The Edmonton Oilers enter camp with a veteran miles past prime and a young goalie who has yet to prove himself as an NHL starter. They also have some AHL depth and one of Yann Danis or David LeNeveu could see action.
The Oilers goaltending is in a dreadful state of affairs and it is a ridiculous place to be at this time. Entering the summer, the Oilers had needs in several areas, but goaltending should have been front and center.
This alignment doesn’t give Dubnyk the mentor who can step in for a couple of weeks and also doesn’t supply the coach with any options should the young man struggle and the veteran prove unable to hold the fort. Tom Renney doesn’t have a lot of moves on this chessboard.
Clearly management decided it was best to stay the course. THAT decision is beyond curious. There’s a point at which the idea of a comeback season from an aged veteran holds little or no value even if it happens.
The Oilers entering training camp with Nikolai Khabibulin as their starter is about like the Cleveland Indians trading for Boog Powell in 1975. Even if it works out (and it did) so what?
- So he’s the starter? I think he’ll start the season in a backup role, but Dubnyk will eventually win the day. The bigger question, and the one we’ll have to wait an entire year to answer, is “who will be Dubnyk’s partner?” and that’s a much more interesting question.
- Who should it be? I’d take a chance on Bob in Philly. After that, I think the Oilers may end up doing business with Vancouver or Los Angeles.
- So the numbers: about the same as last season? Yes, but even if Dubnyk can repeat last year I think that’s progress. Dubnyk is a bit of a special case in that the next good team he plays for might be the first one. I don’t think this team is going to be good; posting a .917 SP in front of this bunch is a fine season for a young goalie.
- But do you think it’s progress? The more he can establish himself in the NHL the less coach Renney will worry over him. I don’t think an NHL coach gets up in the morning and says “wish I had an unproven rookie in goal” so it takes time to earn trust.
- What’s the best thing you can say about him? He finished 4th in rookie SP (.916) in a pretty strong year for goaltenders. Vancouver’s Schneider was well ahead of the field, but Dubnyk was in a group with James Reimer, Corey Crawford and a few others. It was pretty good company and Dubnyk was playing on a much worse team. He also had an impressive start to the season as a backup, showing he can perform in that role if required.
- So, progress isn’t in a straight line? Goalies can sometimes sway in one direction from year to year, but Dubnyk has been fairly consistent in the last few years. .904, .906, .915 and .916 with subpar teams over the last several seasons. This last season–his best SP–was at the highest level on a poor team.
- He lets in bad goals. Yes, but remember he’s not a finished product and there’s room to get better. And without being a dink, NK let in some outrageous goals last season.
- Why is he so raw? Dubnyk is a big goalie even by today’s standards. He’s 6.06, 200 pounds and although he plays shooters well he’s also prone to lose the angle or commit too soon. This happens to all younger goaltenders and DD should give up fewer of those types of goals as he matures and his feet get calmer.
- This big man thing. Any comparables? Well, I can say that very few goaltenders emerge from junior and step in with the ability to be better than NHL average. John Davidson did, Dryden did too but he was 23. It’s a tough gig, and for big men catching up with the speed, pinpoint passing and slick dekes is like trying to catch the wind.
- Does Renney believe in him? I don’t know that coach Renney has a choice. Earlier this summer, he had this to say about Khabibulin’s ability to come in and play well: “He better. No one knows that better than Khabbi does. My exit interview with him was very poignant. He knows what is in front of him and should he not be able to seize that then the dynamic changes and he’s well aware of that.”
- So you’re thinking Dubnyk starts at some point? Yes.
- When? November. By then the playoffs will be a distant bell.
- Why are the Oilers so stubborn on Khabibulin? Lots of reasons, I’d guess. The owner paid Souray in full and then bought him out, and I can’t imagine Steve Tambellini wants the same outcome for someone he hired.
- Why would it matter? Steve Tambellini (each and every time he was hired) was brought in to avoid Souray-level errors. That’s why Nikolai Khabibulin is still here. The Oilers are creating their own reality for 11-12. Nikolai Khabibulin will be the starter because the Oilers said so.
- Anything else? I imagine the Oilers want this team to be a smoking unit when they hit that new arena, 30 games of an aged veteran might serve as an effective denver boot.
- Isn’t that illegal? Ask the Pittsburgh Penguins about how many fines they paid while punting entire seasons.
- How much will NK play? Stay tuned.