The Next One, for a multitude of reasons, may be on his way out.
The 126th pick in 2008 was seen to be the heir apparent to the Islanders crease. An eventually-strong prospect in the QMJHL, he finished his tenure in Victoriaville nearly ready to fight for an NHL job. Three years in Bridgeport showed that he had the physical talents to make it in professional hockey but he mind was the cog that always failed first. Yours would too if you were told that the incumbent was faltering and you were merely an #3 waiting to take over. But there was always something in the way and that meant Poulin would be the Islanders’ #3 and the Sound Tigers’ #1.
One fateful February day saw the promotion to the big club. This was it, the moment everyone was hoping to see. The Next One was an Islander. it was statistically his worst professional season. Yet, that’s expected.
Twice playing backup to a near-40yo starter who was declining steadily, Poulin looked every bit the Tweener he wasn’t supposed to be. The final year of his entry-level contract was spent behind an abysmal defense and a two-trick pony offense. While a young goalie should struggle in that situation, he was atrocious at times. The mental lapses were gobsmackingly bad.
Poulin has made it clear he wants an NHL job, while Garth Snow sees him developing in Bridgeport for another year or two which is why Poulin was given a Qualifying Offer this summer, bumping his 2013-14 salary of $577,500 to $635,250 (via CapGeek). Why Poulin has chosen to take the Islanders to arbitration is curious. His statistics have steadily deteriorated, the quality of his decision-making is questionable, and his ability to sustain at a post-AHL level is inconsistent at best. He’s a #3 goalie until proven otherwise, good or bad.
Poulin should also be mindful of the track record Islanders goalies have in arbitration. It was long ago and far away, but let us remind him of Tommy Salo. Regardless of history’s ghosts, he should take whatever the arbiter awards. He’s not Chad Johnson but he can put up a fight to make Snow look twice. If indeed the backup situation is set and Poulin isn’t the future anymore, he can always play his way out of the organization. The team that badly needed a goaltending overhaul, and not named the New York Islanders, is the Winnipeg Jets. The only goalies under contract in Winnipeg are Ondrej Pavelec and Michael Hutchinson. Pavelec is beyond salvage except Kevin Cheveldayoff doesn’t know it, and Al Montoya took his Cuban talents to South Beach. Jets 2.0 would be the perfect landing spot for Poulin to reassert his himself in the NHL.