A New Goaltending Paradigm

Jonathan Willis
November 10 2010 03:51PM

With Nikolai Khabibulin’s implosion early on last night, and the subsequent solid performance of Devan Dubnyk in relief, the question of how games should be distributed between the goaltenders rose to the top of my mind. Personally, I think there are significant reasons why Dubnyk should be getting more playing time.

First off, this is a rebuilding season. I’m confident the coaching staff is still trying to position their team to win every game, but the reality is that the Oilers aren’t going to be a playoff team and that they’re going to benefit more, long-term, from another high draft pick than from finishing 10th in the West. Given that Devan Dubnyk is the goaltender currently in the system with the best chance of contributing when the Oilers are competitive (Khabibulin’s old and injury-prone, Jeff Deslauriers’ development has flat-lined) it makes sense to prioritize his development – and that means giving him more than the occasional start.

Secondly, it’s probably in the best interests of Nikolai Khabibulin to sit a little more often than he has been. It’s been more than a decade since Khabibulin topped the 70 games played mark, and he hasn’t played in more than 60 games since the NHL lockout. His age and his injury history are well-documented, and I can’t help but think he’s more likely to be healthy if his workload is kept to a minimum – say 50 to 55 starts. Whether Khabibulin’s future is with the Oilers or elsewhere, his value is far higher if he can stay healthy.

Third, at this (relatively early juncture) Dubnyk’s earned a more extensive showing. It’s no secret that Khabibulin has struggled early on, with an 0.896 save percentage, but Dubnyk’s been solid in both his lone start against Columbus (39 saves on 41 shots) and in relief of Khabibulin (he stopped 31 of 34 shots last night). There’s no reason not to give him a few more games so the Oilers can see whether this is just a hot start or indicative of a goaltender ready for everyday duty.

I don’t think any of these statements are overly controversial, and I don’t see the upside in riding the veteran goaltender. This isn’t 2008-09, where Craig MacTavish rolled a hot Roloson out night after night down the stretch in the quest for a playoff spot; that made sense because winning was priority one and the backups didn’t inspire confidence. This season, the future is priority one, and both the organization and its goaltenders should be well-served by a more equitable division of playing time.

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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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#51 loosemoose
November 11 2010, 11:32AM
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@soft hands mcsteely I don't want to come off as confrontational. I am also not trying to change your opinion of Cogliano. All I'm saying is in a rebuild like this, to pick out a player for his lack of production on a team that isn't producing as a whole is frustrating. Especially given the game we had in Carolina. And while you are probably right when you say most of the players would have played after getting highsticked like that,but, to imply 9 stiches in your lip is no big deal? Skate a mile in his shoes. Everything this team has asked him to do, he has done. If you want to trade him, you are only going to get another player like Cogliano in return. No trades are going to help this team, just time. IMO having Cogs and Fraser as our 3 and 4 line centers is as good as its going to get for us for now. If we can trade him at the deadline for something, great. Vandevelde, O'marra, and Pitlick will be waiting for that spot but for now, I don't mind at least one player skating his bag off every night. BTW-$700 bauers+joey moss= promised land!!!!!! problem solved!!!!

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#52 Dirty Thing
November 11 2010, 11:36AM
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@Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement

Did you just compare Cogliano to Joey Moss?

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#53 Horcsky
November 11 2010, 11:38AM
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Dan the Man wrote:

Big Mac is out, Horcoff is not ready so the Oil are going with 7 D tonight, per Principe.

Will Strudwick be a forward tonight?

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#56 thebiggestmanintheworld
November 11 2010, 11:47AM
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He might even be a more effective fourth liner than he is a defenceman Zing!

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#57 Horcsky
November 11 2010, 11:48AM
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Edit: @ J-will

Agree with you on Struds for sure. We all like to make fun of him just clearing it off the glass every time he gets it in his own zone, but seriously, he did that almost every time the last couple games. Shouldn't be as big of an issue with him at F. Now the question is, who's a better fourth liner, JFJ or Strudwick?

