So Long, Jason LaBarbera

Jonathan Willis
December 14 2013 11:55AM

 

The Edmonton Oilers announced this morning that they had traded goaltender Jason LaBarbera to the Chicago Blackhawks for the proverbial bag of pucks.

This is good news for basically everybody involved.

For the Edmonton Oilers...

This means a bunch of things for Edmonton, and basically all of them are good.

First, it means that Ilya Bryzgalov is ready to go. With Devan Dubnyk crashing and burning this season, the Oilers need a starting goalie they have some confidence in, and Bryzgalov has done nothing but play extremely well in Edmonton. 

Second, it gives the team additional flexibility to make other moves, as Bob Stauffer points out:

Third, this restores the natural order to the goaltending depth chart. Edmonton now has two veterans at the NHL level, a good third-string veteran in Oklahoma (Richard Bachman, who filled in ably in Edmonton prior to getting hurt) and space on the farm for Laurent Brossoit, the club's top goaltending prospect. 

For the Chicago Blackhawks...

Chicago has had some injury problems in net, and LaBarbera gives the team some valuable depth.

Finnish rookie Antti Raanta, who the Oilers tried to sign in the summer, has played extremely well in the Blackhawks' net, going 5-0-1 with a 0.926 save percentage after being elevated from the starting role in Rockford to the starting role in Chicago. 

But he's all Chicago has right now. Starter Corey Crawford is expected to miss roughly three weeks thanks to a lower body injury and Raanta's backup right now is Kent Simpson, a rookie pro who has provided the AHL's Rockford Icehogs with a 0.900 save percentage goaltending over 15 games. That's not much of a backup policy.

Mostly, though, it seems likely this move was brought on by Nikolai Khabibulin being Nikolai Khabibulin.

 

Khabibulin has been on injured reserve for a month now with a lower body injury (as per TSN). In the four games he played for the Blackhawks, he posted a 0.811 save percentage. He's been well and thoroughly beaten for an NHL job by Raanta and when everybody's healthy it's hard to see how the 'Hawks could send down the superior goaltender to hang on to a guy who was signed as a veteran stopgap. 

That leaves a hole long-term in Rockford, where Simpson seems unready to take on the starting role. Because of his reasonable contract, LaBarbera can fill that slot and provide Chicago's farm team with exceptional AHL goaltending and the Blackhawks themselves with a reliable third-stringer. 

For LaBarbera...

This is a chance to play.

The Oilers couldn't afford to give LaBarbera a chance to play his way back into form; with Devan Dubnyk imploding and LaBarbera unable to calm the waters the team really had no choice but to go out and find somebody else. It put the goaltending depth chart into disarray, and once the music stopped and everybody got healthy there weren't going to be enough chairs for everyone involved.

LaBarbera goes to a contender, which leaves him the chance of being the backup for a Stanley Cup winner if injuries strike again. While he's probably looking at a long stint in the AHL, that was going to happen regardless, and this move means at least he'll be playing in the minors rather than fighting for time with another solid third-stringer. It gives him an opportunity to rehabilitate a career badly tarnished by his short stint in Edmonton.  

It's a win-win-win.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, 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 Rheal1
December 14 2013, 12:34PM
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Rheal1 wrote:

WOW!!! Absolutely WOW for Jason!!!! Christmas came early for LaBarbera!!! Bail out of this deadbeat of a town must be like winning the lottery. Another bold move by macT. I would have moved Dubnyk before Jason.

I meant deadbeat of a managed team. Future considerations? How about eternal gratitude from Labarbera?

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#52 madjam
December 14 2013, 09:38PM
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Oilergasm wrote:

Can you honestly say at anytime since the Smid trade "If only we still had Smid we coulda won that game"

Looking back, since the trade we've had a somewhat respectable record and the flames have dropped off( I know they've also had key injuries)

Maybe the Smid trade was one of the culture changes that we've been hearing about. Also freeing up cap space if someone of significance comes available.

Calgary is now 5 points up on us , on a 2 game winning streak and 2 games in hand . How do you get the Oilers are doing better since trade ? We are not better without Smid .

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#53 Serious Gord
December 14 2013, 12:30PM
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First let's make a proper accounting of this. Making labarbera the second tender behind dubnyk was MacT's fault. It is well documented that Bachman was the better tender in preseason but not making labarbera a member of the oil meant possibly losing him.

Well now he is gone - for nothing. And while he was here he managed to lose a few games for the oil.

So score it as a bad move by a rookie GM.

As for Chicago taking him - boy the supply of below average goalies must be pretty low. Then again they did get him for nothing. And after getting the dud khabi from EDM you would think they would have learned a lesson - not to pick up oil cAstoffs.

