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A revolving door of goaltenders spun fast for the New York Islanders in the 2010-11 season.
The Islanders were still trying to figure out the future of their organization. The ’90s brought a failed rebrand and plenty of time in the basement of the NHL. And the early 2000s was more of the same, with the exception of Peter Laviolette’s 2001-02 Islanders.
In the second season of the John Tavares era, the Islanders drafted forward Nino Niederreiter with the fifth overall pick in the 2010 NHL Draft as they looked to build on their future. Part of that future was the on-going negotiations that late owner, Charles Wang, continued to have regarding the Lighthouse Project.
Garth Snow, the former general manager of the Islanders, made the decision to move on from head coach Scott Gordon just a month into play, naming Bridgeport Sound Tigers’ (AHL) head coach, Jack Capuano, as their interim head coach. Additionally, the organization was still trying to justify making Rick DiPietro their first overall pick in 2000 and signing him to a mega-deal on September 12, 2006.
With the inability to stay healthy, DiPietro’s absence from the Islanders started the carousel of goaltenders that stood in the crease in the 2010-11 season. Here’s a look at DiPietro and the five other goaltenders during the 2010-11 season.
Currently, half of the goalie tandem on the Edmonton Oilers, Mikko Koskinen’s career started with the Islanders, as they drafted him 31st overall in 2009. After he signed a three-year deal on July 13th, the organization assigned him to the Sound Tigers to start the year. He suffered a torn labrum after just three starts and was unavailable for the majority of the season.
Koskinen made his NHL debut on Feb. 8th, 2011, against the Toronto Maple Leafs, but the Islanders couldn’t secure a victory, losing 5-3. Two days later, against the Montreal Canadiens, he notched his first NHL win in a 4-3 shootout victory. In four appearances in the 2010-11 season, the Finnish rookie went 2-1-0, with a 4.33 goals against average (GAA) and a .873 save percentage (SV%).
The following season, Koskinen returned to Finland, signing a contract with Kalevan Pallo of the Finnish Elite League. After making a name for himself overseas and winning the Gagarin Cup in the KHL, he returned to the NHL on May 1st, 2018, signing a one-year, $2.5 million contract with the Oilers.
The undrafted, goaltending journeyman signed a one-year, $500,000 contract with the Islanders in August of 2009 after an impressive campaign with the Sound Tigers the season prior.
Lawson posted a 19-9-2 record with a .927 SV% and a 2.16 GAA in 31 AHL games during the 2008-09 season. In his first nine games in the AHL, he posted an unbeaten 8-0-1 record and was named an AHL All-Rookie at the conclusion of the season.
“Nathan had an impressive season last year in Bridgeport,” said Garth Snow, Islanders General Manager. “His competitiveness increases our organizational goaltending depth.”
It appeared as though the Islanders might have had a diamond in the rough on their hands. Fast forward to Dec. 18th, 2010, and Lawson made his NHL debut with the Islanders in a 4-3 shootout loss to the Phoenix Coyotes.
Lawson appeared in nine more games after his debut and posted a 1-4 record. A 4.06 GAA and .893 SV% wasn’t enough to keep Lawson on Long Island for the following season, and he left for the Canadiens in July of 2011 on a one-year, two-way contract.
The Islanders selected Kevin Poulin in the fifth round (126th overall) of the 2008 NHL Draft. He stayed in the QMJHL after they drafted him, manning the net for the Victoriaville Tigres, making a name for himself at the CHL level. In his final year of major junior in 2010, the Quebec native posted 2.63 GAA and .916 SV%, his best career QMJHL numbers.
Poulin began the 2010-11 season as the Sound Tigers’ starting goaltender. However, after another DiPietro injury, he was recalled to make his NHL debut. In seven starts and 10 appearances that season, Poulin recorded a 4-2 record with an impressive 2.44 GAA and .924 SV%, giving the rebuilding Islanders club something to be excited about.
