Tambellini On Khabibulin

Jonathan Willis
April 15 2010 06:33PM

Edmonton Oilers v Colorado Avalanche

After this past season, the Oilers have plenty of reasons to be less than thrilled with last summer’s acquisition of Nikolai Khabibulin.

After all, in training camp the team discovered that Khabibulin has dehydration issues, issues which had come up in the past but which they were unaware of.

After playing 18 games at a reasonable level (Khabibulin was neither brilliant nor brutal, and his 0.909 SV% was a fair bit better than Jeff Deslauriers’ 0.901) Khabibulin suffered a back injury which required surgery, ending his season. Khabibulin had missed an average of about 20 games per season since the lockout, a number he tripled this season.

Of course, that wasn’t the end of it. In February, Khabibulin was arrested after being pulled over, allegedly for going 70 MPH in a 45 MPH zone, after which he couldn’t provide proof of insurance and failed a sobriety test. He’s since been charged with “extreme” DUI for having a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit and if convicted will face a minimum prison sentence with no eligibility for probation or suspension.

Fortunately for Khabibulin, none of that appears to have affected Steve Tambellini’s view of the veteran goaltender. Tambellini praised Khabibulin as “a good teammate” and said that the Oilers needed the kind of leadership he could provide. Two excerpts from Tambellini’s end of season press conference: 

“The player that was going to be our MVP, Nikolai Khabibulin…” 
“With Nik, Nik is a person that when you do the research on him he has a great reputation. I talked to Jason Strudwick in the year end meetings, and he talked about sitting next to Nik, and recognizing what a great teammate he is, just as a person. He’s won a Stanley Cup, we need people that have that type of experience. He has a reputation when you talk to the Manitoba Moose of what Nik was like with the young goaltenders, and how he helped them, and tutored them, and gave them confidence. He’s not one of those goaltenders that will push the other people away from his net, to make sure they don’t get the net. He’s a good teammate; we need that type of leadership. If we’re going to be a little bit younger in the next couple of years, we want someone like that, that gives them a chance to develop, that gives the team a chance to have some confidence that there’s some stability back there.”

There’s a lot of uncertainty about the Oilers going forward, but if Tambellini is to be believed, Khabibulin isn’t one of the question marks. He’ll be retained to provide veteran leadership and a stabilizing presence in net, and the Oilers will just take their chances that he’s healthy.

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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 Ender
April 16 2010, 09:25AM
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@Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

You think if this was Gagner or Hemsky that fans would keep bringing up the impaired?

If they didn't pay for it? Call me crazy but yeah I think fans might remember that kind of thing.

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#53 Team Hall
April 16 2010, 09:26AM
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Deaner, you might be right, the CSS rankings I came across on the internets was here: http://cdn.nhl.com/futures/cssrankings/2007final/07_final_naskaters_num.pdf

I only sighted that example to give Oilfans pause before jumping on Seguin because he was ranked #1. My point is, we want the best player, not the best ranked player.

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#54 Rick
April 16 2010, 09:31AM
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To get a little more specific on his injury history, by season since the lock out;

2006/01/19 Missed 10 games (groin). 2006/03/09 Missed 13 games (knee injury).

2006/11/16 Missed 8 games (fractured finger). 2008/02/20 Missed 3 games (sprained knee). 2008/03/16 Missed 12 games (back spasms). 2008/12/12 Missed 6 games (lower body injury). 2009/03/11 Missed 12 games (lower body injury). 2009/05/27 Missed 2 playoff games (lower body injury).

And then this year is pretty obvious.

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Ender wrote:
You think if this was Gagner or Hemsky that fans would keep bringing up the impaired?

If they didn't pay for it? Call me crazy but yeah I think fans might remember that kind of thing.

I doubt it. Michael Vick seems to be forgotten, Kobe Bryant did what now? How about Ray Lewis that killed two guys in a bar fight? Or how about the dozens of actors/actresses that committed all sorts of crimes? If you are good enough at what you do people don't hold it against you if you made a one time mistake, heck some guys made multiple mistakes and they have been forgiven time and time again.

Edit: Take Vick out he went to jail

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@Rick

Well lets just hope this surgery is going to fix those lower body and back problems.

We have no choice we have to go with him, for another year anyways. He is no different then Horcoff, might as well try get the most you can get out of the guys and not worry what they are being paid.

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#57 Team Hall
April 16 2010, 09:57AM
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Rick wrote:

To get a little more specific on his injury history, by season since the lock out;

2006/01/19 Missed 10 games (groin). 2006/03/09 Missed 13 games (knee injury).

2006/11/16 Missed 8 games (fractured finger). 2008/02/20 Missed 3 games (sprained knee). 2008/03/16 Missed 12 games (back spasms). 2008/12/12 Missed 6 games (lower body injury). 2009/03/11 Missed 12 games (lower body injury). 2009/05/27 Missed 2 playoff games (lower body injury).

