January 15 2014 11:33PM
Ben Scrivens was decidedly understated today when Jason Gregor and I asked him if joining the Edmonton Oilers was his big chance to prove he's a bonafide NHL starter -- a timely opportunity, seeing as he's approaching unrestricted free agency. One can hardly blame him.
Scrivens, a native of Spruce Grove who has just 51 NHL games on his resume at the age of 27, wasn't going to get that chance playing behind Jonathan Quick in Los Angeles, so I was a bit surprised he didn’t sound more pumped about the deal that landed him back in Alberta.
Scrivens talked about not putting the cart before the horse and downplayed the bigger picture Gregor and I were trying to paint. Fair enough. Can't blame a guy for not flapping his gums to a couple media guys on live radio just hours into trying absorb a trade. He was getting ready to board his flight to join the Oilers on the road when we talked.
Then again, I'm assuming that, while Scrivens relishes a chance to play in a city where he'll have to compete for the crease with Ilya Bryzgalov instead of Quick, he's smart enough to know if he's going to prove to any team, including the Oilers, he's ready for prime time and a fat UFA contract, the opportunity comes with, shall we say, challenges.
If Scrivens can make it here, he can make it anywhere.
ONCE AN OILER . . .
On the upside for Scrivens, Quick is out of the equation. On the downside, so is Drew Doughty and Slava Voynov and the rest of a Los Angeles defense that's deeper and more talented than any group Oiler GM Craig MacTavish and coach Dallas Eakins can put in front of him right now.
In the Oilers, Scrivens joins a team that's 26 points behind the Kings in Western Conference standings. He goes from a team that has a decent chance to win a Stanley Cup to a team that's a lock to be a lottery team for the fifth straight year on the way to missing the playoffs for an eighth straight campaign.
In the Oilers, Scrivens joins a team that's allowing an average of 3.55 goals per game through 49 games and is on pace to allow 291 goals. Simply put, it's going to take a helluva lot more than a pending UFA like Scrivens – and the addition of journeyman ham-and-egger Matt Hendricks in another deal today – to turn that around.
Tending the four-by-six behind this bunch chewed outgoing Devan Dubnyk up before he got his ticket to Nashville in the Hendricks deal today. A faded Nikolai Khabibulin couldn’t get anything done here. Bryzgalov, who could not get an NHL job before the Oilers came calling, has had his moments, but has been mediocre at best (.902 with a 3.27 GAA) so far. Playing behind a team this full of holes on the blue line will do that to a stopper.
Is Scrivens good enough to overcome the team playing in front of him? I don't know, but he arrives with less impressive credentials than Bryzgalov and the broken-down Khabibulin. I don't see Scrivens, by the numbers at least, as a proven step-up from Dubnyk.
Understated is probably the way to play it, Ben.
WHILE I'M AT IT . . .
. . . I've got no argument with MacTavish trading Dubnyk. It was clear from his first comments about Dubnyk as GM that MacTavish wasn't sold on the former Kamloops Blazer as a No. 1 goaltender. Playing behind a bad team or not, Dubnyk didn't do enough to change his mind.
If MacTavish and president of hockey operations Kevin Lowe, who have watched Dubnyk, 27, since he turned pro, weren't convinced he was the guy by now, that wasn't going to change. Best to move him along.
. . . Analyst Matthew Barnaby said today via Twitter Hendricks turned down more money from the Oilers as a UFA to sign with Nashville: "I'm told Hendricks turned down more money from EDM in offseason but chose Nash for better fit." Hmm.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.