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#58 Dan the Man
November 11 2010, 11:49AM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

@ Horcsky:

I'd be happy to see that. He's probably a more effective fourth liner then MacIntyre. He might even be a more effective fourth liner than he is a defenceman.

Totally agreed, he's hurt the team much less as a forward. He's even had a few relatively effective games as a forward.

After MacIntyre he's also probably the next toughest Oiler.

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#59 Ender
November 11 2010, 11:50AM
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Seems like this goaltending thread has turned into a debate about Andrew Cogliano so I'll chime in with my two cents.

I like Cogs. Picked him for my star last year and the year before. I like his speed, I like his work ethic. I thought he caught a lot of bad breaks in terms of how he was utilized. All of that said, this year is sink-or-swim for Andy. The time for excuses is up; if he has good NHL hockey in him, this is when he has to show it.

You can no longer feel sorry for the guy. In the first place, the boy has now had 259 starts in the NHL. Do you have any idea how many minor-league players would literally volunteer to have essential body parts cut off if they could be guarenteed that kind of shot?

In the second place, the next time you're out and about, at work or in the mall, take a good look at the people around you. Try to guess how many of them are millionaires. A pretty small number, perhaps? Now go to the club where it's all twenty-somethings and try to identify the ones who are millionaires at 23 like Andrew Cogliano. Once you're finished doing that, then come back here and write about how Andrew Cogliano hasn't been given a fair shake in life.

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#60 Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement
November 11 2010, 11:51AM
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Dirty Thing wrote:

Did you just compare Cogliano to Joey Moss?

UHHHFFFFFF!!!

many appologies indeed for not finishing off what i had started with that thought.

please take notice to the ** in which I ment to state that I ment no hard feeling towards Joey in mentioning Cogliano's name in the same sentance as his.

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#61 David S
November 11 2010, 11:54AM
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Horcsky wrote:

Edit: @ J-will

Agree with you on Struds for sure. We all like to make fun of him just clearing it off the glass every time he gets it in his own zone, but seriously, he did that almost every time the last couple games. Shouldn't be as big of an issue with him at F. Now the question is, who's a better fourth liner, JFJ or Strudwick?

The real question is - Who's a better NHL'er, JFJ or Strudwick?

As bad as we think Strudwick is (not as bad as we think if he's used properly), JFJ makes him look like Lidstrom by comparison.

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#62 who cares
November 11 2010, 11:55AM
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Man you all are tripping about Khabby! Hes the only reason we even have some wins! Your energy should be focused on our lame ass defensive corps! BRUTAL! And I do agree that a re-build shouldn't mean flop down and give up! Your only going to teach the youth that its fine to lose. Losing atmosphere will always be there until we get a legitimate center and 3 new defencemen!!! I'm sure you all can figure out which 3. Katz if you read this which i'm sure you dont, GUT your management! Problems need to be solved from the Top down!

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#63 Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement
November 11 2010, 11:56AM
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Ender wrote:

Seems like this goaltending thread has turned into a debate about Andrew Cogliano so I'll chime in with my two cents.

I like Cogs. Picked him for my star last year and the year before. I like his speed, I like his work ethic. I thought he caught a lot of bad breaks in terms of how he was utilized. All of that said, this year is sink-or-swim for Andy. The time for excuses is up; if he has good NHL hockey in him, this is when he has to show it.

You can no longer feel sorry for the guy. In the first place, the boy has now had 259 starts in the NHL. Do you have any idea how many minor-league players would literally volunteer to have essential body parts cut off if they could be guarenteed that kind of shot?

In the second place, the next time you're out and about, at work or in the mall, take a good look at the people around you. Try to guess how many of them are millionaires. A pretty small number, perhaps? Now go to the club where it's all twenty-somethings and try to identify the ones who are millionaires at 23 like Andrew Cogliano. Once you're finished doing that, then come back here and write about how Andrew Cogliano hasn't been given a fair shake in life.

Ed Zackery!(exactly)

The kid has wheels and i've hoped like hell that magic of the kid line we saw at the end of the 07/08 season would come back... but it hasn't.