And then this year is pretty obvious.

Thanks for the research Rick, that puts things in perspective nicely. JW has a good point to be worried about the injury history, but he could still be good for the 55 games we need him for next year as long as this latest back problem was not devastating.

Khabby can't hear what we are saying because he has his stanley cup ringing in his ear(s)

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#58 Twiggs
April 16 2010, 10:00AM
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You know what? I love the ON. The Canucks won their division, have a chance to make it deep into the playoff, just won the first game of the series, and yet over at the Canucks Army there are no comments on the story from last night (and only 2 on the last 5!) and 7 votes in the current poll. Whats the deal there? Does no one know about that site? The Oilers finished dead last and most of the stories here at ON generate at bare minimum 50 comments (some over 200) and the polls consistently have 200-400 votes. Its pretty great being a hockey fanatic over here at the ON. EDIT: And have they not realized that they can comment on pollz?!?

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#59 Ducey
April 16 2010, 10:02AM
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KenMcC wrote:

My comments attacking management are not based on Souray. They are based on Tambilini's speeches and press conferences and his decisions going back a year or so.

It bothers me that the bulk of his words are about getting better players but he goes out and gets a liability in net instead (compared to Rollie). It bothers me that his idea of an Oiler seems to best describe Horcoff and Pisani and is bereft of any requirement for skill.

Can you imagine Penner's thoughts (one of the few players with improved stats this year) when Tambillini threw a swipe at players who had more goals this year but who didn't think their team was any good? He needs to learn about true leadership. A leader doesn't hang blame on the playersvwho actually improved.

It bothers me that he refuses to accept the very accountability he wants from his players. And, I think he needs to acknowledge the inescapable human trait that playing on a losing team at the very bottom makes "coming to work" not fun. He has staffed this team with 3rd line NHLers and a bunch of players who Can't win games in the AHL. Thankfully ther are a dew second line calibre players also. Maybe I'm wrong and we have a Ken Holland GM in the making.

It's true that attitude counts -- I just don't think Tambillini's is any good.

"What bothers me" are people that know nothing about the team yet presume based on what they read that they know anything about the GM's leadership.

What bothers me is geniuses who in retrospect can say the GM should not have done this or that.

You do not know anything about Roli's personal situation. Yet you presume that it was better than Bulin's last summer. You do not know anything about the negotiations between Roli's agent and the Oilers, yet you assume he wanted to come back here.

You have never been in the Oilers dressing room at any material time, never been present for a conversation between management and player, were not present for the recent exit interviews, and likely have never spoken to an Oiler or management. You know nothing about any of these people's personalities, have never seen how they act behind the scenes, but you presume that Penner has a good attitude because he got 32 goals and Tambi has a bad one because he is the GM of the worst team.

An NHL team is like any other group of people, with all the quirks and weakness all of us have. They are amplified in many cases due to money, position, success, youth etc.

I know nothing about Penner. But if I had to guess based on his public persona, he is a bit of stange cat. So if Tambi took a cut at him (which I don't think he did) he may have a basis for it. I don't know and I you don't either.

I got the sense Tambi was upset about everyone and everthing about this team. I would expect he should be. He clearly set out his expectations. That is some element of leadership.

I have liked the majority of Tambi's moves. I liked Cole for POS (I still think POS will do well on a more complete team). I didn't mind the Bulin signing as it was designed to give the team proven goaltending. I liked the moves at the dealine. I like the fact they kept Eberle in the minors. I did not like wasting a second rounder on Kotalik. Chasing Heatley was a mistake. There are lots of problems but I am willing to see how things go for this off season.

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#60 Rick
April 16 2010, 10:11AM
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@Team Hall

I don't think it's unrealistic to expect 55 games from him next year. I also don't think the coaching staff should plan to play him more than 55 games next year.

But there is difference between the coaches laying out a plan to get the back up into 27 games spread out over a season and the disruption and uncertainty that is caused by the starter going down for a couple of 10 game stretches.

All that said, he is here and won't be going anywhere any time soon so it is what it is.

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#61 Milli
April 16 2010, 11:05AM
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Not a Tambo fan, but, I liked his comments. I like the not chasing big fish, build from within. This is the new deal, re-establish the Oiler. I'm sick of these guys signing huge deals then whining.....On atother note, how good do Stoll, Smyth and mean Matt Greene look? God I wish we still had those guys.....

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#62 GSC
April 16 2010, 11:46AM
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With Tambi, or with any other GM, carefully-chosen words can be refreshing to the fan base...but what matters is results.

This offseason should tell us a helluva lot about Tambi and this organization. It's time to put up or shut up, no excuses and no more of this "but we tried soooo hard" crap.

