Deep Thoughts XX: The Way I See It

EDMONTON, AB - OCTOBER 3:  Goalie Nikolai Khabibulin #35 of the Edmonton Oilers heads to the ice during warm up before a game against the Calgary Flames on October 3, 2009 at Rexall Arena in Edmonton, Canada. (Photo by Jimmy Jeong/Getty Images)

We all keep waiting for Nikolai Khabibulin to say something to convince us he’ll be ready to start the season in goal for the Edmonton Oilers, but as of today I still haven’t heard it.

Khabibulin talked to reporters at Rexall Place again today about the status of his 37-year-old surgically repaired back, but what he said, and how he said it — which I understand doesn’t translate well to the written word — did little to inspire confidence in me he’ll be ready Oct. 7.

"As far as practice is going, I still would like to improve a few things here and there," he said. "Physically, I feel pretty good. With quantity, I think, eventually it’ll come into quality, you know? I’m staying patient and waiting for, you know, kind of for that."



If Khabibulin doesn’t see action against the Vancouver Canucks Sunday, that’ll leave just three pre-season games for him to knock off the rust of 11 months of inactivity. Roadside sobriety tests don’t qualify.

Khabibulin, who underwent surgery Jan. 13, hasn’t played a game since November 16. Is his back 100 per cent? Is it 90 per cent? Watching him stop some pucks in game action might shed some light, no?

"That’s the goal, for sure," Khabibulin said when asked by Joanne Ireland of The Journal if he’ll be ready for opening night.

"Like I said, I feel pretty good physically. I think it’s just a just a matter of seeing more shots and getting myself in a game situation and play a few games."

Until coach Tom Renney proves doubters wrong by putting Khabibulin between the pipes in pre-season and declaring him his starter against the Calgary Flames Oct. 7, I’ll have my doubts.

"I wouldn’t mind to play maybe three games," Khabibulin said. "You know, it’s always up to the coaches.

"Pre-season is obviously for them to see other players, too. Whatever it is, it is. If I end up playing less games, then I’ll just work a little bit more in practice on the technical stuff. It’s all good."

Is it, all good, Nik? Really?


It seems the suggestion Shawn Horcoff might be the best candidate to be the next captain of the Oilers is picking up some steam, even if that support comes grudgingly from some quarters — insert obligatory braying and sniffing about his salary here.

What does he think about the possibility of having the "C" stitched on his jersey this season? We asked him today.

"I don’t think anyone really cares about that," Horcoff said. "At the same point, it would be a huge honour.

"I’d be lying to you if I said it was something that, if it was ever brought to me, I wouldn’t be excited about having. I think you have to be. It’s the Edmonton Oilers. You look at the tradition they’ve had with the captaincy, it’s a huge honour.

"We’re in a city that lives and breathes hockey. It’s something that, if it ever happens, whoever it happens to, they’re going to be proud of that."

I asked Ryan Whitney about his interest in being captain. While it won’t happen because Whitney played just 19 games after coming over from Anaheim at the trade deadline, for my money, he’s the best candidate next to Horcoff.

"I’m proud about being a leader on this team," Whitney said. "In the end, it’s kind of up to the coach who is going to be the captain.

"Horc would be a pretty good pick for that. Not only is he a favourite with the team, he organizes things and he’s a leader in the locker room. He’s been to the Cup final. At the same time, I’m looking to be a leader here and the coach is going to make decisions on guys who will be wearing letters. I’d be honoured to have one."


— I had a chat with Magnus Paajarvi Thursday before he went out and torched Tampa Bay for three goals and I was dumbfounded by how calm and collected he was. No rookie butterflies.


"To be honest, I never got nervous that much," he said. "I’ve played in some huge games in Sweden, playoff games.

"I’ve always been able to handle it and play some of my best hockey when the big games come up. You want to make a good impression, but you focus and you get more intense." Paajarvi seems as unflappable as he is talented. That’s a combination, in concert with the three years he spent playing with Timra IK, poolies and prognosticators best keep in mind.

— Saying Linus Omark hasn’t done much to impress so far is a little bit like handcuffing somebody, throwing them into a lake and pointing out they don’t swim so well. Did you see his linemates against Tampa Bay?

I’m not convinced Omark is ready to earn a roster spot here, but if you’re going to take a look at him, then give him a fighting chance to win a job or send him packing to OKC and be done with it.

— Teemu Hartikainen might be a reliable grinder for the Oilers one day, but not now. The strapping Finn is a step behind. He has zero chance of full-time NHL employment until he gets quicker.

AND . . .