All i've been trying to say is how long do you give guys a break based on their effort level before we start looking at the results to pass judgement on.

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#64 David S
November 11 2010, 11:56AM
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Unrelated of course, but I can't get the thought out of my head of at least three guys refreshing every thirty seconds to get that all-important GDB "FIST!".

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#65 Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement
November 11 2010, 12:01PM
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loosemoose wrote:

@soft hands mcsteely I don't want to come off as confrontational. I am also not trying to change your opinion of Cogliano. All I'm saying is in a rebuild like this, to pick out a player for his lack of production on a team that isn't producing as a whole is frustrating. Especially given the game we had in Carolina. And while you are probably right when you say most of the players would have played after getting highsticked like that,but, to imply 9 stiches in your lip is no big deal? Skate a mile in his shoes. Everything this team has asked him to do, he has done. If you want to trade him, you are only going to get another player like Cogliano in return. No trades are going to help this team, just time. IMO having Cogs and Fraser as our 3 and 4 line centers is as good as its going to get for us for now. If we can trade him at the deadline for something, great. Vandevelde, O'marra, and Pitlick will be waiting for that spot but for now, I don't mind at least one player skating his bag off every night. BTW-$700 bauers+joey moss= promised land!!!!!! problem solved!!!!

Well at this point if we're looking at is from the standpoint of it being a re-build, i'd rather have a 3rd line center who can actually help the PK and win faceoffs. I could care less if he can skate well or not.

But i'll give you credit on one thing... Joey Moss in a pair of $700 Bauers does = the promise land.

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#66 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
November 11 2010, 12:05PM
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Horcsky wrote:

Crazy to think that Cogs only has a year left and we could lose him for nothing. Losing what was once a highly touted draft pick for nothing would be the most epic of fails.

He's an RFA after this year. So the only way he's lost for nothing would be if the team simply choice not to renew his contract.

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#67 Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement
November 11 2010, 12:05PM
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David S wrote:

Unrelated of course, but I can't get the thought out of my head of at least three guys refreshing every thirty seconds to get that all-important GDB "FIST!".

David S... I've been at work since 8, checked The Nation from my phone 3 times before I got here, and at least once every 5 minutes since I've gotten here. It's gettin tight now with lunch coming up and the saftly aspect of driving without refreshing The Nation on my phone. Not to mention being distracted by all the comments on this thread.... yeesh :S

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#68 thebiggestmanintheworld
November 11 2010, 12:11PM
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@ Ender you're right. way off topic with cogs. my two cents on the goalie issue is there is no issue. the schedule has pretty much dictated the goalie rotation so far. plus, they probably wanted to see how his back would hold up with a little work. might explain why they kept JDD up for so long. just a thought

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#69 OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F
November 11 2010, 12:48PM
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Soft Hands McSteeley - FIST Movement wrote:

David S... I've been at work since 8, checked The Nation from my phone 3 times before I got here, and at least once every 5 minutes since I've gotten here. It's gettin tight now with lunch coming up and the saftly aspect of driving without refreshing The Nation on my phone. Not to mention being distracted by all the comments on this thread.... yeesh :S

Continue to fight the good FIST my good man.

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#70 CrazyCaptain88
November 11 2010, 03:21PM
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I've got to agree with Willis on this, we should look at how we really hindered JDD's career by not giving him ample playing time and then all of a sudden by throwing him into the fire. The Oilers should learn from their previous mistakes and give DD a chance to get some decent experience and a vote of confidence by letting him play a few games in a row. The only way this guys is going to learn and become a solid option is by giving him experience. We hear Renney say it all the time with Hall, Eberle and MPS, why not DD?

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#71 Horcsky
November 11 2010, 04:32PM
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OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F wrote:

He's an RFA after this year. So the only way he's lost for nothing would be if the team simply choice not to renew his contract.

They could also low-ball him and then when he takes them to arbitration, they can walk away from the ruling. I can definately see that happening. Why re-up a guy who you know isn't a fit on the team and you've wanted to get rid of for years?

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