Islanders Better Hope That Lehner Is The Answer in Goal
By Patrick Hoffman
One of the Islanders' biggest problems since the 80's is their goaltending.
Ilanders have not had a true number one netminder since Billy Smith. If you're counting at home, that's well over 30 fucking years. No wonder the team has missed the playoffs so much since then.
On July 4, the team went out and signed perhaps the best goaltender on a pretty thin UFA goalie market in Robin Lehner on a one-year deal. It was clear that the franchise needed a new goaltender so bringing on Lehner on the surface seems pretty good.
For starters, he is just 26 years old. This means that he has not in his prime yet and with only 219 career games played, has a ton of miles left in him.
Secondly, since the contract is just for one year, Lehner should be highly motivated to have a strong season. Not only would a strong season cement himself another contract, but there is a good possibility that there would be several teams willing to pay him big bucks to be a part of their future between the pipes.
Lehner also isn't a bad goaltender. Sure, he had a 3.01 GAA last season, but he was able to post a .908 save percentage on a very bad Buffalo Sabres hockey club.
With all of that said, however, there is going to be a lot of pressure on both the organization and Lehner to make this work. The team does not have any good upcoming goaltenders and with Thomas Greiss now the back-up, Lehner is going to need to play a lot of games to help this team win.
If I'm the Islanders, this would worry me a bit. Lehner has an injury history, has yet to establish any kind of consistency in this league, and he will be playing behind a very young defensive group that is prone to make a lot of mistakes.
What I would also be concerned with is what if this does not work out? Yes, Lou Lamoriello may be great at making deals and signing key guys, but when it comes to goaltenders, it is a whole different ball game. Consistent and reliable number one goaltenders are not easy to come by and I'm sure that given the way the Islanders play defense, no masked man is going to jump at the chance to go to Long Island.
On paper, this signing looks great and could even be a steal. Unfortunately for the Isles and their fans, they need to hope it goes smoothly because if it doesn't, their most important position will once again be garbage.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.