August 12 2011 06:34PM
The Edmonton Oilers had a hole in goal, addressed recently by the acquisition of David LeNeveu (in photo). We've discussed it at length, and in fact it remains one of the very important items for the Oilers this fall. The elephant in the room is this: what if NK fails and DD can't hold back the water?
The Edmonton Oilers have made many improvements over the summer. They've added Ryan Smyth to mentor the forwards and brought in some defensive help too. The major issue remains the goaltending. What if? What if the NHL duo can't get it done?
The club has veteran Nikolai Khabibulin under contract but he's hanging by a thread as an NHL option. Last season, Khabibulin's SP was 45th out of 47 "regulars" (he beat bruiser Rick DiPietro and Ty "2006 G1" Conklin) and was 71st among 87 goalies overall. His final number (.890) improved after a devastating start (15gp, 4.07 .879) buried the young Oilers despite young Dubnyk being 4gp, 2.99 .923 at the time of Khabiblin's November 2010 injury.
Devan Dubnyk has a real chance to be a solid NHL goaltender but is not a certain option. Dubnyk performed very well as a rookie. Of the 7 NHL rookie goalies who played enough to qualify as regulars, DD's .916 SP ranks 4th. Considering the team he backstopped (DD was just behind Corey Crawford of Chicago and ahead of Washington goaler Neuvirth, Los Angeles' Jonathan Bernier and the latest Flyer entry Bobrovsky) I think he could be considered as one of the best rookies in the class.
Yann Danis is the top AHL option and extremely likely to be the first NHL callup to the Oilers. He's coming off a solid KHL season and before that an impressive showing in a backup role with the New Jersey Devils. Danis is replacing Martin Gerber as OKC starter and those are tough shoes to fill. In his last two NHL seasons, Danis' play implied he might have the ability to play consistently in the NHL. I expect he gets an NHL chance sometime this season with the Oilers.
LeNeveu (photo at the top of this post) is a former Cornell goaltender (just like Ken Dryden) who was highly rated in 2002 (46th overall, selected 15 picks after Jeff Deslauriers). He's had some ups and downs at the AHL level and a couple of shots in the NHL. I don't think he's likely to see much NHL time this season, but should be considered a solid AHL option.
The best news of all is that Olivier Roy begins his career in Stockton of the ECHL. This is a quality goalie prospect, someone who has already shown well in the AHL. His improvement year over year in junior suggests this is a prospect worth paying attention to this year. If he pushes the AHL vets at any time, it should be considered a major progression.
Time Enough at Last
Is this enough? No. Nikolai Khabibulin and his salary make it difficult for the Oilers to bury the contract at the beginning of the season. However, if these young horses up front are running well and the defense is cobbled together well enough I think we'll see a deal. Dubnyk will get a chance to start if and when NK falters and I believe the next option will be to recall Danis as backup if NK can't handle the secondary role.
It makes sense. Why would the Oilers force their best young men to endure another season of subpar starting goaltending. This fall is the last chance Texaco for Nikolai Khabibulin.
Time Enough at Last to find a replacement. Don't break your glasses, Steve Tambellini.