. He went on to play five seasons for the Islanders and was the first full time starter to replace Smith in both the regular season and playoffs. During the 88-89 season he was traded to the Kings for Mark Fitzpatrick. He went on to be the starter for the Kings for seven seasons and a key part of their Stanley Cup run. Hrudey finished his career in the bay area playing two seasons for the Sharks.
Before being traded to the Islanders, Mark Fitzpatrick played a handful of games for the Kings. In the off-season following his acquisition the Islanders signed his former LA teammate Glenn Healy and they proceeded to split starts for three of the following four seasons. The one season he didn't split starts with Healy? Fitzpatrick was recovering from eosinophilia myalgia syndrom, a rare disease which was supposed to stop him from returning to hockey. Picked up in the expansion draft by the Panthers and the same man (Bill Torrey) who had traded for him, he went on to a long career as a solid NHL backup. For fighting his way back to hockey, Fitzpatrick was rewarded the Bill Matterson Trophy following the 91-92 season.
An undrafted free agent out of college, Healy worked his way up the King's organization eventually becoming the starter in his final season in LA. Signed as a free agent by the Islanders, Healy was at best an average goalie who split starts with Fitzpatick, Jeff Hackett and Steve Weeks over his four seasons. But in the end he worked his way into the hearts and minds of Islander fans during the 92-93 playoffs. The upset of the two time defending Stanley Cup champion Penguins could not have happened without Healy's incredible play. Healy (along with some help from the posts) played absolutely out of his mind in the seven game series. Left unprotected in the expansion draft following the playoffs, his rights were moved between four different teams before he ended up with the Rangers. He backed up Richter for four seasons before moving on to the Maple Leafs and playing four seasons of backup for them.
It's easy to forget that among all the Islander goalies that came and went in the early 90s, Jeff Hackett was among them. A former second round pick, he played a total of 43 games on the Island mostly due to Mark Fitzpatrick's lost season. Unfortunately he was left exposed to the expansion draft following that season and was grabbed by the Sharks. He started two seasons for the Sharks before being traded to the Hawks. In Chicago he was the long term backup to Eddie Belfour before eventually replacing him. He was traded to Montreal, starting for two seasons before backing up Theodore for the following three. He finished off his career as a backup for the Bruins and Flyers.
A career journeyman backup goalie, Weeks played 23 games for the Islanders in 91-92. He was mostly signed as an insurance policy in case Fitzpatrick couldn't return to form. In the end the Islanders traded him to the Kings for a late round pick, and Weeks went on to play a handful of games over the next two seasons before retiring. The only other notable thing about his career is that he was the starting goalie for the Rangers during the 81-82 season.
Ron Hextall was a fan favorite in Philly, but left as part of the famous deal for Eric Lindros. After a year in Quebec he was dealt to the Islanders. When we were talking about the 93 Islanders Playoff team, I think Dom said it right when it came to Hextall:
What an infuriating, infuriating move that was. Maloney bought stock in ‘87 Hextall when goaltending had moved well past the era of Hextall vs. Fuhr. Seeing the Habs-Nords ’93 series was a great contrast in goaltending movements passing each other like ships in the night:
After a season of starting for the Islanders he was traded back to the Flyers for Tommy Soderstrom. He played the next five years for the Flyers, rotating in and out of the starters spot. In Islanders' history I think Hextall is most remembered for being utterly obliterated by the Rangers in the 94 playoffs.
The 22 year old rookie actually outplayed Hextall during the regular season and was given the chance to save the team in the playoffs, starting the last two games of the series. During the next two seasons McLennan struggled behind a deteriorating Islanders team. In May of 96, it was discovered that he had bacterial meningitis and he nearly died while at the hospital getting diagnosed. In a rather questionable move, the Islanders released him the following July. The Blues signed him a few weeks later and after a season of play in the AHL he was ready to return to the NHL. He wonn the Matterson in 97-98 and had a long career playing for the Flames, Panthers and Rangers after his stint with the Blues.
Acquired in the Hextall trade with Philly before the 95 season, Soderstrom eventually won the starting job before the season was done. Unfortunately for the Islanders he was unable to replicate his success in the following season. His SV% dropped from a career high of .902 to .877. Towards the middle of the year highly touted prospect Eric Fichaud was given every chance to take over the starters reigns. Soderstrom returned to Sweden following the 96-97 season.
