Building A Tandem

Jonathan Willis
July 23 2009 01:10PM

snow

Garth Snow’s rather surprising signing of Martin Biron drew a wide variety of opinion yesterday, with the consensus opinion being that Rick DiPietro is still a long way from being ready to play again.

Islanders fans have for the most part agreed with that conclusion, except for the small segment who hilariously (gullibly?) still believe DiPietro will be ready for training camp.

It seems pretty clear to me that Garth Snow entered July knowing that he needed a number one goaltender for at least the first half of the season, and he moved quickly but without wasting money, signing Dwayne Roloson to a two-year, five million dollar contract.

It seems safe to say that he was open to various options at the backup position, but with Martin Biron desperately looking for an NHL job, signing him was an obvious move. Not only does Biron provide the Islanders with likely the best backup goaltender in the league (or Roloson, if things go that way)) but if DiPietro recovers in time to play midseason, Snow will have the option of trading him to whichever team watches their starter get hurt or implode performance-wise.

Snow, in short, built a completely new tandem for a cap hit of 3.9 million dollars. If either goaltender falters, he has an experienced and successful number one to replace him with.

This is a different approach than the Oilers have chosen to take. Despite the total lack of value of even a decent backup goaltender (Alex Auld, who started and did well in Ottawa last season, was traded earlier this summer for a 6th round pick – despite a reasonable salary), they’ve elected to hold on to untested 25-year old Jeff Deslauriers. They also elected to grab the man who was, in their opinion, the best goaltender on the market in Nikolai Khabibulin – signing the 36-year old to a four year, 15 million dollar contract.

My question is a simple one – which approach is better? Which tandem would you, as an NHL G.M., rather run with next season:

  • Biron/Roloson: 3.9 million dollars
  • Khabibulin/Deslauriers: 4.375 million dollars

I think that the Islanders have more effective tandem; if either goaltender slumps they have a legitimate starter to step into his role. Edmonton, in contrast, will be relying on a goaltender that has yet to prove he can be a reliable NHL backup if Khabibulin suffers more injuries like the ones that have nagged him since the lockout. I think (and I realize this isn’t something everyone will agree with me on) the Islanders got the best goaltender on the market in Biron – a younger player than Khabibulin who has posted better numbers in three of four seasons post-lockout.

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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 FS
July 23 2009, 01:19PM
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First!!!

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#2 smiliegirl15
July 23 2009, 01:22PM
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So just a bit of a reality check here -

we would have had a Roli/Delauriers duo here without Khabi too (no more 3 headed goalie monster).

In hindsight it looks like the Isles got the better deal but is that what they would have gotten if we hadn't signed Khabi? Would they have signed both Khabi and Biron for the same price? Probably not.

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#3 scorecoff hemmercules
July 23 2009, 01:27PM
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FS wrote:

First!!!

Lame, are you ten?

@JW

~I always feel so good about the oilers after reading your posts lately~

sigh, it's been a tough 3 years to say the least.....

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#4 oilersinsider
July 23 2009, 01:31PM
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I for one think this is a great move by Snow, but shows just how stupid Biron was.

For a goalie listed in the top five of the availables this summer, to demand more than the value of what a surplus of netminders would garner, he's now settled into a back-up to likely another back-up role later in the season for a lousy $1.4 million.

If Snow's intention was to trade either Biron or Rolli at a later date then this moves makes a ton of sense. If he doesn't and Dipietro gets healthy (which shouldn't take more than 20 games), this is just too many bodies in too small a space.

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#5 smytty777
July 23 2009, 01:32PM
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It will tough to compare given the the Isles defence will be extremely porous this season (even compared to the relatively porous Oilers D). SV% is a good indicator of goaltending ability, but it is certainly not the be all and end all of whether or not a goalie is good.

Number of rebound shots, location of shots, number of tips/screened shots would all provide an important context to the SV% number but as far as I know those kind of detailed statistics are not available.

It's logical that a team that consistently leaves men open in the slot, does not clear rebounds and does not clear the front of the net of traffic will have a goalie with a lower SV% than a team that is more effective in those areas.

I know Staples is doing this sort of qualitative analysis with his "Error Stat" it would be interesting to see the results of similar study of goaltenders.

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#6 jeff
July 23 2009, 01:33PM
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Rollie and Biron were never an option for us.

