The New York Islanders erased decades of futility in net when Thomas Greiss and Jaroslav Halak gave the team a dependable duo between the pipes.
By Justin Weiss
Halak, 30, was given a four-year contract in the Summer of 2014. The plan was to ride the veteran netminder until the team’s prospects made their way to Brooklyn.
Halak performed admirably last season with the Isles, posting a franchise-record 38 wins and leading the young squad to the second round of the postseason.
Greiss, 30, was inked to a two-year deal before the season began. He was brought into solidify the goaltending position, especially after the team had a tumultuous experience with both Chad Johnson and Michal Neuvirth last season.
Greiss struggled in the preseason, and had fans speculating that Garth Snow and Jack Capuano would seek help in the pipeline from studs such as Linus Soderstrom, Ilya Sorokin, Stephon Williams, Christopher Gibson and Eamon McAdam.
Nothing ever transpired. The only goaltending controversy this season pertained to who deserved the starting role after both netminders played exceptionally well during the regular season.
With the exception of the occasional poor goal, Greiss played exceptionally well. If the jury wasn’t out before, they are out now: the Fussen, Germany native is a capable backup who has excellent puck-stopping ability and the ideal demeanor for the goaltending position.
In 41 games, Greiss performed surprisingly well: he posted a 2.36 goals-against average and .925 save percentage.
But numbers alone don’t do Greiss justice. When the odds were stacked against them, he lifted the Isles to their first second-round appearance in more than two-and-a-half decades. When Halak went down, he carried the team to victory.
The latter is of significance because Halak lost the starting job due to a late-season injury. Even before that, though, there was speculation that Greiss was playing himself into the starting role.
Halak’s season was filled with oddities. He improved his stickhandling ability and recuperated well, but was also injury prone and extremely inconsistent. He went on red-hot stretches, but also had fans begging for a change in net.
By the time the regular season had concluded, Halak had competed in less than fifty percent of the team’s games. He failed to make an appearance in the postseason, and ended up with a 18-3-4 record.
In The Pipeline:
Ilya Sorokin had one of the greatest seasons in KHL history for CSKA-Moscow. He posted a 1.06 GAA in 28 games for the professional club.
His contract for CSKA runs through 2017-18, so he’s not going to be adorning any blue and orange next season. Similarly, Linus Soderstrom, who was picked in the same draft and was named the MVP of the World Junior Championships, will likely remain in the minors for the next couple of seasons.
On the immediate level, both Christopher Gibson and Eamon McAdam had solid campaigns in 2015-16. That means that the Bridgeport Sound Tigers will have a crowded net.
So What’s Next?
Arthur Staple of Newsday speculated that the Isles might move on from Halak in the offseason. They have Jean-Francois Berube coming up, as well as a plethora of organizational depth.
— Arthur Staple (@StapeNewsday) March 24, 2016
If that doesn’t happen, here’s how the Isles will look: Halak’s locked up for two more seasons, while Greiss will be in a contract season. Berube and Gibson are restricted free agents, and Williams is poised to became an RFA in 2017-18.