It's not every day that a big name free agent signs with the Islanders. So when Jaroslav Halak agreed to a 4-year deal worth $18Mil fans far and wide were singing his praises.
Projected lineups: Halak-Halak-Halak Halak-Halak-Halak Halak-Halak-Halak Halak-Halak-Halak And that's my contribution for the day.— Chris Triantafilis (@christriants) July 21, 2014
But with great money, comes great responsibility... or something like that.
With what seems to have been a revolving door in net for the Islanders, since Rick DiPietro's career went off the deep-end, Halak has been the first goalie to step in and immediately be looked at as the goalie, and not just another stop-gap.
As refreshing as that may sound, Halak has a lot to live up to, as Islander fans have been known to grow impatient with lackluster performances in net [See Poulin, Kevin].
Though Halak is in many, if not all, Islander fan's good graces for signing a medium-length deal for relatively cheap, the 29-year old still has a lot to prove in my eyes.
A career S% of .918, spanning a total of 272 games, is nothing to pout about, as the only currently active goaltenders to have better save percentages are Tukka Rask (.928 in 196G), Henrik Lunqvist (.920 in 574G), Roberto Luongo (.919 in 317G) and Pekka Rinne (.918 in 317G). Off those four, three of them have been named Vezina finalists, two of them went on to win it (Rask and Hank).
Not too shabby right?
The question presented to Halak isn't "Can you provide at the NHL level?" because he obviously has proven he can. The question now is "Can you continue to do so, behind a slightly below average defense?"
We saw a, hate to say, mediocre team get dragged into the playoffs by Evgeni Nabakov back in 2013, who had .910S% and 2.50GAA, as he played 41 of a 48 game season.
Though getting the Islanders to their first playoff berth in 7 years [with help from a shortened season] Nabby's disastrous performance against Pittsburgh in the first round led to many fans giving up on the goalie that gave his all while donning the orange and blue.
Fast forward to this summer, with notable upgrades on offense, and slight improvements on defense; if Halak can provide similar numbers to Nabby's 12-13 year [though I am confident he can do better than Nabby's numbers that year] and do so for 50-60 games, he can be the catalyst for the Islanders 2nd playoff berth in 3 years.
Or 2nd in 8 years, if you want to be that guy.
But, god forbid, Halak sees regression in his level of play?
There is no saying just how well Halak will play this coming season, but many fans would not be surprised to see Garth work his magic and bring in a borderline elite goalie, just to see his talents regress and fall down the dark rabbit hole that is a stint with the New York Islanders.
Here's to a good season in net for Jaro,
As always, let me know what you think about Halak and the Islanders goalie situation in the comment section below.