Fichaud was a highly touted first rounder traded by Toronto for Benoit Hogue. As I've talked about Fichaud in the past, there isn't much to add. A few injuries lead to Fichaud never reaching his potential. Tommy Salo outplayed Fichaud and eventually won the starters position. He struggled to hold on in even the Expansion happy late 90s era and was relegated to the AHL for the last few years of his career.
Another Swedish goalie, he struggled in his first two stints for the Islanders. He stacked his resume in the IHL though, backstopping the Grizzlies to back to back Turner Cups and picking up the league MVP, Rookie of the Year and Playoff MVP awards. With 20 wins in 96-97, Salo had nearly as many wins as the Islanders had in all of 95-96. Injured early on in 98-99, the Islanders acquired Felix Potvin in the hopes of an upgrade. Instead when Salo returned he proceeded to outplay him before being dealt to the Oilers. He started six years for the Oilers before being dealt to the Avalanche and then returning to Sweden.
Wade Flaherty played his first full WHL season the same year he was drafted, 1988. He retired following his final AHL season in 2008. In that time he played for four NHL teams in eleven seasons, but is probably most remembered for his Islanders stints in the late 90s and early 00s. He played 60 of his 120 career games with the Islanders during this period as third string backup. Flaherty was a player whose AHL success just never translated to success in the NHL. Even during his last AHL year he lead his team with a .917 SV% over 31 games.
The Cat was a great goaltender during the 90s. Season after season he put up respectable numbers for the Maple Leafs. But something changed when the Leafs signed Curtis Joseph. As Potvin requested a trade so he could start elsewhere, the Leafs saw his stock drop with every outing. When Salo went down hurt, Milbury dealt Berard to the Leafs for Potvin. Unfortunately the change of scenery didn't help much. He posted a sub .900 SV% during both seasons on LI for the first time in his career. He was eventually dealt to Vancouver and replaced by a tandem of Weekes and Luongo. Eventually he returned to his old form while playing for the Canucks and Kings before retiring during the lockout.
Kevin Weekes was picked up from Vancouver in the Potvin trade. The Islanders were his third team in four NHL seasons since being picked in the second round in 93. After half a season of sharing goalie duties with wunderkid Roberto Luongo, Weekes was traded again to the Lightning for the first round pick that became Raffi Torres. After starting for a season in Tampa, Weekes was traded again to the Hurricanes. He started for two seasons for the Canes before playing backup for the Rangers and Devils. He retired following the 08-09 season citing a history of injuries.
The fourth overall pick in the 97 Draft and highest goalie taken in the draft up to that point, Luongo's playing time for the Islanders was short. Splitting time with Kevin Weekes, Luongo was solid but unspectacular in 24 games. Following the drafting of Rick DiPietro, he was traded to the Panthers. He quickly unseated veteran starter Trevor Kidd in his first season in Florida, posting five shutouts on a team that finished with only 22 wins. Unable to come to a deal with the Panthers, he was traded to the Canucks. In Vancouver he continues to start to this day with yells of "Luuuuu" following just about every save. Yet postseason success has evaded Luongo and the Canucks.
The old veteran was signed by the Islanders in the hopes that his presence in net would stabilize the team. In what was basically his last full season, Beezer had one of his worst seasons in a decade. The former Ranger, Flyer and Panther was traded at the deadline to the Devils in hopes of winning a cup. His history of coming just close to winning the Cup (being traded before the Rangers 94 run, getting swept in the finals by the Avs) continued as the Devils fell one game short of winning the cup that year. He retired after spending one more year as backup in Jersey.
The first goalie ever taken at the top of a modern NHL Draft, DiPietro learned what the fire was like rather quickly. He started 00-01 struggling with the IHL Chicago Wolves. With the Islanders struggling badly, it was decided to give DiP a chance in the NHL. As one might imagine, this did not go well. Fortunately Dip played the next two seasons in Bridgeport and quickly adapted to the pro game. He played a short ten game stint in 02-03 before taking over the reigns in 03-04. He quickly became the Franchise player that is expected of a first overall pick. He went on to represent the US at the 06 Olympics An unfortunate injury has sidelined his career, but the future might still be bright for him.
