(Long Island, NY) New York Islanders owner Charles Wang never expected this. At least not in his team’s first game of the season. On the heels of Wang inking goalie Rick DiPietro to a 15-year contract, the young netminder was shelled for six goals in Phoenix before being mercifully pulled by new head coach Ted Nolan.
The Islanders actually had a brief 1-0 lead on Miroslav Satan’s first period goal. The Coyotes then scored the next six of the contest to blow the game wide open.
DiPietro allowed the six goals on 32 shots. His teammates didn’t exactly help him out by committing 13 penalties. Back-up Mike Dunham took over in the third period and didn’t allow any goals.
When the exurbanite long-term deal was signed, it was widely scoffed at. Although DiPietro was a number one draft choice and has shown some promise, he is hardly a franchise player. Wang stated that DiPietro was going to be the backbone of the franchise and the layer that they were going to rebuild the team around.
Speculation was that Neil Smith was fired as the Isles’ General Manager because he disagreed with Wang on the length of the contract. Smith was reportedly set to offer the goaltender a four or five-year deal. Could this be considered one of the ‘philosophical differences’ that Wang said was the reason why he replaced Smith after only a few months with Garth Snow?
The Islanders have been a team that has not spent money and then spend too much in the wrong places. Alexi Yashin and Michael Peca received very generous contracts with little return. Yashin still remains and Peca has since departed. They have had front office changes that leave the critics and their fans scratching their heads.
One game does not a season make. But with the negative press the Islanders have received during the entire off-season, having their star goalie torched for six goals against a team that has not qualified fir the playoffs since 2002 was not a banner start.
The Islanders have tried all sorts of marketing tricks to build momentum leading up to the season. They even had a few players personally deliver season ticket packages to corporate sponsors. That is pretty unique, to put it kindly. Perhaps if they ran their organization properly, they could attract fans to the run-down Nassau Coliseum.
Long Islanders are longing for improvements to the team to even be a subtle reminder of the glory days. A franchise with such great history should not be struggling for this long. And with an albatross of a contract such as DiPietro’s, it may be some time before the winning returns.