(Long Island, N.Y.) Although it seemed like an inevitable move for a long time, the New York Islanders admitting that the Rick DiPietro contract was a huge mistake still stings. The face of the franchise for a number of years and the team’s most popular jersey amongst their fan base has been an afterthought, but there was always that outside chance that he would stay healthy and recapture some of the glory that made him a one-time star in this town.
With DiPietro being placed on waivers this past week that is extremely improbable now. But because he cleared and accepted a demotion to AHL Bridgeport, it is the longest of long shots but not totally impossible. But did he bring this upon himself?
Being selected first overall in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft, DiPietro was looked at as the savior for a franchise that had fallen on hard times since the four consecutive Stanley Cup dynasty from the early 1980s became a distant memory.
Early on, it seemed that the organization had made the right choice by tabbing the American-born goaltender and trading Roberto Luongo. ‘DP’ was playing well and even started for the United States national hockey team in the 2006 Torino Winter Olympics. All of this prompted Islanders team owner Charles Wang to sign him to an unprecedented 15-year, $67.5 million contract extension, which in retrospect became the death-knell of both men.
Any athlete can run into a streak of bad luck injuries, but it’s amazingly coincidental that DiPietro began to break down right after that. It became a laundry list of the worst kind and worthy of head shaking when looking it over:
- *2006-07 (62 games played) – concussion (missed 7 games)
- *2007-08 (63 games played) – returned from offseason surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left hip. Left knee sprain (missed 3 games). Injured his hip during the NHL All-Star Game’s skills competition, requiring surgery (missed last 9 games).
- *2008-09 (5 games played) – returned from offseason surgery on his left knee. Played one period and had to then undergo a second knee surgery (missed 27 games). Was with the team for approximately one month before packing it in with swelling in his knee (missed the last 41 games).
- *2009-10 (8 games played) – underwent offseason knee surgery (missed the first 27 games). Played through pain but was shut down during the last month of the season due to knee swelling (missed 12 games).
- *2010-11 (26 games played) – played at the start of the season but was placed on injured reserve in December with a swollen knee. Returned shortly thereafter but injured his groin before returning. In February, he was involved in an on-ice brawl and received facial fractures and knee swelling resulting from a fight with Pittsburgh goaltender Brent Johnson (missed 20 games).
- *2011-12 (8 games played) – suffered a concussion during practice (missed 3 games). Injured his groin in November and underwent surgery for a related hernia, missing the rest of the season.
- *2012-13 (3 games played) – was placed on waivers and sent to AHL Bridgeport.
So now DiPietro – with eight years remaining on his contract – will try to clear his head and resurrect his career as a member of the Sound Tigers. With only 47 games played in the last five seasons, he will hardly be missed at the Nassau Coliseum, but there will always be questions if DiPietro kept himself in good condition after receiving the longest contract in Islanders’ history.
Sooner or later, one has to figure that bad luck will turn the other way. But if he did not get himself prepared physically to play in the NHL – especially at an expected high level – then it is certainly possible that DiPietro brought this upon himself.