Apropos of Nothing

Jonathan Willis
October 06 2008 01:55PM

It’s been a painful process watching the development of Oilers’ goaltenders. The most successful home-developed goaltender to this point of Kevin Lowe’s tenure has been Ty Conklin, and that’s far from a ringing endorsement. High draft picks like Jeff Deslauriers and Devan Dubnyk look eventually slated for an NHL career, but it remains uncertain if either will ever become starters at hockey’s highest level.

Still, it must be more frustrating to watch a goaltending prospect develop well, and then make fun demands:

Ondrej Pavelec, the top prospect in the Atlanta Thrashers organization, will not be reporting to the AHL his agent [Allan Walsh] told Sporting News... Walsh said Pavelec has options, including several interested teams in Russia or he would welcome a trade from the Thrashers. "We're evaluating where his next step is," Walsh said. "He's most likely going to get on a plane and go home right now."

Among some of the choice quotes from Walsh:

“That is criminal mismanagement of a young goalie.” “He will never be part of an organization that doesn't keep its word and treats players in this manner.”

The reason for all this anger (at least, judging by Walsh’s statements) seems to have less to do with the assignment to the Chicago Wolves and more to do with his treatment during the pre-season. Pavelec got into his first game on September 25th against Nashville, making 36 saves en-route to a 4–2 victory. He didn’t play again until the third period of an October 3rd game, again against Nashville, but this time he allowed four goals on 15 shots, losing 6–4. Walsh’s statements indicate that Pavelec feels he never got a legitimate chance at an NHL roster spot, and given that he played a little over 80 minutes of hockey in the pre-season, it’s hard to argue with that.

Still, Thrashers’ coach John Anderson presumably knows Pavelec’s level of readiness, given that he was behind the bench as Pavelec and the Chicago Wolves won the Calder Cup last spring. Pavelec went 33-16-0, with a .911 SV% and 2.77 GAA in the regular season, and then went 16-8-0 in the playoffs with a .921 SV% and 2.34 GAA. All that and he’s a year younger than Devan Dubnyk.

While I tend to agree with Bill Tiller that the majority of the blame lies on the Pavelec side of the equation here (Pavelec knew in advance he’d be splitting time in that ugly game against Nashville, so he wasn’t “thrown into the game cold,” as Walsh claimed), it may very well be that Pavelec will force Atlanta’s hand. If that happens, would a package centered around Devan Dubnyk be of interest to the Thrashers? I’d certainly imagine that the Oilers would make a pitch if Pavelec were to become available, as he’s a clear upgrade over any of the team’s goaltending prospects in the last decade.

—Jonathan Willis once shot a man in Reno just to watch him die. Then he started this blog. Now he writes for OilersNation.

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet, the Edmonton Journal and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.
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#1 NoPantsTuesday
October 06 2008, 02:28PM
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I read on hfboards that Tuukka Rask is pouting about being sent to Providence this season. Whats with these foreign goalies?

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#2 TonyRomo
October 06 2008, 03:16PM
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It seems like these Euro Goalies come out of nowhere to be good and can fade into the mists quite as quickly.

What does Atlanta have going on that is so good that they can't give this guy a chance? The Oil should take a run at him. They aren't packing anyone that says a goalie this good can't find a position on the Falcons

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#3 doritogrande
October 06 2008, 06:06PM
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Jonathan: I doubt they'd want Dubnyk, and I doubt Pavelec would enjoy the prospect of playing in Springfield. He thinks he's too good for the AHL, and rightfully so. If I'm him, a place like LA would be ideal, because there are actual NHL openings.

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#4 B.C.B.
October 06 2008, 07:05PM
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I think there is a couple things here:

1) why would someone want to ride the buses and collect an AHL paycheck, when teams in Russia would be drooling over you and offer big money? My guess is to play in the NHL sometime (soonish), if Pavelec doesn't think they are giving him a fair shot then why not try and force someone's hand?

2) Hedberg sucks, why not the kid chance? He won't be worse?

3) Other players have sat out if they don't think the organization is treating them fairly. Usually it is over money, not a chance to make the team. This is not that unusual.

Maybe not try and trade Dubnyk, but rather get rid of JDD (with Schremp?), but hopefully we get something else back. Then play both Pavelec and Dubnyk in the AHL and tell them there will be a back up spot next year, when Roli is gone, and they be competing for it.

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#5 therealdeal
October 06 2008, 10:03PM
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I think he wants to go somewhere he will play NHL hockey. If he won't report to the Chicago Wolves I doubt he'll report to the Falcons.

Oh Atlanta...

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#6 Bruce
October 07 2008, 01:22PM
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I've been following the goaltending situation in Atlanta with some interest since a discussion a while back on the subject at the Contrarian Goaltender's site (here. It seems another one of Don Waddell's perfect storms has been brewing between the pipes.

I think McKeen's 2008-09 captures the situation not too badly. Let me quote a few excerpts (of James Mirtle?) from that annual staple:

Kari Lehtonen: "Overcame a shaky start and early groin problems (missed 16 games) to post a solid .922 save percentage over the second half, though grew increasingly moody and frustrated during a fatal 1-8-3 skid to begin the final quarter ... it reached the boiling point in March with a heated critical outburst directed at teammates ... must focus on improving his rebound control and careless puckhandling which results in a steady diet of egregious giveaways ... responded to his inappropriate tirade with a strong finish (3-2, .951) to a more mature version this time around." Johan Hedberg: "The Moose continued to be a solid mentor and complementary backup in Atlanta to the introverted Kari Lehtonen, as well as a clubhouse leader having been awarded the Players' Player Award for a second consecutive year ... a poised and competitve standup goalie with good all-around quickness and outstanding work habits ... can be a settling influence as he plays a steady game and seldom gets caught out ofn position ... should see 25-30 starts safely - and more if the youngsters struggle." Ondrej Pavelec: "Scripted a landmark pro debut leading all AHL rookies and ranking second in the league with 33 wins ... saved the best for the postseason, backstopping the Wolves to a Calder Cup title with some sensational performances (16-8, 2.34, .921) ... best attribute might be his focus and mental composure ... displays all the tools to be an NHL starter."

Now if I'm the GM I'm not sure which one of those guys I'm trading, but I am sure it's not Hedberg. That said the GM is Waddell, so all bets are off. He's got a heavy investment in a #2 overall draft pick who is finally starting to come around, and a 2nd-rounder from three years later who is ahead of the curve and already "been there done that" in the AHL. If Waddell plays his cards right, he's dealing from strength. But if he fucks up yet again, Pavelec will be gone to the KHL, and then Lehtonen will tweak his groin.

I’d certainly imagine that the Oilers would make a pitch if Pavelec were to become available, as he’s a clear upgrade over any of the team’s goaltending prospects in the last decade.

You could say of the last quarter century and not be wrong, Jonathan. I like the idea of going after Pavelec. The price might be right just now, especially since Don Waddell is the one setting it.

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#7 icedlattino
October 08 2008, 10:24PM
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fie!! i smell a bad move!! i think khl money is worth a lot more than nhl money... i don't think this kid would stay with us unless we put him #1A with garon

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