Getting started: tell us when, Nik

Mistakes happen, so it’s senseless to get overwrought about Nikolai Khabibulin’s all-thumbs bungling on the winning goal by David Moss in the Edmonton Oilers 4-3 loss to the Calgary Flames at Rexall Place Saturday.

Of more concern for me, with the caveat it’s still very early, is that GM Steve Tambellini’s big off-season signing hasn’t been very good at stopping pucks so far as a member of the Oilers.

I know, WTF Brownlee? It’s been ONE game for crying out loud. True that, although I’m looking at pre-season as well as Saturday, and the concerns I’ve voiced about Khabibulin still nag me.

After shutting out an AHL team disguised in Florida Panthers uniforms 4-0 with 18 saves in his first pre-season appearance, Khabibulin has allowed 12 goals on the 72 shots he’s faced since then, including four on 21 shots against Calgary.

That, by any measure and even if it’s early, is atrocious. No?

Puck stops here

"It’s unfortunate the way we lost, especially after coming back from being down," Khabibulin said of his last-minute faux pas on a loose puck. "In reality, it is one game."

Even with the shutout against the Panthers, Khabibulin finished pre-season with a 2.96 goals-against average and .884 saves percentage in 162 minutes through three appearances.

No worries, insisted many. A guy like Khabibulin will be ready when the puck drops with points on the line. He’s a veteran. A Stanley Cup winner. He deserves the benefit of the doubt. Yes, he does. That’s still the case.

"Exhibition, I never take it into consideration," Khabibulin said. "Quite honestly, I don’t even know what my stats are in exhibition. It’s never on any hockey cards. You’ll never find it in any hockey books."

While I’m not going to harp on the fact Khabibulin’s saves-percentage through one game that matters is .810 — I roll my eyes when numbers guys cherry-pick stats to make their case — I don’t think it’s a stretch to say he has to be better than he has been. Sooner rather than later.

"We know he’s a good player," coach Pat Quinn said today when Jim Matheson of The Journal asked about Khabibulin after practice.

"He’s working his way to get his timing like all of our players are. There are a lot of guys who are trying to find their game right now. He’s good. He’s working hard at it."

Fine. Good. Results, please.

Around the room

— Forward Marc Pouliot skated for the first time since being put on the shelf after three pre-season appearances with an inflamed pubic bone, also known as pubitis.

"A lot of treatments. I feel good," Pouliot said. "I’m day-to-day. Hopefully, by the end of the week."

Pouliot won’t be ready to play against Dallas Tuesday, but he could be available for the rematch with the Flames Thursday or for Saturday’s tilt against the Montreal Canadiens.

By the way, for the benefit of whoever it was who was arguing with Jonathan Willis and I about whether Pouliot was a "decent size" based on his vitals of six-foot-one and 195 pounds, an update.

Pouliot is playing this season at 205 pounds and he’s actually closer to six-foot-two than six-foot-one. While I’m not going to argue Pouliot plays a robust game, he most certainly is a "decent size" compared to his NHL peers. Now, let’s move on. Nothing to see here.

— Captain Ethan Moreau didn’t skate today. The ankle that was bothering him before the season-opener flared up again and kept him off the blades today. No firm word on his status for Tuesday.

— Steve Staios was packing a lot of ice on his right knee after practice today, the result of being hit by a shot. Staios expects to be fine to play against the Stars.

— Former University of Alberta Golden Bear Aaron Sorochan is the back-up to Devan Dubnyk with the Springfield Falcons to start the season. Sorochan saw his first action in a 6-2 loss to Providence Sunday, spelling off Dubnyk in the third period.

— Listen to Robin Brownlee every Wednesday and Thursday from 4 to 6 p.m. on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

    • rindog

      I just think it is premature to start doubting him? If you didn't like the signing and are looking to justify it – that's fine. I just don't know too many people that care to make judgements based on a single game?

      Correction….a single game and a preseason playing against and with minor league players.

      Garon was amazing the first 3 games last year and everyone had a "wait and see" attitude.

      A proven veteran coming off one of his best seasons is already under the gun?

