When the Islanders bowed out of the 2013 playoffs after a hard fought series against the Pittsburgh Penguins, the general consensus around Islanders Country was that in order to take the next step, management needed to upgrade the team's goaltending.
But when July 1st rolled around, Garth Snow decided to stick with the status quo.
The Islanders instead took a step back, missing the playoffs for the fifth time in six years. The biggest problem again for the Isles was the goaltending.
So one year later, Snow finally decided it was imperative to address the goaltending situation.
This time, he didn't even wait for his number one target to hit the free agent market. Snow went out and acquired Jaroslav Halak's rights two months before the free agency period began, and had Halak's John Hancock on a new 4 year deal three weeks later.
With a bona fide number one goalie under contract, it would have been easy for Snow to stop there and say with confidence that the Islanders goaltending was better than the year prior.
But Snow didn't stop there. After choosing to not pursue Boston Bruins back up Anton Khudobin in 2013, Snow locked up Khudobin's Boston replacement, Chad Johnson, for two years.
With Anders Nilsson happily gone to Russia and seemingly not wanting Kevin Poulin to be third on the goalie depth chart, Snow signed a third goalie, David Leggio. A career minor leaguer, the 29-year-old Leggio still looks like a better insurance option than either Poulin or the departed Nilsson.
So is the Islanders goaltending better going into 2014-15 than it was a year ago? Undoubtedly. Here is a look at the Save % comparison for the two groups:
|2014-15 Goalies||13-14 Save %||13-14 Ev Save %||2013-14 Goalies||13-14 Save %||13-14 Ev Save %|
|Jaroslav Halak||.921||.926||Evgeni Nabokov||.905||.915|
|Chad Johnson||.925||.932||Anders Nilsson||.896||.915|
If the glaring difference in Save % isn't enough to drive the point home, let me legitimize the improvement of the Islanders goaltending in a different way. Last season, the duo of Halak and Johnson allowed 86 fewer goals than the Islanders as a team last year (163 to 249), in only 3 fewer games played (79 to 82).
Johnson is still a question mark, having only 10 games of NHL experience prior to 2013-14. His AHL numbers were hit or miss in four seasons and some of his success last year could have come from playing behind a solid Bruins team. But even if there's a slight drop off in his numbers, he's still a huge upgrade from the Poulin/Nilsson two headed monster.
Just adding Halak will be a huge difference for the 2014-15 Islanders. Compared to the Islanders goaltenders the past five years, Halak will be a marked improvement:
|Year||Halak Save %||Islanders Save %|
*Injured. Played only 16 games
While fixing the NHL goaltending was the top priority, it was no secret that the organization's goaltending as a whole was less than impressive. Adding Leggio immediately improved that area at the AHL level.
Since returning from Finland in 2010, Leggio's numbers in the AHL improved every year, from a .911 Save % in 10-11 to a .924 Save % in 12-13. His numbers dropped a bit last season (.913 Save %), but was still better than Poulin's AHL numbers, and much better than those of Nilsson, Kenny Reiter, or Parker Milner.
Snow's signing of Leggio was just one of a few moves the Islanders made last week to improve the organization's goalie stable. Prior to the free agent period, Snow made two swings for the fences in the NHL Entry Draft, selecting Russian goalie Ilya Sorokin and Swedish goalie Linus Soderstrom.
By themselves, the moves don't seem like anything impressive. But as a whole, it's not hard to see that Snow seriously improved the Islanders organizational depth and talent between the pipes.
Goalie Depth Chart Below NHL Level:
|2014-15 Goalie||13-14 League||13-14 Save %||2013-14 Goalie||13-14 League||13-14 Save %|
|David Leggio||AHL||.913||Kevin Poulin||NHL, AHL||.898|
|Kevin Poulin||NHL, AHL||.898||Andres Nilsson||NHL, AHL||.899|
|Parker Milner||ECHL, AHL||.907||Ken Reiter||AHL||.897|
|Ilya Sorokin||KHL||.911||Parker Milner||ECHL, AHL||.907|
|Linus Soderstrom||SEL 2||.915||Eamon McAdam||NCAA||.882|
The prospects beyond the NHL are far from top notch. But at the same time, the cupboard isn't as bare as it was just one year ago.
Even without the first round magic Snow pulled off at the draft, the signings of Mikhail Grabovski or Nikolai Kulemin, or the possible trade to address the blueline, Garth Snow would have to be given a passing mark for his offseason.
Because he finally addressed the most glaring need of the organization. And he addressed it in a most thorough way.