Welcome to the 1st installment of “The Man Behind the Mask” series. Throughout the course of the year, we will be taking a look at the players who mean the most to the game. The Goalies. Our first article will be on none other then New York Islanders goaltender Dwayne Roloson.
In 27 games played this season the 40 year old netminder for the Islanders has been able to obtain points in all but seven of his starts. He has helped the Islanders, currently, to exceed expectations. Although the season is still closing in on the half way mark, the Islanders have a lot to prove but Roloson has provided more then enough of a boost to have the Islanders squeak into the playoffs.
Plenty of hockey left to play for Roloson and his Islanders this season and at this point anything is possible. Who knew that Roloson would be the veteran piece to have these New York Islanders, projected to be a lottery pick team again, fighting for a playoff spot? Aside from Garth Snow, no one.
Roloson brings a history worth discussing to Long Island.
Undrafted by any National Hockey League team out of college, Roloson began his professional career by signing with the Calgary Flames on July 4th, 1994. A Hobey Baker nominee and an NCAA All-American while attending the University of Massachusetts Lowell made some wonder why he went undrafted.
The Flames came calling, and Roloson would spend two and a half seasons with their AHL affiliate, the St. John’s Flames. In 1996-97, Roloson split time between the AHL and NHL. He played in 31 games for the Flames that year, posting a 9-14-3 record with a .897 save percentage and a 2.89 goals against average. His second pro season didn’t fair much better. In 1997-98 he posted a record of 11-16-8 with a .890 save percentage and a 2.99 goals against average.
In 1998-99, Roli would be traded to the Buffalo Sabres to back up Dominic Hasek. In his two years in Buffalo, Roloson would appear in 32 games total. The NHL would then expand the league and after two years with the Sabres, Roloson would be left unprotected by Buffalo and was claimed by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the 2000 NHL Expansion Draft. He would not sign with the Blue Jackets and opted to sign with the AHL affiliate of the St. Louis Blues, the Worcester IceCats.
Giving himself one more shot at playing in the NHL, Roloson put up decent numbers with Worcester and found himself signing with the Minnesota Wild in 2001.
In 2002-03 with the Wild, Roloson split time with Manny Fernandez and both helped the Wild into the playoffs and to advance to the Western Conference finals that year. Roloson was named to the Western Conference All-Star team, despite splitting time with Fernandez, and was also awarded the Roger Crozier Saving Grace award for having the NHL’s best save percentage.
The lockout season of 2004-05 would see Roloson play overseas and then once the NHL resumed, he was right back with the Wild in 2005-06. This was until GM Kevin Lowe of the Edmonton Oilers sent a first round pick to the Wild to acquire Roloson. Oilers nation would call for Lowe’s head; trading a first round pick to a division rival was unheard of. Not sure what to do, Oilers fans would soon be quieted when Rolson would lead the Oilers to the Stanley Cup finals in 2006. Unfortunately for Roloson he sustained an injury during the cup finals that year. Oilers fans, and Roloson alike will never know if it would have been a championship year. He was 12-5 before injuring his leg, most likely causing the Oilers to lose in the finals.
After three and a half seasons with the Oilers both parties decided to part ways. Roli went ahead and tested the free agent market. In search of security, and more then just a one year deal, it wouldn’t take long for Roloson to find a new home.
On Juy 1st, 2009 Garth Snow, General Manager of the New York Islanders acquired Roloson to be the starting goalie for the New York Islanders. This signing in itself has turned into one of the better things the Islanders have done in a few years.Roloson has the Islanders fighting to prove the “experts” wrong and make the playoffs. His play, at 40, has been better then it has been in his entire career. His numbers and record are more than average. On top of that, it’s a two year deal so Roloson will still have a home as a 41 year old player with the Islanders next year. A great insurance policy and quite a mentor for young goalie Rick DiPietro. The Nassau Coliseums chants of “Roli” are louder each and every game, and Islanders fans have found a love for their new number one goalie.
No matter what type of outcome is on the horizon Roloson has a lot to be proud of. He has been a fantastic story with a very nice career to look back on. Sure, there is no Stanley Cup to his credit and that is one unfortunate situation but he is a National Hockey League player with 11 NHL seasons under his belt.
A professional, and a class act, Roloson will not go out as just another “player” to this great game.
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