It all depends on the team. Edmonton wouldn't do it as we don't want to do the whole 3 headed monster again.

The Isles did it because they must need 2 goalies to start the year.

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#7 vern
July 23 2009, 01:38PM
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The Islanders do have the better tandem or sure. The oil are looking to get a good look at their young goaltenders. So they went with who they thought was the best tender avalible. If there is a problem tambo may be giving Snow a call.

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#8 oilersinsider
July 23 2009, 01:38PM
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jeff wrote:

Rollie and Biron were never an option for us.

I completely agree. If Biron was available to the Oilers at one year $1.4 million Edmonton would have jumped all over it. People who continue to assume the Oilers dropped the ball seem to be forgetting that fact.

Sure, you can argue that Tambellini could have waited and signed someone other than Khabibulin for less money, but who? There is no guarantee that Biron would still be available if the cards had fallen differently.

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#9 Ogden Brother
July 23 2009, 01:42PM
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The real question is:

If we were sitting here with no starting goalie (Bulin/Biron both signed elsewhere) how much trouble would we be in.

I think Tambs jump the gun, but like 99% of the time, it's easy to see why these guys did what they did.

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#10 Hemmertime
July 23 2009, 01:42PM
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We are keeping Deslauriers as our backup because he is cheap. Ridiculously cheap. Although if we could have gotten Biron for 1.5 as a backup I think we might have. However, Biron sees a 40 year old goalie and an injury prone goalie he has to beat out for playing time - not the Bulin wall, I do not believe he would have signed here.

That being said, I would rather have Khabibulin/Deslauriers with Khabi on a multi-year contract than a multi-year for Roli and 1 year for Biron. At the end of next season we would be in a worse position, a 41 year old goalie making 2.5+ mil, and Biron headed to UFA. This way works out better for the long run, because Bulin is a goalie you can accept, and even be happy with, as your starter for at least the first 2-3 years of his contract and you have time to develop/acquire someone to take over. Plus with Khabi it doesnt have to be right now - whereas with the other tandem you have to constantly keep your options open.

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#11 DanMan
July 23 2009, 01:47PM
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@ Hemmertime:

The problem with keeping Roli is that he would hold back JDD's development.

One of the MSM (I think it was Principe) asked Roli late last year if he had been helping along JDD in practises. Roli basically said that JDD is on his own, because Roli is focused on getting himself ready for the games.

I can't imagine a bitter, 40 year old Roli teaching the tricks of the trade to a guy who could supplant him at any given time they way Garon did.

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#12 Tull
July 23 2009, 01:49PM
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I don't think you can base who's better off here on stats and numbers alone.

Roloson is a battler, but what do you think Snow told him when he was signed? I'll bet the farm he was told DiPietro was questionable and that he had a good shot at the starting job. So the Biron signing makes no sense.

What does this do to Roloson? Competition is always healthy, but when you have 2 starters both going for the number 1 job, I think the dressing room suffers.

Both have a history of battling (Biron with Miller and Rollie with Fernandez) but what happened? Both of these guys got traded or dealt before their counterpart. The Isle's already have a teetering dressing room where turnover is rampant - so I'm not sure a franchise like that can handle instability from the goalie position on out.

Biron took a 1 year deal to prove himself and attempt to cash back in next year. It's a gamble, but I think he wins in the end. He's not making #1 money, so the pressure is on Roloson regardless which way you look at it. If Biron wins the starting job - then he looks like a bargain and a surefire target for next years free agency period. If he remains as backup - well based on salary thats what he was brought in for anyway. Roloson loses.

I have heard though that Biron's personality makes him an extremely likable guy in the room. Roloson on the other hand is a quiet, brooding guy. I've been told he is an intimidating presence. For a dressing room full of young guys like Tavares, Okposo, Comeau, Bailey, Tambellini, Gervais - I think the addition of another old guy in Roloson to Weight, maybe a Witt and Sutton will be a step backward.

The Isle seems strikingly familiar to the makeup of the Oil. No identity, no direction of young or old, and no clear plan. Tavares is a start - but not the end.

So - my take - I'd rather take the Oil tandem in the room. At least the direction, roles, and responsibilities are clear.

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#13 Jonathan Willis
July 23 2009, 01:50PM
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Hemmertime wrote:

We are keeping Deslauriers as our backup because he is cheap. Ridiculously cheap.