Long considered to be a product of playing on great Red Wings teams, Chris Osgood became expendable to the Wings when Dominik Hasek was signed. Looking to add a quality starter to a much improved Islanders team, the Islanders grabbed him off of waivers. He came through for the Islanders and quieted the critics with a solid season. He backstopped the Islanders to their first playoffs in nearly a decade before being traded to the Blues. Osgood eventually found is way back to the Wings, winning a Cup and getting them to back to back finals before giving way to Jimmy Howard.
When the Islanders brought in Osgood to start, they also brought in veteran backup Garth Snow. In stints for the Flyers, Canuck and Penguins Snow proved to be reliable. He showed is value as the Islanders went from Osgood to DiPietro and Snow helped to bring the youngster along. An injury ended his playing career, but not his association with the Islanders. He moved up to the GM's office taking over for the recently departed Neil Smith. He continues in that position today, overseeing the rebuilding of the Islanders in hopes of getting that fifth cup.
The undrafted college prospect became a regular for the Sound Tigers racking up 60 wins across three seasons. He took over the backup spot from Mike Dunham in 06-07 and led the Islanders on a four game winning streak to make the playoffs. DiPietro's injury the following season put Dubie in the starters spot. Across 20 games he led the team in SV% and GAA. Becoming a free agent, he was unable to come to an agreement with the Islanders and left for Russia. Signed by the Islanders after Joey MacDonald went down, on the trip through waivers the Bluejackets picked him up. Dubie went on to play 3 games for Columbus and 3 games in Minnesota while returning to his old stomping grounds in the AHL.
Long a mainstay for the Grand Rapids Griffins of the Red Wings, Joey MacDonald finally got his chance to start in the NHL in 08-09. This chance was due to the unexpected lingering of Rick DiPietro's injury. MacDonald himself suffered an injury and ended up finishing the season as backup to Yann Danis. He showed flashes, but a bad Islanders team didn't exactly help his consistency. He signed with the Maple Leafs following the season and played with the Marlies. After the stopover in Toronto he returned to his old stomping ground with the Griffins.
The Quebec native signed with the Canadiens following his collegiate career. After playing mostly for their AHL team the Hamiliton Bulldogs, Danis signed with the Islanders during the 09 offseason. He was expected to be the emergency netminder, but injuries moved him quickly up the depth chart. Danis was impressive enough to keep MacDonald on the bench after he returned from injury. Following the season he was signed to be the backup for the Devils. After only appearing in 10 games he currently sits unsigned on the free agent market but should get some interest from an AHL team.
Rollie the Goalie (the second) had a long climb to the NHL. He showed flashes in stints with the Flames (2 seasons) and Sabres (2 seasons) during the 90s. But his big break came with the Minnesota Wild. He proved himself while splitting starts with Manny Fernandez. Eventually the Wild went with the younger Fernandez and dealt Rollie to the Oilers in 05-06. With the Oilers he posted a .927 SV% in the playoffs and was the driving force of their run to the finals. If not for Rollie getting hurt in the first game the Oilers might have won that seven game series. Although he was consistent for the Oil, they never got back to the playoffs over the next three seasons. At 39 and looking for a two year deal, the Oilers decided to go with Nikolai Khabibulan. The Islanders were more then happy to sign him and he eventually took over as starter full time after a short lived platoon with Marty Biron.
Brother of former Islanders prospect Mathieu Biron, Marty proved to be unable to break his family's bad luck on the Island. He was a fan favorite during his time in Buffalo but eventually lost his starting job to Ryan Miller. Traded to the Flyers he helped them bounce back from one of their worst seasons to get to the Eastern Conference Finals. After another season in Philly, Biron found himself a free agent for the first time and was looking for a big offer which never came. The Islanders signed him giving them two possible starters, but Rollie eventually took the ball and ran with it relegating Biron to backup and third string for periods. After the season he signed with the Rangers and is currently their backup to the Queen.
That brings us from the dark days of the early 70s to the hopefully bright future of the 10s. Thanks to a nearly 20 year career from Billy Smith, the Islanders net has been surprisingly consistent. Historically the Islanders have been a team that uses goalie tandems instead of a definitive starter and backup. For the most part only Tommy Salo and Rick DiPietro have been solid starters for multiple seasons. Also interesting to note how the Expansion draft gave to the Islanders (Billy Smith, Desjardins) and took away (Healy, Hackett, Fitzpatrick).