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#54 Serious Gord
December 14 2013, 12:47PM
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Jonathan Willis wrote:

I think it's generally dangerous to toss out years of history based on pre-season stuff. LaBarbera had the longer track record of success, and Bachman had been lit up as the backup in Dallas.

In this case it didn't work out, but there always has to be a balance between 'earned a job in camp' and 'let's weigh the long-term over the short-term' and in my view in this instance that balance favoured LaBarbera starting out as the backup.

The results weren't as hoped for but I'm not convinced the process in that case was wrong.

So the preseason performance had no merit? What the heck is the point of having a preseason?

Bachman came with the huge advantage of a two-way contract. Even if they were even in performance Bachman was the better option. Especially in light of how tight the team is in cap and roster size.

MacT went against the consensus and now we must remember that it was a mistake.

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#55 Manfly
December 14 2013, 01:54PM
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good riddance! and he'll be back in the AHL where he belongs as soon as Crawford is healthy.

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#56 camdog
December 14 2013, 09:33PM
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Oilergasm wrote:

Can you honestly say at anytime since the Smid trade "If only we still had Smid we coulda won that game"

Looking back, since the trade we've had a somewhat respectable record and the flames have dropped off( I know they've also had key injuries)

Maybe the Smid trade was one of the culture changes that we've been hearing about. Also freeing up cap space if someone of significance comes available.

The Flames have not dropped off they are still 5 points ahead of the Oilers in the standings with 2 games in hand. Flames have won 5 of their last 7.

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#57 Fresh Mess
December 14 2013, 10:20PM
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Spydyr wrote:

I would save the last buy out for Gagner this summer.

And then hopefully a new owner could buy out Katz. And then Lowe and MacT could be bought out of their contracts. And the new owner could buy his own arena.

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#58 Fresh Mess
December 14 2013, 01:42PM
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good move here by MacLooselips.

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#59 Spydyr
December 14 2013, 01:53PM
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Wonder if they offered Dubnyk for futures and Chicago did not want to pay his contract.

I sure would of made that offer.

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#60 hemi
December 14 2013, 02:07PM
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As Oil fans, why do we always wait for the big trade when these little tweakings take place? It reminds me of a very bad chess player whom thinks he/she knows how to make the right moves in anticipation of becoming the winner but never does.

Management equals the bad chess player. New game please?

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#61 Rheal1
December 14 2013, 02:52PM
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Jordan Nugent-Hallkins wrote:

I'd be interested in seeing what an Eakins/Nelson combo could do, if only to turf Bucky and Smith. If I were in charge, I'd keep him on the farm for now, and let Eakins choose his own assistants.

Sounds fair. However we all know that Bucky and Smith must go now. What else to do? Oh yeah, Lowe must go! (Not that it's ever going to happen. Not impossible but...). My big concern at this time is that some of the kids will demand a trade.

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#62 Sean
December 14 2013, 03:30PM
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There should be some type of mechanism where a team finishes last,they are dropped to a lower division. I wonder if the Oilers would win in the AHL.

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#63 Say what again
December 14 2013, 03:32PM
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Young Oil wrote:

I like the way MacT does the little things. Got a pick and a roster spot for something we got for nothing.

Hopefully the roster spot is the precursor for a big thing.

Yeah, I just wish he'd get the big things right.

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#64 Alex Mathis
December 14 2013, 03:55PM
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Jonathan, can you tell us anything about "future considerations?" What is it going to be? How did other trades occur with "future considerations?"

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#66 Oilergasm
December 15 2013, 04:58AM
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madjam wrote:

Calgary is now 5 points up on us , on a 2 game winning streak and 2 games in hand . How do you get the Oilers are doing better since trade ? We are not better without Smid .

Hate to break it to you, but we were 4-11-2 before we traded Smid, and 7-9-1 since. We actually are better without Smid, I'm not saying that he's the reason we've won a few more games, but I am saying he's definitely not the reason we aren't losing more games.

At the time, I absolutely hated the trade but based on a very small sample size since, he hasn't been missed.

Sounds like you'd rather just head down to the mall, buy a Nieuwendyk jersey and hop all over the Brian Burke band wagon.

Have at 'er Champ!