Not that cheap. As one example, free agent Antero Niittymaki (15-8-6, 2.76 GAA, .912 SV%) signed for less money this summer.

Can we reasonably argue that Deslauriers is superior now, or likely to be superior this season, to Niittymaki? I don't think we can.

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#14 Jonathan Willis
July 23 2009, 01:54PM
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DanMan wrote:

The problem with keeping Roli is that he would hold back JDD’s development.

What, best-case scenario, does Deslauriers develop into? A superior goaltender to Biron? Keep in mind that at 25, Biron was an NHL starter (72 games, .915 SV%).

Basically, unless he's a top-ten NHL goaltender, jumping through hoops for his development isn't worthwhile because he's cheaply and easily replaceable. And yes, keeping him as the only backup option for an injury-prone starter (Khabibulin's suffered injury every year since the lockout) counts as jumping through hoops.

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#15 J-Bird
July 23 2009, 01:57PM
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Personally, with the team on the ice in Edmonton, it wouldn't matter if Terry Sawchuk in his prime was in net. The team regressed over the summer to date, and has been a non playoff team for 3 straight. Buckle up for another rough season in Edmonton.

I see K-Lowe et al appologized to the fans in Springfield. It would be nice to get one of those here someday. At least some "sorry we f(*^^*ked this up so royally", something along those lines.

Like Lowetide says, one thing being an Oiler fan is that you can actually feel hope fade in June. Bang on.

It'll take Tambo years to fix the mess, absolute mess, Kevin Lowe put this team in.

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#16 Bill Rizer
July 23 2009, 01:59PM
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Why are we talking about a three headed monster? If we had signed Rolo and Biron, Deslauriers would be in the minors where he belongs.

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#17 Ender the Dragon
July 23 2009, 01:59PM
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Despite the fact that many people (including JW) pointed out that there were more starting goalies this year than available roster spots, that doesn't change the fact that no one could have foreseen Biron or anyone of his calibre signing anywhere at $1.4M.

I do think that this is a good signing by Snow IF he is able to move one of these guys by Christmas. Any longer than that and it becomes a distraction to the team as to which guy should be playing, particularly if RDP is healthy again by then.

For anyone wondering if the Oil missed out here, though, the writing is on the wall: jeff wrote:

Rollie and Biron were never an option for us.

Biron only signed for that (insanely low) price because he and his agent blinked first. I'm thinking he could have gotten at least another million this season at least if he had just waited until some team's starter got hurt / played poorly.

Edmonton right now doesn't even $1.4M in cap room to throw away on an insurance policy in net. This is a long ways away from the biggest hole that needs filling.

Snow got a decent deal here, grantd, but don't beat up on Tambo for doing what he had to do. He played the cards he was dealt and did ok. What's that quote about hindsight, again?

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#18 Victoria
July 23 2009, 02:00PM
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oilersinsider wrote:

jeff wrote: Rollie and Biron were never an option for us. I completely agree. If Biron was available to the Oilers at one year $1.4 million Edmonton would have jumped all over it. People who continue to assume the Oilers dropped the ball seem to be forgetting that fact. Sure, you can argue that Tambellini could have waited and signed someone other than Khabibulin for less money, but who? There is no guarantee that Biron would still be available if the cards had fallen differently.

I think the gamble of letting a couple goalies sweat it out and accept a smaller contract is better then the gamble we just made on Khabibulin being able to live up to what we gave him.

It was a buyers market and we acted this was a frat party with only one case of beer.

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#19 DanMan
July 23 2009, 02:16PM
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@ Jonathan Willis:

We have to develop a goalie at some point, though, don't we?

We can't just bank on another top UFA being available in 3-4 years.

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#20 Big Dave
July 23 2009, 02:17PM
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I'd feel more comfortable with a Khabbi/Halak or Khabbi/Harding at this point. NYI has put themselves in a tremendous position of strength. Maybe Snow isn't that much of an idiot afterall...

