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06-11-2009, 10:17 PM

Snow must view DiPietro comeback as a bonus

Rick DiPietro played five games last season. Major surgery has been performed on his hips in each of the previous Springs. Although reliable sources report that DiPietroís hips are at 100% strength, it is his left knee that causes him still today to walk with a limp.

On Oct. 31 of last year, Dr. Elliott Hershman performed surgery on the goalie to repair a torn meniscus. It was the second such operation on the knee. Whether there has been a third, unannounced procedure is up for scrutiny. DiPietro was seen all over Long Island in April walking with the assistance of crutches.

All of the above made it all the more inconceivable that head coach Scott Gordon would recently declare that the key to the 2009-10 season was DiPietroís health. In a story with Greg Logan of Newsday three weeks ago, Gordon said:

To me, the most important thing is going to be Ricky. No matter who we draft, itís going to come down to what we do in net. No matter how good you are, youíre going to break down. You canít underestimate the value of the guy in net. You have to have a guy who is able to run with the ball. No matter who we draft, it gets overshadowed by whoís in net.

Itís possible Gordon was just building up the confidence of his ailing No. 1 goalie and wasnít really serious.

If the Islandersí plan for next season is to count on 50-60 games from DiPietro, thenÖno, itís not even necessary to complete that sentence. That would be insulting. There is no way the Islanders are doing anything but considering the complete return of health and form of DiPietro as gravy. Publicly, of course they have to say the right things. Privately, thereís simply no chance Garth Snow is telling himself he only needs a solid backup and a pair of good tries for Bridgeport.

The Islanders are not that delusional. They would be better with him, no question, but the Islandersí season does not depend on DiPietroís health. It cannot. It should not. No excuses.

Look, thereís a chance DiPietro can return to all-star form this season. No one is saying otherwise. But the Islanders have to view a possible comeback (what a story that would be - Masterton Injury Recovery Award, baby!) as a very nice bonus.

For the record, the Islanders will not comment on DiPietroís status, other than to point to Snowís remarks in April that the goalie will begin skating in August ďlike he usually does in getting ready for camp.Ē Since the end of the season, DiPietro has not been made available by the team for interviews.

DiPietro is not a scheduled guest at the teamís very popular Draft Party on June 26 and has not been utilized in team-hosted charity or promotional events. He did attend a fundraiser for the Long Island Childrenís Museum two weeks ago, where he was spotted by several Islanders fans walking with a limp. DiPietro has not returned a text in search of a basic statement on how he is feeling today.

Perhaps the Islanders are approaching this the way they should. Stay low-profile. Donít say anything. If DiPietro is strong in training camp, regard it as a happy surprise. That would be perfectly played, as long as they sign a B-plus NHL goaltender the first week in July and solid NHL backup soon after. Or make a trade.

Gordonís right. A strong No. 1 goaltender is a must. However, they can be found and developed from sources other than the first round of the draft or big-buck free agency. The 35-year old star goalie of the Boston Bruins was playing in Finland at age 30. The New Jersey Devils didnít miss a beat this season when Martin Brodeur went down, thanks in part to a career-long backup who was on the farm team of another organization just the year before.

The Islandersí revival in 2001-02 was backstopped by a No. 1 goaltender acquired in something they used to call the Waiver Draft. The Detroit Red Wings tomorrow could win their second Stanley Cup in a row with a goalie they placed on waivers earlier in the decade. (Yep, same guy). Not every effective goaltender in the league has the pedigree of Marc-Andre Fleury or Cam Ward.

Yes, we know. You need to build a better team around the goalie. With or without DiPietro, thatís the Islandersí plan anyway, isnít it?

i find it really interesting that the team will not say much on his condition nor allow media access to him.
publicly both the islanders and dp have been saying what you want to hear. that his hips and knees are going to be 100% by the start of training camp.

i guess we'll have to wait and see. if they draft a goalie in the first 2 rounds or sign one this july we'll have a better understanding of how the team is viewing his recovery.