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#67 TRAV
December 15 2013, 05:09AM
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john wrote:

Why is everybody so hook up on Smid? He's not the savior of the team, all the young guns are soft, they are easy to defend against. We need more players in Perron, some players not back down from the goons of other teams. All of the ex-Oilers are playing well with other teams, why is that? WE gave Dustin Penner $5 millions a year and he did dick all here. Now he lead the league in plus and minus. They are all lazy and under performed in Edmonton for some reasons

My problem wit h the Smid trade is not just the return but the clear indication that the club doesn't understand the deficit with the team. The Oilers need more rugged, tough to play against players who finish checks and play with aggression. While Smid is not the savior he is exactly the kind of player this team needs more of not less. Moving him makes one wonder about the vision for this squad. We have too many of the same small soft skilled guys and not enough big strong skilled guys. No coincidence that Calgary and Edmonton are at bottom of West and are two of smaller teams in the league. Both teams lost too any puck battles on the boards.

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#68 Rod from Viking
December 14 2013, 12:02PM
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Couldn't Mac T get Mark McNeil in the deal(hey that rhyme's)

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#69 Rheal1
December 14 2013, 01:54PM
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Forget about any hypothetical "bold moves" until the trade deadline. Breezer's back & I can guarantee that Dubnyk has played is last game for as long as possible. It would be absolute incompetence from Eakins to start that guy ever again, as long as the Bryz is healthy. Trades might as well happen when convenient though... Time to take this imploded team into a rebuild mode since there was never one to start with. What is KLOWE thinking about now?

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#70 Johnnydapunk
December 14 2013, 02:32PM
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Zarny wrote:

Good. Moves a contract out. Only time will tell if LaBarbera's career will continue; but it was clearly not going to be in Edm.

I agree, Barbs can have a job till he is 40 if he really wanted, after this season if there isn't tiny NHL feelers, he could always go to the DEL which is where a lot of NHLers go to die :-)

Amazing how short of goalies the Hawks are though.

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#71 Rod from Viking
December 14 2013, 08:30PM
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Spydyr wrote:

I feel sorry too.Sorry Dubnyk is the Oilers starting goalie.

He never earned it.They paid like a starter before he earned it.Next year he will be what he really is. A back-up, most likely for another team.

If you read any of my other comments you would know I am not a fan at all of Dubynk as a #1 and I agree with you, but at the same time he did battle hard for the first 40 minutes last night with no help, did you happen to see Coaches Corner tonight where it showed Vancouver's first shift last night? It was for sure little girls against NHL players, Larson was knocked down 3 times, they had about 5 shots on goal and kept the puck in the Oilers end for at least a minute.

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#72 john
December 15 2013, 03:52AM
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Why is everybody so hook up on Smid? He's not the savior of the team, all the young guns are soft, they are easy to defend against. We need more players in Perron, some players not back down from the goons of other teams. All of the ex-Oilers are playing well with other teams, why is that? WE gave Dustin Penner $5 millions a year and he did dick all here. Now he lead the league in plus and minus. They are all lazy and under performed in Edmonton for some reasons

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#73 Rheal1
December 14 2013, 02:00PM
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Why do the Oilers suck?

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#74 camdog
December 14 2013, 02:59PM
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JW,

Couldn't the Hawks have picked Barbs off of waivers for nothing when Bryzgalof was put back in the line up. Did the Hawks even have to give up futures? Or was it the Oilers that gave the futures to Chigaco to open up a roster spot?

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#75 Cal
December 14 2013, 04:13PM
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I for one would love to "Fast Track" Laurent Brossoit into back up role for the Oilers ASAP. We all know this season is shot and Dub's contract will probably not be renewed due to his performance. I like Dub very much, but he is not a #1 goaltender. Give Brossoit the experience and exposure now.

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#76 hall the time
December 14 2013, 05:48PM
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outdoorzguy wrote:

Who really is in charge? The owner? All he wants is your money. McTavish? Not based on these bold moves. The President of Hockey Operations? He'd have to get his head out of the owners lap to have a clue what's going on. Scott Howson? Not sure what he does for a job. Mark Messier? He's just a living hockey card for the owner.

Who really is in charge is Steve Smith and Kelly Buckberger.

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#77 Samson Loveblast
December 14 2013, 01:59PM
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Great that Bryz is ready to go again, the team needs him. Still disappointing about Raanta, he likely would have had a long term deal signed sealed and delivered by now at probably twice the money that he'll get in Chicago, had he opted to go with the Oil.

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#78 oilersfan123
December 20 2013, 11:50AM
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Oilerz4life wrote:

Start Bryzgalov, make Bachman the backup and move Dubnyk down to OKC.

What makes you think that Bachman is a better backup than Dubnyk? Sure, he had the one good game against LA, but the rest of his time this year he was either terrible or injured. Give Dubnyk some credit, he's kept the oilers in more than a few games this year. Not saying he should be a starter though.

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