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#21 jeff
July 23 2009, 02:18PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

DanMan wrote: The problem with keeping Roli is that he would hold back JDD’s development. What, best-case scenario, does Deslauriers develop into? A superior goaltender to Biron? Keep in mind that at 25, Biron was an NHL starter (72 games, .915 SV%). Basically, unless he’s a top-ten NHL goaltender, jumping through hoops for his development isn’t worthwhile because he’s cheaply and easily replaceable. And yes, keeping him as the only backup option for an injury-prone starter (Khabibulin’s suffered injury every year since the lockout) counts as jumping through hoops.

Biron only played 70 games once. He never took off like people expected him to. Right now what Biron was last year is about as far as he is going.

Can't remember who it was but there was someone on the Team 1260 saying why can't JDD be one of the next young goalies to take off? Every year there is some goalie that steps up and suprises. Maybe JDD is that guy?

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#22 DanMan
July 23 2009, 02:19PM
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Even the idea that we should try and acquire a Josh Harding, Jaro Halak, or Kari Lehtonen (Lehtonen's my guy), doesn't really work. Teams will keep 2 good goalies if they can, the NYI situation only magnifies that.

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#23 West Coast Oil
July 23 2009, 02:23PM
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I just dont understand how people keep using the words "untested" and "unproven" with DesLaurier yet dont want to give him the opportunity to actually show what he can do. I know the argument is his track record from the AHL but as we all know his development was handled iffy at best by the Oilers. Let the kid play for awhile (I mean truly play) let a real goaltending coach work with him and if he cant cut it then drop him. If Khabby gets injured and the kid drops the ball then trade for a goalie as there are lots of them.

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#24 Ducey
July 23 2009, 02:30PM
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You can only play one goalie at a time.

Bulin is the best of the 4 comparables you gave. If you have the best goalie in 80% of the time, you win the matchup you outlined.

Isn't Biron better than most team's backups? The fact he wound up with New York points to the Islanders getting lucky more than anything.

They sit around hoping that DP will be ready for camp, then find out that he won't and go out and find a diamond in the coal heap. Hardly innovative stuff.

You can argue that Biron would have been there for the Oilers as their #1 goalie at this point but Tambi would have been taking a big risk that Biron (or someone good) would be available AND want to come here.

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#25 ScubaSteve
July 23 2009, 02:30PM
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Man, the Love-in for Roli and the hate for Khabi continues. Hopefully we make move soon, so we don't have to keep hearing about how 5 save % points means Roli is a god and Khabi is terrible.

The Oilers went out and got a bonafide #1 goalie, which Roli isn't, and Biron isn't. Both of those goalies will fall flat on the Isles.

JW - Does this argument about Roli vs Khabi end if Khabi posts a .910 and Roli posts a .909?

Tull wrote:

Roloson on the other hand is a quiet, brooding guy. I’ve been told he is an intimidating presence.

If Khabi improves just on this aspect, then we have the better tandem.

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#26 Asciutto
July 23 2009, 02:30PM
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Snow has hardly set a foot wrong as Isle's GM

That is, once he convinced Wang that "The Way We've Been Doin' It" sucks.

That would be about the same time they didn't re-sign Smyth.

The Man has a plan.

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#27 Shifty203
July 23 2009, 02:31PM
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I gotta be honest here. I really think that the goalie situation is going to bite us in the butt this year. I realize that keeping Roli for 2 years was a risk, but I still feel the Khabi is a way bigger gamble, and his history doesn't exactly paint a pretty picture. Not to mention the ridiculous contract he got. What I don't understand, is if as Khabi said, the oilers were the only ones to offer a multi-year contract, then why didn't they just sign him for 2? And anyone who complained that Roli was too old has no right to say that this term is acceptable.

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#28 Kieso
July 23 2009, 02:31PM
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All the comments are very interesting. It is possible that the Oilers kicked a few tires with Biron's agent. I guess what we don't know is if Biron wanted to play in Edmonton. And when I say in Edmonton I mean in the western conference. This is a player who has been in the east his whole career so maybe there was no interest and the deal with the Wall was the only one available.

All we can do is speculate about topics but the truth is we don't, and never will, know all the facts and complications that go along with any deal.

I am tired of the Horcoff complainers. Sure Horcoff is a $1 million per year overpayment on the cap. But this overpayment is better than not having this guy around if no other centre wants to sign here. What do you get if he is left unsigned and there is no one to fill the gap. Ideally Gagner develops, becomes the No 1 centre with Horcoff No 2. That does not look as bad as the current situation. I think sometimes it is just optics.

