Change is necessary.
While the New York Islanders are a franchise that has won four Stanley Cups, made the postseason numerous of other times and had Hall of Fame players in the organization, this is also a team that has been close to or at the bottom of the league many times, has had trouble making the playoffs and plays in a horrible arena (Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum).
Luckily for the Islanders, that last area will be changed after the 2014-15 season as the organization announced on Wednesday that they will be moving into the Barclay’s Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. While the arena will be new, the team and the logo will stay the same, which means the Islanders will bring an erratic history with them.
Part of the team’s history has been solid goaltending. When the Islanders’ were a dynasty, they had perhaps the best money goaltender in the game and when they built themselves into a playoff club in 2001-02, they did it because of the play of their netminder.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the top five goaltenders in Islanders’ history.
Billy Smith was one of the best goaltenders in Stanley Cup playoff history.
Smith led the Islanders to their only four Cups in franchise history (1980, 1981, 1982 and 1983), won a Conn Smythe Trophy as the league’s most valuable player in the postseason in 1983 and has great statistics (88 wins, 2.73 GAA, six shutouts). He’ll also go down as a netminder who shut down the likes of Wayne Gretzky, Mark Messier, Jari Kurri, and Paul Coffey en route to sweeping the upstart and next dynasty of the NHL, the Edmonton Oilers, in the 1983 Stanley Cup Final.
“Battlin’ Billy” was also a mighty fine goaltender in the regular season. Smith finished his career with 305 victories, 22 shutouts and a 3.17 GAA, which — considering the era in which he played — is more than solid. He’s also the first masked man to be credited with a goal.
Smith was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame 1993 and had his No. 31 Islanders jersey retired by New York that same year.
Before Billy Smith was the Islanders’ goaltender, current New Jersey Devils analyst Glenn Resch was the man between the pipes on Long Island.
He may not have had the numbers that Smith did, but Resch was more than an above-average goaltender. In 1974-75, he got the Islanders into the postseason by posting a record of 12-7-5 with three shutouts and a 2.47 GAA.
His fine play continued into the postseason that same year as he went 8-4 in helping the Islanders to erase 3-0 series deficit in the first round against the Pittsburgh Penguins and then again in a losing effort to the Philadelphia Flyers.
While with the Islanders, Resch was named to the all-star team twice, won a Cup in 1980, and put up impressive numbers with 157 wins, a 2.56 GAA and 25 shutouts.
Kelly Hrudey was with the Islanders for five-and-a-half seasons, but he will go down in team history for one particular postseason game.
In a game that is now known as the “Easter Epic,” Hrudey was the man between the pipes for the Islanders in Game 7 of the Patrick Division semifinals against the Washington Capitals in 1987. In that game, Hrudey was unbelievable in making 73 saves (a playoff record) and was the winning goaltender when Pat LaFontaine drilled a shot from the point and into the net after 68:47 of overtime to win the game 3-2 in the fourth OT, sending the Islanders to the next round.
As an Islander, Hrudey had 106 wins, a 3.47 GAA, six shutouts and a .889 save percentage.
While Smith was one of the main reasons why the team won Cups from 1980-84, the contributions by one particular goaltender should not go unnoticed.
This particular goaltender was Roland Melanson. In 1982-83, “Rollie the Goalie” started 44 games for the Islanders and did quite well (24-12-5, 2.66 GAA, and a shutout). Melanson’s strong play helped him and Smith to win the William Jennings Trophy for allowing the least amount of goals in the league.
Melanson, who won three Cups with the Islanders, shared regular-season goaltending duties with Smith the following year and played in 37 games. Melason again posted solid numbers, going 20-11-2 with a 3.27 GAA.
Much like Hrudey, there was another goaltender who played for the Islanders that is known for a particular postseason.
Glenn Healy was the Islanders’ netminder from 1989-90 through 1992-93. It was in his last season that Healy would leave his mark on the Islanders.
That season, the Isles surprised much of the NHL by finishing third in the tight Patrick Division and getting into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. The Islanders would end up surprising even more people when they made it all the way to the Wales Conference Final, only to lose the Montreal Canadiens in five games.
The main reason for the team’s success that postseason was Healy, whose strong play helped beat the Capitals in the first round and then the league-best Pittsburgh Penguins, a team featuring the likes of Mario Lemieux, Jaromir Jagr, Kevin Stevens, and Ron Francis.
These next two goaltenders may not have won Cups for the Islanders, but they certainly provided good enough goaltending on a consistent basis to help the team do everything they can to win a hockey game.
While his career as an Islander was short lived, Chris Osgood helped put the team back on the map in the early 2000s.
Osgood was acquired by the Islanders from the Detroit Red Wings at the beginning of the 2001-02 season. Once put between the pipes, he made them a better hockey team. That season, Osgood went 32-25-6 with a 2.50 GAA, a .910 save percentage and four shutouts, in getting the Islanders into the postseason for the first time since 1994.
“Ozzy” was traded to the Blues in the middle of the following season, but he showed the Islanders he could succeed on a team other than the Red Wings.
This Swedish netminder was the main man in goal for the Islanders for three losing seasons from 1996 to 1999, and yet his play never reflected that.
Tommy Salo was a good goaltender on Long Island. He posted GAAs of 2.82, 2.64, and 2.62, respectively, while also picking up 14 shutouts and posting respectable save percentages of .904, .906, and .904.