Should the Edmonton Oilers consider keeping Nikolai Khabibulin?

Jonathan Willis
May 08 2013 12:44PM

Oilers’ backup Nikolai Khabibulin is an unrestricted free agent this summer. Does it make sense for the team to keep him around rather than shopping elsewhere?

Four years ago, the Oilers signed Nikolai Khabibulin as a free agent. Over his previous four years in Chicago, Khabibulin had a mix of performance and health problems, but he redeemed himself somewhat with a tremendous contract year. History seems to have repeated itself. Over four seasons in Edmonton, Khabibulin has had a mix of performance and health problems, but once again has come through at the end of his contract with a 0.923 save percentage over 12 games. Just as it didn’t in 2009, that late surge doesn’t make Khabibulin a good fit for the team.

Injury

Khabibulin was well-established as one of the most injury prone starting goalies in the NHL when the Oilers signed him. From 2006-06 to 2008-09, Khabibulin missed 66 games (an average of 17 per season) to a variety of maladies, with most of them being back and lower body injuries. That total ranked him fourth among NHL starters in time missed to injury; ahead of him were Pascal Leclaire (since retired), Rick DiPietro (the Islanders only wish he was retired) and Kari Lehtonen (he’s been remarkably healthy since).

In the four years since, injuries have been a frequent problem for Khabibulin. Via TSN, here’s the list of games missed to injury:

  • 2009-10: Missed 60 games (back injury)
  • 2010-11: Missed six games (groin injury)
  • 2010-11: Missed four games (eye injury)
  • 2011-12: Missed five games (groin injury)
  • 2012-13: Missed five games (hip injury)
  • 2012-13: Missed eight games (groin injury)
  • Total: 88 games lost to injury, average of 22 per season

For just under one in three games the Oilers have played since signing Khabibulin, the veteran goaltender has been on injured reserve. If not for the lockout, that total would have been inflated, as Khabibulin was on injured reserve to start the 2013 season.

Khabibulin is now 40 years old. Injury was a concern when the Oilers signed an oft-injured 36-year old; it’s more of a concern four years later.

Performance

Khabibulin was coming off a difficult four-year stint in Chicago when the Oilers signed him. He had won the Stanley cup with Tampa Bay just before the lockout, and the Blackhawks paid big money for him to solve their goaltending problems. Instead, he was terrible in 2005-06, moderately better in 2006-07, decent in 2007-08 and quite good in 2008-09. Overall, he posted a 0.904 save percentage over that span – a total that ranked 27th among goalies with a minimum of 100 starts in that period.

Khabibulin’s performance in Edmonton has been similar. He was pretty good in an 18-game first season before injury knocked him out of the lineup, but was then terrible the following year. A hot start in 2011-12 combined with a brutal finish propelled him to average-ish overall numbers, and then in a short stint this season Khabibulin was excellent. Overall, he posted a 0.903 save percentage over four years in Edmonton – almost the same total as he managed in Chicago, except that NHL goaltending has improved. Among goalies with a minimum of 100 games played over those four years, Khabibulin’s 0.903 save percentage ranks 39th of 42 players.

NHL goalies are getting better. At 40, Khabibulin is not.

Bottom Line

Khabibulin is a terrible fit for the Oilers. Ideally, the Oilers need a backup they can count on to play (Khabibulin can’t be, due to injury), play well (Khabibulin has not consistently done so) and ideally someone who can continue to push starter Devan Dubnyk or take over for a stretch if he falters or gets hurt (something Khabibulin simply isn’t capable of doing at this stage of his career).

When it comes to addressing the number two goaltending slot in Edmonton, Nikolai Khabibulin shouldn’t be in the conversation.

STREAKCRED

Sign up for StreakCred - the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. For only $20 you can win solid prizes and a portion of the proceeds go to supporting the MS Bike Tour and the Edmonton Down Syndrome Society. Sign up here.

Recently around the Nation Network

74b7cedc5d8bfbe88cf071309e98d2c3
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.
Avatar
#151 Old Retired Guy ( AKA Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 12:28PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Romulus' Apotheosis wrote:

This whole insurgence to fire someone in VAN is ridiculous.

That is an extraordinarily successful team over the past several years.

