The New York Islanders goaltending needs to improve to compete in the Metropolitan Division. The 2017-18 season begins in five weeks. However, many unanswered questions and concerns face the Islanders. The team is unsure where they are going to play in the long-term. They haven’t signed franchise center, John Tavares. He is widely regarded as one of the best centers in the game. Tavares is taking his time in contract negotiations, a fact that weighs heavy on Islanders fans, but not some of his teammates. While all of these are significant, the need for better goaltending is a paramount need.
New York Islanders Goaltending: Improvements Needed
Where do the Islanders begin?
The Islanders continue to invest in youth, and the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. To that end, the announcement of the signing of Chris Terreri as the goalie development coach for the Bridgeport Sound Tigers was welcome news. In an Islanders press release general manager Garth Snow said about Terreri:
“Chris has a vast amount of knowledge and experience, both as a player and a coach,” Islanders president and general manager Snow said. “We’re excited for him to work with our goalies at every level, as well as assist in our scouting process and to make his mark on this crucial position.”
It is a move highlighting the need to develop better goaltenders for the future of the organization. Terreri has served as the New Jersey Devils goaltending coach for the past eight seasons, working with elite level goalies such as Martin Broduer and Cory Schneider during that time.
He is also no stranger to the biggest stage of the NHL, having won the Stanley Cup twice as a player, in 1995 and 2000. Those qualities will serve the Islanders well in crafting and shaping their future goalies including, Charles Gibson,and one could expect Kristers Gudlevskis, picked up in a deal with the Tampa Bay Lighting, to spend time in with the Sound Tigers this season as well. There is a lot of upcoming contact for Terreri and the Islanders starters in training camp. The hope is that his expertise will benefit the Islanders starters during training camp.
What does that mean for this season?
For the past two seasons, the Islanders chose a strategy of goalie by committee. This strategy offered mixed results. Also, with three goalies on the roster, they gave up depth in other positions. That move left the hockey community shaking their collective head. The Jean-Francoise Berube experiment failed to pay dividends. This was shown in his subpar .889 save percentage in 527 minutes played. The Islanders dealt him to the Vegas Golden Knights. So, with a barley a month left before the season begins, the Islanders seem to have settled on two goalies.
Who’s number one?
Thomas Greiss, is the likely number one goalie. He needs a career season in 2017-18. Respectable, albeit pedestrian numbers in 2016-17, land him squarely in the middle of the NHL goalies. His save percentage of .913 in 2,814 minutes played needs to improve. The Islanders lost a number of one-goal games during the season.
His back up is likely to be Jaroslav Halak. Halak performed well for Team Europe during the 2016 World Cup of Hockey. Shortly after that he had several tough starts for the Islanders, and he was sent to the Bridgeport Sound Tigers. He remained there for the majority of the season. This action left many Islanders fans confused and frustrated. He returned to the Islanders in the latter part of the season backing up Greiss and had success. Halak completed the season with a .915 save percentage in 1,606 minutes played.
Both goalies can carry the Islanders for the season with the numbers that they put up last season. To do that, the forwards need to produce more goals. The team has made moves in that direction, with the acquisition of Jordan Eberle and up-and-comers like Josh Ho-Sang. That said, if the Islanders forwards score as little as they did last season, both goalies need to have career seasons to make the team competitive in the Metropolitan Division.