As an Islander, Poulin is best remembered for replacing Evgeni Nabokov in the 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs in Game 1 and Game 5 against the Pittsburgh Penguins. He finished the playoff series with a 1.15 GAA and .933 SV%. On Sept. 27, 2015, the Islanders placed Poulin on waivers for assignment to the AHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning would end up claiming him.
Perhaps one of the better stories for the Islanders in the 2010-11 season, Al Montoya came to the team in exchange for a sixth-round pick to the Phoenix Coyotes. Still, without DiPietro, Poulin suffered an injury that saw the Islanders in desperate need of a goaltender. Therefore, Montoya was provided with the opportunity for regular NHL minutes for the first time in his career.
In 21 games, Montoya posted a 9–5–5 record with a 2.23 GAA, .921 SV% and one shutout. After an impressive run, Snow extended Montoya’s stay on Long Island with a one-year contract. However, the second run was not as impressive.
Montoya recorded a 9–11–5 record during the 2011–12 season, with a 3.10 GAA and .893 SV%. The following summer, he would sign a one-year contract to be the backup goaltender for the Winnipeg Jets.
Despite being a Hobey Baker Award nominee, Dwayne Roloson went undrafted after graduating from the University of Massachusetts Lowell. Yet another career journeyman, the Ontario native found his way to the Islanders late in his career.
After rejecting a one-year, $3 million offer from the Oilers, Roloson signed with the Islanders for two-years, $5 million. He’s best known as an Islander for when he made 58 saves on 61 shots in a 4–3 overtime win over the Toronto Maple Leafs. The 58 saves were a career-high and broke the Islander club record of 56 held by DiPietro.
Despite an ugly 6-13-1 record in the 2010-11 season, Roloson sported an impressive 2.64 GAA and .916 SV%. That was enough for Tampa Bay Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman to pick up the phone and inquire about the veteran goaltender.
Snow and Yzerman wound up striking a deal, and on New Year’s Day 2011, Roloson was on his way to Tampa Bay in exchange for defenseman Ty Wishart. Roloson would help the Lightning advance to the Eastern Conference Finals that year, but the Bostons Bruins would ultimately eliminate them.
Roloson would play one final year with the Lightning before calling it a career at 42 years old.
Part of the reason the Islanders needed so many goaltenders in the 2010-11 season is that DiPietro had such a hard time staying healthy.
Platooning with Roloson, it appeared DiPietro had been in the best health he’s been in for years. However, knee swelling in December sent him to injured reserve, but not for long, as he returned later that month. Roloson had taken over in the crease, and the former first overall draft pick served mainly as a backup.
Still, within the same month, Roloson was shipped to Tampa Bay, and DiPietro was back in the crease. However, on Feb. 2nd, 2011, the Maine native took part in what Islander fans refer to as “Fight Night at the Coliseum.”
DiPietro suffered a broken jaw as a result of the left hook from Penguins’ goaltender Chris Johnston, and that kept him sidelined for weeks. Additionally, he suffered from more knee swelling, but it is unknown if the swelling came as a result of the fight.
DiPietro eventually returned to finish the season, this time wearing a cage and helmet combo, much like former Islander goaltender Chris Osgood. Injuries were too much for DiPietro, so much so that it earned him the nickname “Rickety.”
After three more seasons, including one stint with the Charlotte Checkers, DiPietro was forced to retire from hockey. Now he can be found as a talk show host in New York City at ESPN 98.7.
It’s safe to say that the Islanders were on the naughty list for the 2010-11 season. A carousel of goaltenders was a major factor for the rough year on Long Island. Luckily, that was 10 seasons ago, and the Isles find themselves on the nice list in more recent years.
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James is a THW New York Islanders writer and podcast host of Nassaumen Hockey Podcast. A trusted source for Islanders content for many years at THW, James is passionate about keeping Islander fans up to date on the latest in Islanders news. Other content contributions also include his Co-Editor-in-Chief status for NYIslesBlog.com. For interview requests or to provide content info, follow James on Twitter.