As you may have seen already, ESPN’s Pierre LeBrun spoke Sunday with recent Islanders’ “addition” Evgeni Nabokov and the veteran goalie says he fully intends to remain at his home in California and not report to Long Island.
From LeBrun’s article:
"I think I'm going to stay home for now, I'm sticking with my decision," Nabokov told ESPN.com from his home in San Jose, Calif. "It's nothing against the Islanders and their organization. It's nothing to do with that. It's just that I'm at the point in my career where I want to help a team win in the playoffs. I don't see how I could help the Islanders or what I could do for them. It doesn't make a lot of sense to me. And I hope they understand that."
The article concludes with the goalie voicing his bewilderment as to why the Islanders would make a claim on him.
"I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, 'Wow, what's the point?'''
So what was the point? It was obvious that Nabokov wanted to play for a playoff contender when he signed with Detroit. Moreover, the Islanders’ goalie situation is the least of the issues keeping the club near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. So why bother?
Well, it turns out the Islanders are still, you know, trying to win hockey games. (Incredible, I know.) Was it a long shot that Nabokov would join a team on the outside of the playoff race? Probably. Did it muck things up for both Detroit and Nabokov? Sure seems that way. But this isn't about Detroit and it's not even about Nabokov. Snow was more concerned with how the move would help his team. And here’s how it would do so.
By bringing in Nabokov in the wake of Nathan Lawson’s injury, he could return upcoming 20-year-old netminder Kevin Poulin to Bridgeport, where he could continue his development. Moreover, he could alleviate the minutes of the oft-injured Rick DiPietro without worrying about leaving any mental scarring on Poulin (who has seen 181 shots in about 312 minutes of ice time with the Isles).
And Nabokov comes cheap. The franchise, for better or worse, has decided it’s not going to break the bank on player salaries just yet and the Russian goalie’s $570K contract certainly fits that financial framework.
Was Snow overly optimistic about the situation? Perhaps. Is this a mess at the moment? Yes. But should Snow have just sat on his hands and politely deferred to Detroit? Should he give up trying to get the goalie to report to Long Island? Please.
The Islanders may still be rebuilding, but Snow is still responsible for putting as good a team on the ice as he can. He owes that to the team’s current players. He owes it to their current fans. And heck, it's literally the definition of his job. The move may not have worked out yet, it may never work out, and arguably Snow should have known the outcome before he made the claim, but I don’t think you can fault the effort.
In other news, the Islanders continued to help promote the game of hockey with the fourth annual Lighthouse International Youth Hockey Tournament this past weekend.
Puck Daddy writes that Nabokov's behavior (including hanging up on Garth Snow), is drawing criticism.
The press may want to consider filing their game stories from back at their hotel. Take this experience from Mike Harrington of the Buffalo News.