Souray might be an overpayment, but would it be better if he was not signed at all. Yes the Oilers over paid Penner and some others and everyone rips on Lowe.

Personally I think that summer of overpayments and RFA offer sheets was intended to let the NHLPA know the Oilers where finally in the market and could pay some big money to plays. I think the Oilers wanted to send a message to the players and the league and shed the small market image. Unfortunately it did not work. But at least there was an effort to change the league's perception of the team and organization.

I think oilers fans are going to have to realize that Edmonton will need to overpay to get players to the city (ne it the city, the weather, the travel whatever) and then hope the younger players develop just in time so the group comes together and wins some games. I think this is whay you see the old vs young mix on this team. Or I could just be wrong completely.

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#29 smiliegirl15
July 23 2009, 02:32PM
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The original question here is a moot point though. It was going to be Deslaurier and someone regardless. It may have been Roli, and therefore status quo, for this upcoming season or it may have been any one of the countless other 'tenders out there. It was all a matter of who was the best option for the Oilers at a decent cap hit. I believe it was one of Gregor's posts as to why Biron shouldn't be our first choice. I am thinking there were a lot (most) of other GMs out there thinking the same thing because no one jumped at the chance to sign him. We will see if Tambellini's choice was the right one for the Oilers; until this signing, most of us fans were pretty happy with the Khabibulin signing.

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#30 kevinlowe4
July 23 2009, 02:32PM
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On paper, the Islanders certainly did a better job. We'll just have to wait and see whether or not that's the case.

The Bulin Wall, at the top of his game, is fantastic. Maybe the Oilers will get "lucky" and actually see that for the next 4 years (or maybe one of the kids will surprise).

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#31 BigE57
July 23 2009, 02:35PM
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My question is somewhat retrospective...Why on earth did the Oilers sign JDD to a one way deal last year anyway, they already had 2 goalies they were banking on to start the season.

I generally look at most of the teams transactions and moves through copper and blue glasses but since Pronger left town there have been more mind boggling moves than good ones.

If Bulin has a good, relatively injury free season things will look good but if he gets hurt and JDD can't carry the mail I would hate to be the moderator on ON.

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#32 Fish
July 23 2009, 02:38PM
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Thirty second

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#33 Hemmertime
July 23 2009, 02:42PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

Can we reasonably argue that Deslauriers is superior now, or likely to be superior this season, to Niittymaki? I don’t think we can.

Nope, Nittymaki would have been great. Do you think even for 700k Nitty would have signed here? I do not. Mike Smith in TB had a great year last year - but still would not be a proven #1. Nitty has a decent shot of stealing the #1 spot from him, thats why the 1 year deal - chance to play and earn his contract. Here he wouldnt have had such a chance.

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#34 misfit
July 23 2009, 02:42PM
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On the plus side, if 'Bulin gets hurt at any point in the season, I know where we might be able to find a reasonably priced replacement for him ;)

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#35 jeff
July 23 2009, 02:43PM
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BigE57 wrote:

My question is somewhat retrospective…Why on earth did the Oilers sign JDD to a one way deal last year anyway, they already had 2 goalies they were banking on to start the season. I generally look at most of the teams transactions and moves through copper and blue glasses but since Pronger left town there have been more mind boggling moves than good ones. If Bulin has a good, relatively injury free season things will look good but if he gets hurt and JDD can’t carry the mail I would hate to be the moderator on ON.

I don't think they were worried about paying him his salary in the minors, they were worried that someone would pick him up on waivers.

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#36 Ender the Dragon
July 23 2009, 02:44PM
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@ Fish:

[shakes head in pity]

Go, Fish.

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#37 Ogden Brother
July 23 2009, 02:46PM
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J-Bird wrote:

Personally, with the team on the ice in Edmonton, it wouldn’t matter if Terry Sawchuk in his prime was in net. The team regressed over the summer to date, and has been a non playoff team for 3 straight. Buckle up for another rough season in Edmonton. I see K-Lowe et al appologized to the fans in Springfield. It would be nice to get one of those here someday. At least some “sorry we f(*^^*ked this up so royally”, something along those lines. Like Lowetide says, one thing being an Oiler fan is that you can actually feel hope fade in June. Bang on. It’ll take Tambo years to fix the mess, absolute mess, Kevin Lowe put this team in.

