The mere mention of his name brings groans from Isles fans, and snickers from opposing teams’ fans. But, is this really fair? Let’s think about this for a second. Does anybody really WANT to fail? Of course not!
Some may say Rick DiPietro‘s bravado and cockiness caught up to him in the end, because he was never humble enough to accept his failures and try to improve. But what was the real issue with Rick?
His numbers were better than average, and he could have been something special. What if DP actually had some offense behind him during those years? When you don’t have a goal scorer who can net more than 25 goals, you are going to have trouble shouldering the load, as DiPietro did. Maybe it’s time to shift the blame for his failures from just him to everyone as a whole.
Isles fans, as well as DiPietro himself, had huge expectations for the number 1 overall pick in the 2000 NHL Entry Draft. As he has said, his body just let him down. But, was he really as bad as the overall consensus seems to be? People seem to remember the latter part of his career when he was oft injured, and not very good. But, there is a reason this guy was a #1 overall draft pick.
The biggest thing with DP was his contract. People seem to blame him for signing a huge 15 year deal in 2006. That really isn’t something you can blame someone for per se. If someone offered you job security, and $67.5M, what are you going to do? Turn it down? Of course not! You’re going to say oh heck yeah! Where do I sign?
Before I get ahead of myself however, let’s back up for a second and journey into the past.
The Isles were nothing to write home about the first few years after Rick DiPietro was drafted. Let’s face it, they were downright horrendous. But, DiPietro was looked at as the Islanders’ savior, waiting in the wings. He was the top overall pick, he has to be something special. Despite people’s foggy memories, he actually did not disappoint when he was called upon.
In his first full season, 2003-04, he played 50 games and has a 2.36 GAA with a .911 Save Percentage. Wins are meaningless to talk about, because as a goalie, he can only control so much. Offense has a big part in that as well. Led by leading scorer Mariusz Czerkawski with 25 goals, the Isles did make the playoffs that season. They would lose in 5 games to Tampa Bay, but Rick DiPietro had a very solid 2.18 GAA.
After the lockout cancelled all of 2004-05, DiPietro would come back as the Islanders’ top netminder in 2005-06. His stellar play would lead him to be the number 1 US Olympic goaltender in 2006. Although he played well, with a 2.28 GAA, he went 1-3 in the tournament. The NHL season, however, didn’t treat him as well, as he wound up the year with a 3.02 GAA and a .900 Save Percentage.
The next year, DP would return to the Isles and be in top form, and remain so through the end of the 2008 season, with some exceptions. He suffered his first concussion in March of 2007 and missed all but 4 games the rest of the way. In the off season he also had a torn labrum in his hip repaired.
He started the 2008 All-Star Game and wound up hurting himself in the skills competition. I clearly remember hearing him say “I think I just felt something pop.” He was right. By the time March rolled around, he needed surgery on his hip, again.
The rest of the injuries are not even worth mentioning because he would never play meaningful minutes for the Isles again.
Despite all the injuries, DiPietro continued to put up solid numbers. In 2006-07, he had a 2.58 GAA and .919 Save Percentage. In 2007-08, the last time he played more than 5 games for the Islanders, he posted a 2.82 GAA and .902 Save Percentage. Again, all solid numbers.
So why was he never successful (when he was healthy)?
Look at the goal numbers for these seasons. In his first season, the Isles did put up a decent amount of offense with 237 goals for, but it was a down year overall for offense. That 237 goals scored would have placed them down at the bottom of the league the next season. In fact, in 2005-06, the Isles only managed 230 goals. That was good for 5th worst in the league. So, you can see the definitive difference.
The offensive numbers would improve in 2006-07, as Jason Blake would net 40 goals for the playoff bound Islanders. But, even then, the team was just a middle of the pack offense, as the total NHL offense was again up.
In 2007-08, DiPietro’s last year, the bottom dropped out. The Islanders managed just 193 goals. That was good for 2nd worst in the league, by a single goal.
So, when you look at the offensive numbers, and what DiPietro faced on a game by game basis, it’s hard to blame him for everything that went wrong with this franchise in the past decade plus. Maybe a better offense, and better defense could have stopped him from getting hurt. Who knows? We could play the what if game all day long.
The bottom line is this, the hatred of this man is just silly at this point. It needs to stop. He has moved on, as have the Islanders. The Isles have a couple of new goaltending prospects that they drafted this past June. They will try to develop them and see what happens from there.
There are few people who wanted to bring the Cup home to Long Island more than Ricky. He lived and breathed Islanders hockey as much as anyone. He was, and likely still is, just as disappointed that things did not work out for him here as any one of us. I am positive that seeing Henrik Lundqvist tending goal in the Stanley Cup Finals last season irked him as much as it did any Islanders fan.
So, no matter what Mr. DiPietro does in the future, I, for one, wish him well and hope that we can stop hating on a guy who always had nothing but love for our beloved franchise.