      It just seems a little weird to me?

      • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

        how were 'bulins numbers after his cup win?

        coming off his most successful year and getting rewarded with a big money deal surely would have resulted in continued high performance.

        so much so, the hawks had to sign Huet after years of waiting.

        A 36 year old signed to a long term deal should be "under the gun" the whole way through. he falters and the oilers are screwed.

  • I've been jimmying the dispensing system and re-routing the tubes for the past three seasons so that I get half the beer designated for seats #12, #16 and #18. Those boobs think a pint a period is the norm when I've been gulleting half their barley the entire time. Rookies.

    • Librarian Mike

      The past three seasons of watching this team would drive anyone to drink.

      Just curious, but what percentage of reporters on your beat smoke? I'm guessing it's around 75%, what with crazy deadlines, dealing with Marc Crawford, etc.

    • Chris.

      One thing I'm curious about is the status of Lubo. We were all so focused on the demotion of Sam Gagner (and his excellent response) that it has only been mentioned in passing that Visnovsky lined up on the bottom defensive pairing with Smid.

      Lubo only played 12 minutes to Staios' 17. Is he being eased in? Or does Lubo lack the confidence of the coaching staff? How can the Oilers pay 5.6 million for a fifth or sixth defenceman playing limited minutes?

    • Chris.

      I'm confused by the Lubo situation. If Quinn has decided that Lubo is too much of a "Fancy Dan" and doesn't intend to play him against top opposition; then Lubo needs to be moved.

      So the way I see it either:

      a) Lubo isn't fully recovered.

      b) Quinn is making a mistake with a key player.

      c) Management has overvalued Visnovsky.

      I sure hope it's not option c. If it's a or b things will sort themselves out over time. Otion c would be a disaster. Lowe traded some quality players to obtain Lubo: a player who is already 33 yeras old and under contact untill 2013. In the current market, it's unlikely management could move Lubo for anything close to fair value.

      • Lubo is hurt, everyone knows it, plus he played 17 minutes, its not like he played 12. He was the best overall defenseman on the team last season.

        its option (a) all the way. That or Quinn wants Lubo to teach Smid some stuff by Osmosis.

        • Chris.

          Oh I agree. I'm a huge Lubo fan. I hope Quinn is just easing Lubo back into the flow of things after a serious shoulder injury (not that Horcoff got the same benifit from MacT)…

          Lubo played only 12:32 evenstrength against inferior opposition as the fifth defenceman. To me that is a bigger story than Gagner, the 1.6 million dollar twenty year old, playing half the game on the fourth line.

          • I dont disagree, i just think that as Lubo gets healthier he will naturally rise up the depth chart. My only other thinking might be that Quinn didnt want any glaring weakness in the d-pairings so he doesnt mind bolstering the 3rd pairing with a guy like Lubo, who obviously still got his PP time based on his EV time compared to Overall Time on ice. The D wasnt the problem last game, it was the sub-par goaltending. Its early, more games will tell the story about all these issues. I just wish I didnt have to buy/miss these PPV games coming up.

    • Let's not forget Visnovsky is coming off shoulder surgery. His minutes will be tailored so he can maintain a reasonble comfort level while he recovers.
      Being recovered enough to play doesn't neccessarily mean he's 100 per cent. His minutes will increase as he and the medical staff see fit.

  • And I don't recall anyone mentioning Deslauries ORANGE pads here. I know Gregor and some other media members commented before Saturday's games, but I must admit, they looked sharp.

  • rindog

    I am willing to give the coaching staff a chance but I have to admit I am totally confused with the defensive pairings?

    I have no idea why anyone (let alone knowledgeable coaches) would care to play Staios that far up the depth chart.

    He is neither a shutdown defenseman nor a steadying influence?

    • Librarian Mike

      I wonder if they're putting Staios on display to see if anyone takes the bait. He's been a good player through thick and thin, but the fact is he's making big money and he's getting old.

      • Chris.