Yet Tambo seems to be following in his foot steps....hmmmmm

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#38 dyckster
July 23 2009, 02:47PM
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Hey Jonathan,

Would/could/will a cheap (relatively speaking) signing like the Biron signing piss off the players union, other tenders and their agents? Seems to me, if I was a still unsigned or soon to be free agent puck stopper I might be like, WTF Marty, you just squished my market value!

I don't recall if there were any negative rumblings when Kariya signed for pretty much nothing to play in San Jose (I think it was San Jose)?

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#39 FS
July 23 2009, 02:47PM
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If it's so lame, why did you reply? Loser!!!

scorecoff hemmercules wrote:

FS wrote: First!!! Lame, are you ten? @JW ~I always feel so good about the oilers after reading your posts lately~ sigh, it’s been a tough 3 years to say the least…..
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#40 scorecoff hemmercules
July 23 2009, 02:52PM
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@ FS:

I've actually seen many people request that people not do that "first" douchebaggery on here.

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#41 bingofuel
July 23 2009, 02:56PM
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@ scorecoff hemmercules: @ FS:

I HATE when people post "first." I hate it on message boards, I hate it on blogs... The only place where it would be funny is on a bathroom stall that no one else had defaced yet.

I'm working on drafting a set of policies on commenting, trolling, etc. to be rolled out fairly soon. Nothing heavy handed, but people who post ~value-added~ comments like "first" might find their comment replaced with snippets of speeches by infamous dictators once the new policy's in place. I also plan to rip off BoingBoing.net's famous "disemvoweling" policy.

Just sayin'.

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#42 Travis Dakin
July 23 2009, 03:00PM
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@ bingofuel: You sir are a gentleman and a scholar. You do great work. Bring that hammer!!! or I should say, Dabber!!!

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#43 scorecoff hemmercules
July 23 2009, 03:03PM
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@ bingofuel:

Hh, nc. "dsmvwlng" snds knd vlnt vn thgh 'm sre ts nt.....r s t???

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#44 Wanye Gretz
July 23 2009, 03:03PM
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@ bingofuel: @ scorecoff hemmercules: @ FS:

I love it when people post first.

FORTY THIRD!!!!

Note: Post 69 should be our equivalent of post 1. Cause you know, we are so cool here.

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#45 Wanye Gretz
July 23 2009, 03:03PM
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Note #2: Claiming comment 43 and having comment 44 is so gauche.

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#46 scorecoff hemmercules
July 23 2009, 03:04PM
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@ Wanye Gretz:

lmfao

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#47 Victoria
July 23 2009, 03:05PM
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ScubaSteve wrote:

Man, the Love-in for Roli and the hate for Khabi continues. Hopefully we make move soon, so we don’t have to keep hearing about how 5 save % points means Roli is a god and Khabi is terrible. The Oilers went out and got a bonafide #1 goalie, which Roli isn’t, and Biron isn’t. Both of those goalies will fall flat on the Isles. JW - Does this argument about Roli vs Khabi end if Khabi posts a .910 and Roli posts a .909?

Good lord, do you ever exaggerate. So what is everyone suppose to do? Kiss 'Bulin's butt? Pretend he didn't have three crap years after signing his last contract?

People are concerned about him. It's warranted. Get over it.

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#48 bingofuel
July 23 2009, 03:07PM
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scorecoff hemmercules wrote:

@ bingofuel: Hh, nc. “dsmvwlng” snds knd vlnt vn thgh ‘m sre ts nt…..r s t???

I don't know, you tell me ;)

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#49 ronaldo
July 23 2009, 03:12PM
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Is Roli/ Biron that much different then Roli/ Garon 07/08?

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#50 Jasmine
July 23 2009, 03:16PM
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Biron did not want to play in the west. For him, Philadelphia was too far from Buffalo. Biron would not have signed in Edmonton no matter what. At the beginning of the UFA season, Biron was asking from between $4M-$5M. Do you really think Biron would have singed in Edmonton for $1.4M without a #1 goalie. No friggin way he would have signed for that low. He would have been askinf for the moon. Those bashing the Oilers for signing Khabi instead of Biron need to give their heads a shake. The Oilers wouldn't have been able to sign Khabi period, never mind for the price the Islanders got him for.

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