Nikolai Khabibulin: The Bright Side

Calgary Flames v Edmonton Oilers

We’re familiar with the negative side of the Nikolai Khabibulin contract. I’ve beaten it to death, and I’m not the only one, although there’s still a paucity of criticism of the deal in the printed press. That said, the odds are the Oilers will be far better off with him in 2010-11.

I stand by my initial thoughts on the Khabibulin contract, but the reality is that missing the vast majority of the season was an unlikely outcome at the start of the year. It was a risk worth considering, and health is going to remain a risk worth considering for the remainder of the contract.

However, Khabibulin’s injury history suggests (assuming he’s completely recovered from his difficulties this season) that he’ll miss closer to 20 games than 61 games. Prior to last season, Khabibulin had averaged 17 games missed per season since the lockout, and including this last season he averages 25 games per season missed since the lockout.

For the sake of argument, let’s say that Khabibulin misses 20 games next season to injury, rather than 60. Let’s further assume that he plays seven out of every eight games, meaning that instead of the 18 games he played in 2009-10 we project him to play 54 games in 2010-11.

How much of an impact would that have on the Edmonton Oilers?

We’re going to make a few assumptions and see where that leaves us.

First, we’re going to assume that nothing else changes on the Oilers – meaning that the team faces 2178 even-strength shots, 478 shots from the opposition power play, and face 54 shots short-handed. We’re going to distribute those shots evenly over the 82 games.

Secondly, we’re going to isolate Khabibulin’s impact by slapping the results of Deslauriers and Dubnyk together and pretending that their performance remains the same – we don’t care about their potential for improvement right now; all we’re trying to do is see how much better Khabibulin makes the Oilers by playing 54 games instead of 18.

Finally, we’re going to look at Khabibulin’s results since 2006-07, divided by game state, and call that his ‘true talent’. We don’t know what Khabibulin’s performance is going to be, but odds are it will be close to that level. Here are his numbers, by game state:

  • Even-strength: 0.9204
  • Short-handed: 0.8675
  • Power play: 0.9249

And here are the same numbers for our 2009-10 Dubnyk/Deslauriers hybrid:

  • Even-strength: 0.9043
  • Short-handed: 0.8636
  • Power play: 0.9286

It’s not overly surprising to see how similar the special teams numbers are, but the key difference here is at even-strength, where Khabibulin was far better. How does that impact the Oilers goals against? Using the numbers above, we get the following:

  • 2008-09: 271 goals scored on the Oilers’ goalies.
  • 2009-10: 253 projected goals scored against Oilers’ goalies.

18 goals against is a significant improvement due to the Khabibulin effect alone; it’s a number that probably translates into three more wins for the team or six standings points.

P.S. I’ve been through it twice, but please feel free to check my math.

    • This series will put an end to the debate of best sandwich of all time. This is a big, big deal in sports because the sandwich is an extention of ourselves. The sandwich brings people, even nations, together for one purpose. In our unity we are able to bond together for a common mustard, or a common cheese in the name of savory goodness. Not since 19th century England has there been a more important BATTLE… BATTLE OF THE SANDWICHES!!!!!!

  • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

    Any one know if club is even going to address the defensive corpse (i say that mildly )we have now going into next season ? Any names being bought up ? I’d hate to give up our first choice as well , but present defensive core just will not cut it going into next season ! We were not that far away from being a competitive club last season – now it seems we are a million miles away despite this years draft . We have to compete in a fast, talented and very physically tough division – and we are as a team not very tough , big or physical ! I think we can all agree on the problems with our club , i’d just like to see some viable solutions coming from organization to show they are backing their tough talk and headed in right direction. Side note : when does rookie camp open this year ? I’d like to see if Eberle and Nash will continue to be dominant on the puck like last year . Can’t wait to see some others that are coming as well . I wonder if Quist has learned how to skate backwards , and not be so klutzy on his vertical skating ? Does anyone get the feeling the Oilers are going to let some players go the RFA route rather than try to sign them anytime soon (auction )?

    • I see the concern, but the team still has multiple 2nd round picks, an abundance of forwards, Sheldon Souray to move, and room on the salary cap. If Tambellini cant address the D by adding 1 or 2 capable bodies to bolster the top 3 guys we have then he’s a fool.

