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Why the Islanders should call Evgeni Nabokov’s bluff and make him their No. 1 goalie

Aug 12, 2011, 12:15 PM EDT

Evgeni Nabokov AP

Let’s face it, Evgeni Nabokov and the New York Islanders might be saying all the right things, but it’s pretty tough to imagine the Russian netminder playing in Long Island after he spurned them last season. The situation carries the scent of a blind date gone horribly, horribly wrong.

Yet as awkward as the idea might be, the best way for the Islanders to get their money’s worth – not to mention to justify all the frustration – might just be to call Nabokov’s bluff. I’m not just talking about training camp, either; they should give Nabokov every chance to earn the starting job. If the Islanders really want to justify the murmurs that they could be a dark horse candidate for a playoff run next season, it’s hard to imagine them getting there with Al Montoya and Rick DiPietro as their starting duo.

Nabokov and the Isles might be better off together

Even beyond the immediate returns of adding an experienced, big-name goalie, the Islanders need to accept the fact that they probably won’t receive much value in return for Nabokov if they opt for a trade. (Please scratch this statement from the Internet record if the Islanders find someone as smitten with Nabokov as the Colorado Avalanche were with Semyon Varlamov, though.)

It’s not like there are a ton of better options for Nabokov, either. Would he really be better off fighting fellow aging Russian netminder Nikolai Khabibulin for playing time in Edmonton or trying to replace Ilya Bryzgalov in Phoenix? Barring injuries, Long Island might just be the best place for Nabokov to show off his wares, even if it would just be a glorified audition.

It would also be one of the most interesting stories of the 2011-12 season …

From a purely selfish standpoint, I must point out how inherently fascinating it would be if Nabokov became the Islanders’ No. 1 goalie. Many smart hockey people have wondered if Nabokov’s impressive career numbers came largely because of strong support from some exceptional San Jose Sharks teams, so carrying the Isles to the playoffs would make a heck of an impact on his legacy. It would be an unlikely and delightful underdog story if it actually worked out.

The best part could be that the scenario would be entertaining if the experiment ended up being a failure, too. Sure, that entertainment would be more of the “rubbernecking during a bad traffic accident” variety, but it would be hard to look away from that scene.


Again, it’s most likely that Nabokov’s time with the Islanders will be short. Maybe he’ll make it through training camp or even a few regular season games, but it’s tough to imagine him playing a whole season with the team. That being said, it would be awfully interesting if he did … and the Islanders might actually benefit the most from that option.

  1. jhitelman - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:22 PM

    I’d also like to see Nabokov as the starter, but I’m curious to know what DiPietro would think. I’m sure he’d sooner accept Montoya as his job-thief than Nabokov–a guy who didn’t even want to play there before know.

    I wonder how the dressing room would react.

    • jpelle82 - Aug 13, 2011 at 2:21 PM

      ol glass jaw dipietro should be more worried about staying healthy enough to be a backup. the guy blows

  2. jhitelman - Aug 12, 2011 at 12:37 PM

    That’s “before now” not “before know.” Long week.

  3. kingjoe1 - Aug 12, 2011 at 1:01 PM

    Garth Snow should be embarrassed. Why anyone would want to play for the Islanders is beyond me. They are the Bengals of the NHL.

    • derpdederpdederp - Aug 12, 2011 at 2:07 PM

      Garth Snow ruined Nabokovs chance to play for the cup last year. he should be embarrassed for once again showing he doesnt understand what his job entails. adding Nabokov midseason to the cellar-dwellers of the East makes absolutely no sense. if Snow wanted him so bad he couldve waited to sign him this past offseason when his 1-year deal with the Wings woulda been up. of course he knew hell would freeze over before Nabokov even considered playing on Long Island so he scooped him up and thwarted any chance the guy will have at winning in the NHL

      • cannonblast14 - Aug 12, 2011 at 3:49 PM

        boohoo. Its a fucking business. He knew the risk involved, Detroit knew the risk involved. They tried signing him for practically nothing, what do you want a team to do? O hey, lets just let him go to Detroit anyway because that would be nice to see Detroit get a really good goalie. NO. Not happening. Im sure there were other teams that threw in a claim for him as well.

      • derpdederpdederp - Aug 12, 2011 at 4:15 PM

        like I said, if Snow views Nabokov as such a key to the Isles success he couldve signed him during fee agnecy or offered him a contract out of the KHL. instead, once he saw there was a chance he would go to another team for a shot at the cup before his career ends, he scooped him up n one of the most illogical deals of the decade. Nabokov doesnt want to play for the Isles so why force him to? probably because Snow is as moronic as you

      • cannonblast14 - Aug 12, 2011 at 5:56 PM

        probably beacuse Nabokov was asking for a lot of money at the time and at that point Dipietro wasnt hurt. IF they went on a sweet run they still had a chance for playoffs at the time of trying to claim Nabokov and if you dont believe that, they needed to still look like a plausible NHL team. Detroit and Nabokov took the risk and it failed. There were other teams i am sure that put a claim in for him. No way he was going to pass through waivers at that price.

  4. spizzjr - Aug 12, 2011 at 2:38 PM


    • derpdederpdederp - Aug 12, 2011 at 2:46 PM

      I guess youre one of those that thinks just because how Snow picked him up was legal it was perfectly legitimate. it was a straight-up classless move

      • derpdederpdederp - Aug 12, 2011 at 2:55 PM

        if Snow wanted him so badly why didnt he sign him in the previous offseason or offer him a contract out of the KHL? oh thats right, because Nabokov has absolutely no desire to play for the Isles and Snow knows that

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