Nikolai Khabibulin finished 45th out of 47 goalies in save percentage last season. His .890SP in 47 games actually improved after he came back from his injury; the first portion of the season, he went 15, .879 for the young Oilers. During that time, backup Devan Dubnyk was 4, .923 between the pipes.
In the year before he arrived in Edmonton, the man from Sverdlovsk finished 6th in the NHL among regulars with a .919SP. The Chicago team in front of him would win the Stanley just one season later with what could be described as very average goaltending.
How much improvement could we expect from Nikolai in front of a better team? Who knows? All we do know is the issue in front of us is a quite different one: in a sport where roster spots are given to only the very best available players, how much of a leash do the Edmonton Oilers have for their aging Russian?
- So it’s over? That’s my prediction. I think it’s reasonable.
- He could make a comeback you know. Sure, I just don’t think it’s reasonable. How many goalies his age (38) have a strong comeback season with a poor hockey club. It’s almost a perfect storm for burial at sea.
- So they send him to the minors? Nah, I don’t think so. The Oilers are fairly protective of the veterans they place with their developing kids.
- Well they can’t trade him. I expect they could, but the deal would have to be sweetened heavily and I’m not certain the Oilers would be wise to add picks or prospects.
- What are you suggesting? They just let him walk, make his own deal in Russia or Sweden or Finland.
- The Oilers still have to pay the money. Sure, and they have to go out and get another goalie.
- This is ridiculous. It’s like that scene in the Terminal. The one where they tell him to walk out the doors and he won’t? This is more like Papillon, at least in terms of desperation.
- Still ridiculous. More ridiculous than watching another season washed away?
- You’re putting too much blame on the goalie here. First, no I’m not. Second, you can’t fire the defensemen and the forwards are (for the most part) the future. So, the goalie’s gotta go.
- Why? NK played about 25% of his first season with Edmonton and lost the rest to injury. He made a bad choice on Super Bowl Sunday and then he came back and had a terrible season. When does this script begin to turn in the Oilers favor?
- Steve Tambellini has shown great faith in him. There are internet rumors that Dubnyk has been told he’ll start the season as a backup. The Oilers will be forced to play the best option available, and that is likely to be Dubnyk. Again, a quote from Tom Renney in regard to Khabibulin: “He better (play well). 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.”
- I hate it when you get certain about something. I can’t imagine this prediction biting me in the ass, but hey if it does I’ll be thrilled. Wanna bet?
- How are you so sure? He’s 38, coming off a bad season that was preceded by an injury season plus there’s some evidence he wasn’t exactly paying attention to his career during his injury season. I’ve yet to read any “Khabibulin is in the best shape of his life” stories and the coach will be (rightly) riding his ass all year long. PLUS it’s a shitty team.
- Could the script be any worse? Does he have shingles?
- Funny. Not really. This is a bad situation all around. Decisions like this one contribute to people losing their jobs.
- What do you mean? Steve Tambellini’s track record with the Oilers is going to take a big hit in the next 12 months (imo). There’s the mess that is the Smyth deal and then there’s the Khabibulin ending, all of which will land on ST’s doorstep.
- Why do we care? The person in charge of Tambellini’s future is Daryl Katz. Since taking over he has moved out coach MacT and moved Kevin Lowe into a position outside the GM’s chair (although he clearly still has influence). As long as the draft picks turn out and the future looks bright, Tambellini has some nice things on his resume. But if enough things go sideways, and there are a few here that could, then Steve Tambellini could be replaced.
- By whom? Don’t know yet?
- You always say Kevin Lowe. No, I think Lowe is tied to the Tambellini administrations and now is in fact Jim Devellano in this version of the Oilers. People who don’t know the meaning of that reference should read Hockeytown. Illitch replaced Devellano without ever firing him. I think the next change will see Lowe phased more into the background (at least in regard to decision making) and the new man will have the power to say no to Lowe. Now they need to find their Ken Holland.
- Is he in the organization? Maybe. Holland spent a long time in the scouting department and then spent another 7 years as scouting director. Then he was elevated to the GM’s job and has been there approximately forever.
- Could it be MBS? Maybe, I have no idea. It might be someone outside the organization, maybe someone in the Red Wing organization. I imagine Daryl Katz is at the point as owner where he talks to people and has an idea about how he’d like this thing to play out over the next several years.
- So ST isn’t the answer? We’ll see. Nikolai Khabibulin could help things a great deal by being somewhat useful this coming season.
- Which is why he’s here? Yes.