  • MrCondor

    General Poll:

    Does anyone think that the Oilers making the playoffs next year is totally unrealistic?

    At the start of this season, most analyst had us pegged for making the playoffs. Then we happened to lose our #1 forward, our #1 goaltender, our #1 defensemen and a large handful of other players for extensive periods of time.

    Look at Smid and Penner’s improvments. Look how Gilbert played with Whitney. Hopefully we can get a #3 defensemen back for Souray. Cogs might be able to produce when he’s not on the 4th line. Hot prospects coming in.

    We are looking a lot like the Av’s at the end of last year. I know sneaking into the playoffs every year is horrible for the development of the franchise, but I think we are heading there again.

    • MrCondor

      I think you’re right, if things really fall together nicely (ie no injuries) we could run into 8th place. More than likely we are next years NYI, and will finish a respectable 10th place, whilst the kids develop together for the future. A solid goalie, some hotshot kids, it can work.

      • Ryan Whintey and Gilbert are good 3rd and 4th dman not 1st and 2nd. You guys seen 12 games where Gilbert played Ok not great. 20 games by Whitney and now coming off surgery I find it strange that everyone sees Whiney and Gilbert as top dman. Would they be on top dman on any other team ? I don’t think so. One good season by both players now they have potential thats it.

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          …not sure why that was direct at me?

          I think Whitney is a #2 on most (playoff) teams and Gilbert would be a #3… #4 at worst, again on a PO team.

          Smid Looked like at least a #4 last year, and if he’s healthy I could see him playing that caliber again.

          Getting a true #1 is likly a pipe dream, but if we can get 2 more #3-#4 dmen, then our defense would be good enough for the team to be competitive.

  • MrCondor

    I made a mistake using vertically challenged , it should have been laterally challenged in reference to Quist . Sure the Oilers could be playoff bound next season if we had a competent and physical defence in which to operate with along with outstanding goaltending . What we have in place is far from it right now . I’m hyped about a lot of forwards on the club – especially in the system and this years draft . We need a lot of retooling that management has been more than lax in helping/addressing our team with . If management can’t do it’s part effectively, then i don’t see how the players or coaches can do their parts effectively .

      • Quist has a powerfull stride going forward, with good size and reasonable shot and stickhandling ability . Like a gazelle he takes about 3 strides to cover the entire ice surface – pretty impressive speed doing it . R.Nash kept beating him off the puck however in one on one battles . He was less than adequate at skating backwards and laterally – klutzy to be honest . So many of these rookies have same problem and you wonder how some even got an invite to camp . Eberle is a bull on the puck like Nash . Couldn’t help but notice some Oiler brass seemed mainly interested in Finish talent and how they looked . That was last season and this season should be nice to see if they pewrform even better . Nash did not have a dominating year last season , yet he was one of the best at camp last season along with Eberle and showed lots of promise . I think Nash will be what most are wanting of Cogs on a third or 4th line shutdown man with a scoring touch to boot . Keep him on your radar screen for now .

        • Sounds like the Oilers aren’t very impressed with William Quists decision to play in Europe instead of the CHL

          “The Oilers made it very clear that they wanted him to come to Canada and play in the CHL for the coming year but instead Quist has signed a contract with Nybro, a men’s league below the SEL. The Oilers are concerned that he’ll barely play if/when he isn’t a healthy scratch. He hasn’t accomplished much and has not taken advice from the organization so he’s definitely painted himself into a corner.”

  • C’mon guys this article has enough legs to post another hundred comments, and maybe by then we’ll have a new article…well, as new as new gets these days (nothing to report). At least give us die-hards another picture to click, scroll, post and annoy…haha

  • kinger

    three guys to watch for in the 2011 draft are Adam Larsson, a d-man from sweden, Sean Couturier, a forward from canada plays for drummondville in the qmjhl, and ryan nugent-hopkins, a canadian who plays for red deer in the whl

  • And we’re back to your sh*tty comprehension skills I guess. I didnt contradict myself. I explained how you incredibly managed to infer the exact opposite of what was said, and your point about contradiction is totally invalid because of that.

    This is my last reply to you. Troll elsewhere.