Beyond emotional catharsis... I'm not sure what would be achieved by any dramatic changes.

Trade Lu, dump some bad bets and pick up a few more pieces. That core is still magic.

YEAH.....Playoffs start and POOF!...they disappear....MAGIC!

Avatar
#152 Old Retired Guy
May 09 2013, 12:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Fred wrote:

Vancouver is going through a cycle most teams go through. They had a window of 3 yrs to win the Cup and now they are an above average team that will make the playoffs next year. I don't know what all the panic is for, Sedins are getting older perhaps no longer a #1 line. They have work to do to become a Stanley Cup contender but this is normal for teams. There core is not young which is the biggest problem for them

Yeah...your right...they're going through a CYCLE all right.....zero Stanley Cups in thier entire history! Now that's a Cycle!

Them and the Minnisota North Stars / Wild !!!

Poof....it's like Magic!

Avatar
#153 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 12:51PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Rama Lama wrote:

DD is not a playoff type of goalie.........yes he does make his share of saves, but he lets goals in at all the wrong time too.

He should be considered a back up or at best a goalie that can play half the games, or a dual goalie situation, at least until he gets consistent.

WTF?!?!

The Oilers have never played a playoff game since Dubnyk was drafted....how do you know he's not a playoff goaltender? Are you aware that most players ELEVATE their game during the playoffs? (Vancouver and Minnesota being the exceptions).

You know who else wasn't a playoff goalie until he actually played in the playoffs?........EVERY frigin GOALIE!

Avatar
#154 Quicksilver ballet
May 09 2013, 12:58PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty) wrote:

WTF?!?!

The Oilers have never played a playoff game since Dubnyk was drafted....how do you know he's not a playoff goaltender? Are you aware that most players ELEVATE their game during the playoffs? (Vancouver and Minnesota being the exceptions).

You know who else wasn't a playoff goalie until he actually played in the playoffs?........EVERY frigin GOALIE!

He has a point the ORG.

Dubey just isn't that good. If he was we'd have made the playoffs atleast once. Even Grant Fuhr had us in the finals during his ELC. This Dubnyk to me looks more bum than boffo.

...am I doing it right?

Avatar
#155 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:04PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
John Chambers wrote:

I agree about the coach - they won't find a better one.

They do need to make a big move though to give themselves a new look and free up dollars to add another impact player up front.

Van is the only team who can boast 4 legitimate top-pairing D. Not tomention two All-Star goalies. If they can get some quality young assets in return and then have $ to go after a high-end buyout candidate or UFA (eg Horton, Briere, or Heatley), they could easily finish at the top of their conference and keep the window open another 3 years.

Big summer for Gillis though, and big changes do need to be made.

Seriously?

What playoffs have you been watching?

Corey Schnider an All-Star...where?..in Kazakastan?

Briere and Heatley? You left out Martin Havlat.

If Vancouver EVER had a WINDOW...it would be made by a company called "Fair Weather Windows"...Playoffs arrive and the sisters close the window....Poof...It's like magic!

Avatar
#156 Tikkanese
May 09 2013, 01:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Old Retired Guy wrote:

Yeah...your right...they're going through a CYCLE all right.....zero Stanley Cups in thier entire history! Now that's a Cycle!

Them and the Minnisota North Stars / Wild !!!

Poof....it's like Magic!

FYI The North Stars moved to Dallas, they didn't change their name to the Wild. Last I checked the Dallas Stars did win the Cup.

But it is fun to rag on the Canucks regardless :)

Avatar
#157 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:06PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
Quicksilver ballet wrote:

He has a point the ORG.

Dubey just isn't that good. If he was we'd have made the playoffs atleast once. Even Grant Fuhr had us in the finals during his ELC. This Dubnyk to me looks more bum than boffo.

...am I doing it right?

your doing all right..... your wrong.... but your doing all right....

Avatar
#158 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Tikkanese wrote:

FYI The North Stars moved to Dallas, they didn't change their name to the Wild. Last I checked the Dallas Stars did win the Cup.

But it is fun to rag on the Canucks regardless :)

You can take your head out of DSF's arse now.

