Islanders deserve better


Over the weekend, the Islanders put in a claim on free agent goaltender Evgeni Nabokov, who had signed for the rest of the season with the Red Wings. Obviously looking to cash in and win a Cup after a failed stint with SKA St. Petersburgh of the KHL in which five years, $25 million weren’t enough, the former Shark has put himself in an unenviable situation.

By rejecting the Islanders after agent Don Meehan said his client would report anywhere for work, it reflects poorly on the 35 year-old Nabokov who guided San Jose to the Conference Finals twice. Even worse, if he did hang up on Islander GM Garth Snow and then speak to ESPN afterwards, it’s very unprofessional. The rules are what they are. It wouldn’t be fair to the other 29 teams if he just chose Detroit without the waiver rule in place. After all, he did leave the NHL to play in Russia before getting released by SKA. Even the veteran netminder was aware that this could happen.

I understand the rules,” Nabokov told ESPN.com. “We’re not stupid. We knew what was going on before we made the decision. But I made this decision because the goal was to play with Detroit.

If only it were that simple. You can’t just choose your destination without teams with poor records identifying if they want to pick the player up. The Islanders have a unique situation with Rick DiPietro in and out of the lineup and rookie Nathan Lawson on the mend with a left knee sprain. The organization doesn’t want to rush Kevin Poulin, wisely deciding to keep the 20 year-old former ’08 fifth round pick in Bridgeport where he can develop. So, it makes all the sense in the world for a team short on goalies to want Nabokov.

“I think I’m going to stay home for now, I’m sticking with my decision,” Nabokov echoed yesterday. “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.

“I was surprised they picked me up. I was like, ‘Wow, what’s the point?”‘

While it’s understandable why Nabokov doesn’t want to report due to the Islanders’ place in the standings, it is still blatant disrespect and lacks class. It shouldn’t be that easy for a player who returns to play on a winner with a chance. This isn’t fantasy. Mr. Nabokov needs a reality check.

“It’s a situation where I feel we got a talented player off waivers and we’d be thrilled to have him part of the organization,” Snow said. “He has a standard player’s contract with our organization.”

“I’m not going to speculate,” he added of whether Nabokov changes his mind a la Adam Banks in The Mighty Ducks. “I’m looking forward to having him in an Islanders uniform. We can cross those bridges when we get there. I’m not there yet.”

Do you think a kid who gets traded midseason would not want to play hockey? Come on. The Islanders can toll the contract and have Nabokov owe them a season next Fall or place him on waivers again. I’d suspend him without pay. It’s not right what he’s doing and childish.

We’ll see what happens.

About Derek Felix

Derek Felix is sports blogger whose previous experience included separate stints at ESPN as a stat researcher for NHL and WNBA telecasts. The Staten Island native also interned for or hockey historian Stan Fischler and worked behind the scenes for MSG as a production assistant on New Jersey Devil telecasts. An avid New York sports fan who enjoys covering events, writing, concerts, movies and the outdoors, Derek has covered consecutive Staten Island Yankees NY Penn League championships in '05 and '06. He also scored Berkeley Carroll high school basketball games from '06-14 and provided an outlet for the Park Slope school's student athletes. Hitting Back gives them the publicity they deserve. In his free time, he also attends Ranger games and is a loyal St. John's alum with a sports management degree. The Battle Of New York administrator and chief editor can be followed below on Twitter and Facebook.
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