The Top-Steppers (Goal)

This is Don Stanhouse. Earl Weaver called him a “Top-Stepper” because he was so wild on the mound that poor old Earl spent most innings on the top step of the dugout. Usually with a righty and a lefty warming up in the bullpen. Much like Mitch Williams a generation later, Stanhouse was the kind of guy who started the 9th by getting two quick outs, then walked the bases loaded before giving up a deep fly the CF raced to and caught at the wall. Earl also called him “Full-pack” because, as legend had it, Earl would smoke a pack every time Stanhouse came into the game.

Goalies are a little like closers. If they let in too many easy chances they can create anxiety and suck the life out of a team. I think the Edmonton Oilers had some of that going on last season, along with the injuries and illness and Pat Quinn’s “line matching.”

Goal: Nikolai Khabibulin (.909) is the starter and he’ll play as much as his health and other events in his life allow. Jeff Deslauriers (.901) spent much of last season as the starting goaltender and would have to be the most likely candidate for 2nd goalie status in a normal season. Devan Dubnyk (.889) is a big man whose technical skills are better than JDD’s (from what we’re told) and that might be enough to get him the second job. He played very well in March and April, possibly edging past Deslauriers on the depth chart.

Needs in Goal: The Oilers need one of these young men to move from “top-stepper” into the range where coach and team can count on them. It was painful to watch all of the soft goals against last season; these two young goalies are the most promising in the system and really there’s no help coming anytime soon.

Khabibulin will clearly be the starter, and Steve Tambellini has suggested in the past that the club will be dealing one of the other two (both waiver eligible) during the summer. If he doesn’t trade one of JDD and DD, we can assume the organization is very worried about the possibility that Khabibulin may have some real legal worries by the fall.

One final item: the Oilers will have a massive advantage in one important area if they run the young goalies out there once out of the playoffs. They have a very good chance of sinking like a stone. Again.

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