Shoulda, coulda, woulda, if this and if that, if my aunt roberta had a penis she'd be my uncle bob....etc

Avatar
#159 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:11PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

Did I say anything about the Dallas Stars?

Avatar
#160 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:16PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
Rod from Viking wrote:

Not a chance Khabby is done like the Canucks, How about Halak out of ST. Louis?

YEP!

Avatar
#161 Tikkanese
May 09 2013, 01:19PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)

What? I was on YOUR side... Did you even read all three sentences of my message?

You however were wrong about the North Stars not winning the Cup. They moved to Dallas and won. They did not become the Wild.

Avatar
#162 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:21PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

None of their defensemen are overpaid.

True....since they're not paid to win cups....if they were paid to win cups it might be one of the biggest overpays in the history of sports.

Avatar
#163 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:23PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

@Tikkanese

Your right Tik....I missed the third line.....

Your wrong Tik....I never mentioned the Dallas Stars....

Avatar
#164 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:27PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

Yes.

Expectations are much higher in Vancouver.

Winning the division and getting scorched in the first round is not a viable option.

That's why they'll make changes.

Expectations are different in Edmonton, where finishing 24th is some kind of a badge of honour.

It's quite sad, actually.

yeah....expectations have been high in Vancouver for about 40 years now....

Avatar
#165 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:31PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

The Canucks have 3 players the Oilers should be interested in.

Mason Raymond is UFA. Kills penalties and would be an interesting 3rd line addition.

Derek Roy is a very good 2nd line centre who would be an upgrade on Gagner and could likely be signed for less than Sammy Snowpants.

Alex Edler is still a young developing defenseman who would immediately be a better option that Petry on the top pairing.

yeah....and Stan Smyl....you left out Stan Smyl...

Avatar
#166 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:35PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
The Soup Fascist wrote:

Elder would be good.

Keep Roy as far from here as possible. An absolute dressing room cancer. There is a reason this guy is always available. Not close to Gagner, IMO. Has as much edge as a wet Kleenex. Even you know that DSF. I assume this is your shiny hook in the water. Lets move on.

Raymond - meh. I realize he would be an upgrade to a few guys but the Oilers need more grit from those positions. Plus dude is a M*A*S*H unit. We will take Edler. Keep the rest of the crap. This squad played exactly four more games this season than the Oil.

Edler's a Canuck....f*#k Edler.....

We don't take Canucks rejects....they take ours...

Avatar
#167 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:39PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
1
cheers
DSF wrote:

Roy is a "dressing room cancer"?

Source?

Can you not just picture him pushing up the bridge of his glasses with his middle finger as he spouts..,"source?"...

Avatar
#168 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:44PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

The sad thing is, despite all their troubles, the Canucks are a vastly superior team compared to the Oilers.

theres those high expectations again...

Avatar
#169 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:46PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

Far from perfect.

A lot of work to be done.

but expectations are running high...

Avatar
#170 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 01:49PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

The Swedish national team just added 3 players.

Daniel, Henrik and Edler.

No mention of Magnus.

Must be a mistake,

expectations are running high in Sweden...

Avatar
#171 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 02:07PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

164,168,169,170.....I call it the "Expectations Series".....viewed in sequence...its classic DSF

Avatar
#172 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 02:08PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

164,168,169,170.....I call it the "Expectations Series".....viewed in sequence...its classic DSF

Avatar
#173 Old Retired Guy (A.K.A. Die-Nasty)
May 09 2013, 02:10PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers

Peace Out! and Hugs all around.

Avatar
#174 BeerLeagueLegend
May 09 2013, 04:02PM
Trash it!
0
trashes
Cheers
0
cheers
DSF wrote:

Gagner is also a "cancer".

He's always thought he should be gifted first line and first line PP minutes.

My source is his GM in junior who thinks the young man has a lot of growing up to do.

You realize Gagner played his junior in London where his Dad is part of the organization and is one of GM Mark Hunter's oldest friends (they go back to the Brantford Alexanders when they were an OHL franchise). If you insist on clogging up our discussion board and the moderators refuse to ban you because you drive up the number of hits, at least try and make your arguments plausible when you are talking out your arse... I know you're better with Google than this.

Comments are closed for this article.