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#63 SkinnyD
April 16 2010, 12:28PM
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I think Tambi's actions for the most part can be explained by the general over-valuing of our team last year (esp. going after Heatley, thinking we were a contender). After letting go of MacT - still the right decision - the only variables left are the players. If you don't know what you have, how can you make the right changes? He was correct in his assessments of Stone and JFJ - they added an element missing from the lineup, and when they were healthy, they were effective.

Well...we know what we have now. The Khabi signing is not nearly as bad as everyone is making out - the only available goalies as competent that summer were Roli and Anderson - and he wanted to hit the home run. Khabi's solid...and if he can play 55 games a year, that's a good return on the investment like JG said.

Tambi's deadline moves were brilliant. He got blood out of a stone and gave us a fighting chance to rebuild. I'm looking forward to seeing what he does this summer, and over the next couple of years.

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#64 VMR
April 16 2010, 02:39PM
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@SkinnyD

What if he cant play 55 games next year? What if Khabi is down around 30 or 40 which is reasonable coming back from back surgery. What if, just like Jacques this year, he has to go back in for follow up surgery? What if he comes back but he never fully recovers and is a shadow of his former self?

That's a lot of what ifs and all those questions were predictable with a goalie that old who had various injury problems over the past few years and hadnt performed that well. It wouldnt have been that bad a gamble for 1 or 2 years but for 4 it's idiotic. Even if he does come back and play well next season any little tweak and you have to worry he's done for the year and possibly his career, and we'll still be stuck with the cap hit.

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#65 SkinnyD
April 16 2010, 02:48PM
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VMR wrote:

What if he cant play 55 games next year? What if Khabi is down around 30 or 40 which is reasonable coming back from back surgery. What if, just like Jacques this year, he has to go back in for follow up surgery? What if he comes back but he never fully recovers and is a shadow of his former self?

That's a lot of what ifs and all those questions were predictable with a goalie that old who had various injury problems over the past few years and hadnt performed that well. It wouldnt have been that bad a gamble for 1 or 2 years but for 4 it's idiotic. Even if he does come back and play well next season any little tweak and you have to worry he's done for the year and possibly his career, and we'll still be stuck with the cap hit.

If he can't play 55, then the development of either JDD or Dubnyk will continue, I guess. He was brought in because: 1. He was the most proven goaltender at the time. Yes, more than Roli. And, 2. The team had been overvalued. That's been proven false, so like it or not, we've got him for another 3 years. If he's injured, he likely goes on the IR and his salary no longer counts against the cap (as I understand it).

I can think of worse situations to be in. We're not going to challenge for the Championship next year, or likely the year after. So I'd say take a deep breath and watch the team develop...

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#66 VMR
April 16 2010, 03:49PM
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@SkinnyD

That's the problem. The team has been overvalued but Tambelini talking up Khabibulin like it was a good deal sounds like he's still making bad value judgements on players. If he actually thinks that signing was a good idea I dont want to see who he decides to sign when we are looking for a replacement in 3 years.

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#67 Starving Student
April 16 2010, 06:18PM
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what else would one expect? Khabi's 3.7 cap hit is on the books regardless of what happens, whether he retires, bought out or demoted, unless you can find a mike milbury to take the contract off the books, might as well make some lemonade

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#68 Victoria
April 17 2010, 12:16AM
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that's fantastic, Tambi... ReKhab can be our cheerleader. Just don't bother putting him in net ever again.

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#69 michael clarke
April 18 2010, 09:25AM
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Tambo needs to get a hold of his self. Bulin contributed nothing to the Oilers this year and collected his 3.5 million. Thank you very much. Then while rehabing in Arizona(? not in Edmonton)he gets a DUI. Jail time is forthcoming. Though Tambo seems to think that this would be the kind of veteran player that the youth should look up to. Emulate. Follow. Ok Hall/Seguin, Eberle, Svenson. You guys go and get bombed and then drive your car ilegally and risk not only your life but those of the public(see MADD). Tambo are you high, or do you have blinders on. J.D. and Dubnyk played thier collective asses off for you this season: in a season where we had 560 man games lost to injury. The defence in front of them was porous at the best of times. So you reward your youth with a trade. We'll have to decide which one we trade say's Tambo. What a wank.That says alot to the team and the fans. We'll reward the dumbass who goes and commits stupid acts because he was Tambo's first big signing and he does not want to look like he made a wrong descision in signing Bulin. He was wrong to begin with. he signed him to a 4 year contract and then overpaid him to boot. Everybody talks about Klow and the bad signings he has made. Tambo started off his reign with probably one as bad as or equal to the Horcoff contract KLow signed. Get rid of the bum. Move forward with JD and Dubnyk. If we are trying to change the culture of this organization why are we trading away players who want to be Oilers and have been brought up in our organiztion. Versus a hasbeen mercernary who obviously does not care about himself, his family, the public, or his teammates.Tell me I am wrong????

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