        You wrote: "I wonder if they're putting Staios on display"

        Maybe. Somethings gotta give. They're all so busy trying to teach MacIntyre how to play, Pouliot is skating again, and Nilsson can't make $2M to sit in the pressbox for two more years…

  • The Canadiens are talking to the Isles and the Oilers about D-men. And rumor has it that Kostitsyn could be part of a package. What do those two teams have in common? Well they house the two former d-pairing partners of Markov in Souray and Streit. I am not hearing that the Habs are interested, nor could they land either player, but I am hearing that they are talking defense… Eklund

    From a cap perspective, Denis Grebeshkov would likely be the most attractive to the Habs. Obviously his behaviour in recent weeks suggest question marks, but would a package including former Gagner linemate Sergei Kostitsyn be of interest? What else would be?

      • I would tend to agree. Especially fringe skill guys. With the Gagner connection, I just figured I'd throw out a topic. Anyone in Montreal interest you for Grebeshkov? Any interest in moving Grebeshkov?

          • Scuba Steve

            Lol, a career minor leaguer/4th line player for a top two defenseman? That sounds like good value. You know who else has a good draft pedigree? Robbie Schremp.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            Now that you bring up Bonsignore, I'll mention a time sitting at the Colisium in February before that 1994 draft. An 18-year old guy near us in the upper deck starts yelling about "Hey Oilers! Don't draft Bonsignore!". Now, I had no clue who this name was so I asked him. He said, "Oh, he's an OHL hotshot who thinks his $h!t don't stink. He's got no heart and he's a cancer to his team". I asked how he knew this. He said his brother played on Jason's team in Ontario.
            I didn't know if any of it was true but was I ever shocked when that same name was called by the Oilers in the Spring using their lowest draft pick ever. Then I prayed that fan was wrong and his brother was a whiner.
            My question would be, how does a professional scouting organization NOT know this when some guy in the stands knows it?

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            He might be cancer, but often skill set will trump that. I believe there was talk about Evander Kane this year having some issues. Schremp had the same questions as well, that is why he slipped in the draft.

          • Chris.

            You wrote: "My question would be, how does a professional scouting organization NOT know this when some guy in the stands knows it?"

            Kinda like our organization knew nothing about Khabibulin's hydration problems, or Brule's waiver eligibility, or thes exact day Heatley was to collect his bonus, or that Cole cannot drive the net from the left side of the ice, or that the team needs a faceoff winning two way center with size, or, or, or?

  • z

    @ Robin:

    Is Moreau the worst captain the Oil have ever had? The guy is injured for the vast majority of his tenure. The Oil have sucked on par with the early-mid 90s under his leadership and the guy plays on the 4th line and takes chump penalties like clockwork.

    Is it just a matter of time before Souray takes the C?

  • Chris.

    @Bingofuel:

    Is the old site archived somewhere? Sometimes it's fun to go back in time and look at which predictions/ideas came true, and which assertions were just plain ridiculous.

  • Ender

    Jeanshorts wrote:

    Well, as bad as Khabbi looked on Saturday, he still looks better than Luongo.

    And you wrote that before last night's game.

    Cableguy wrote:

    i agree it is early to jump ship on [Khabibulin], but turning a blind eye and following with what amounts to blind faith is not, IMO, the way to go either.

    Relax. Other stars have had lousy games too. I give the folks in Vancouver free rein after last night to start scratching their heads, but it's too early to start doing that here yet.

    Whenever I reflect on how goalies are doing, I think back to something I read last year; I'm not sure who the original quote came from, but I think it was Willis who put it in an article: 'Some years the pucks hit you, some years they don't.' I still don't think there is room for a lot of debate that both Luongo and Khabibulin are very good goalies. That doesn't mean they're going to have great seasons, though.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    If Moreau isn't 100% he shouldn't play, especially if it is an injury that will slow him down skating. The last thing we need is for him to start hooking and slashing more then he usually does. Put Nilsson in if you have to.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    The one thing that concerns me this year already his how many people are freaked out after one game. Come on we played a solid game against a team that is predicted to finish alot higher then us.

    Now sure there are some things to work on, but it is one game in with a new coaching staff and a new style of hockey.