— My seven defencemen to start the season are Tom Gilbert, Ryan Whitney, Ladislav Smid, Kurtis Foster, Jim Vandermeer, Shawn Belle and Jason Strudwick.

— If I was asked to pick two long shots who I think might get a longer look than anybody anticipated, forward Gregory Stewart, a former Montreal draft pick, and Richard Petiot get my vote today.

— Marc Pouliot or Zack Parise? Nevermind.

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.

  • book¡e

    When Barnes said grouped Horcoff as part of the Moreau,Souray and Staios group the other day, I was wondering if there was some animosity between Horc and the ‘used to be kids’ group.

    Khabibulin – The mystery makes me glad that we picked up Gerber – maybe we should get a few more goalies in case Khabi is having the Delirium tremens, and Gerber’s back remembers that it was once broken,…and JDD plays like JDD, and DD plays like DD.

    Really I don’t think it is safe to enter the season with just four goalies!

  • freshpotofcoffey

    @Robin Brownlee

    You spent a lot of time wondering who the Oilers would choose, and approved of the Jack Michaels selection (as did I). Have you heard much of his calls of the first two games? From what I hear on the internet highlights, I really like him. The man simply paints a picture in your head.

    What do you think?

    • Mike Modano's Dog

      Jack has to get used to working with an analyst as opposed to working solo like he did in the minors. He steps past play-by-play and into the analyst’s role too often. It’ll come with time.

      I think he’s lacked some energy on a call or two, but better to err on that side than scream about everything.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    When you guys scrummed our goalie up against his locker room stall did he raise an arm to hang onto the top shelf? That was always a dead give away when a player’s ass was so puckered he couldn’t come clean with the truth about whatever you guys were grilling him about.I heard the interview on the radio and our goalie was speaking in circles (as most Russians do anyway) alluding to when Tom Renney was going to have ‘a talk’ with him about his starts…? HORSE MANURE … Get him outta here …put him on a plane to OKC with JDD and let Gerber backup DD as our starter until our goalie proves he can play.He need not embarrass himself in front of our rookies and our newly enthused fans. Again IMO, I’m thinking the medical staff has put a hold on his start time until they see the second blood test showing a much less elevated liver enzyme count.He CAN practice and sweat out a lot of his “toxins” while not drinking and show an improvement in his internal medical condition. This man just needs to dry out and stop saying denial is a river running through Egypt.

  • I thought one of the least impressive players against TB was Gagne.

    I can’t understand why the media and coaches love him so much.
    In his career he has been terrible to mediocre defensively, he’s a lousy skater, he’s soft on the puck.

    He’s getting paid O’Sullivan like money, and may fill that role.

    How he is loved more than Cogs, I will never understand. Cogs skates circles around this guy, has more career goals despite a fraction of PP/offensive role time.

    Omark would likely be a better choice than Gagne at a fraction of the price.

    Hopefully Renney can figure this out, MacT and Quinn sure couldn’t.

    • If you’ve been following along, not everybody thinks Gagner is head-and-shoulders a better prospect than Cogliano.

      That said, your assertion Omark would likely be a better choice than Gagner is a stretch and premature in the extreme. What has Omark done at the NHL level?

      And it’s Gagner, with an R on the end. Or are you thinking of somebody else?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Jacks words sure come across crystal clear from what i’ve heard so far. If Mr. Micheals feels more comfortable working solo then maybe they should give that a go. After listening to the perceived heir apparent (Bum Stauffer)periodically the last 12 months, it really is a treat to here Mr. Micheals words on Oiler broadcasts.

    I may be chucking nickles from the cheap seats but i wonder if a lighter Bob Stauffer would come across with more clarity. This may be a bit of a reach but have you noticed any subtle changes in your voice Robin in the last 6 months?

    • If you’re looking to take potshots at Stauffer (and it seems obvious you are), then take the direct route and come out and say what you’ve got to say. Better yet, walk up to him and speak your mind. I’d like to see it.

      Has my voice changed in the last sixth months? No. Neither has my tolerence level for chickensh*t insults veiled as questions.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Put your literary scalpel back in your pocket protector Robin, it wasn’t my intention to ruffle your feathers, and it wasn’t me whom affectionately dubbed Bob with that nickname. It may be something Bob can’t do anything about but another example of this issue was last week when he mentioned or was interpreted as Taylor Hall wasn’t playing in the Joey Moss game. I don’t believe i’m the only one that feels that there’s a speech impairment issue here, his words don’t come across near as clear as Mr. Micheals efforts do. Appologies if it came across as mean spirited.

  • Stone Hands McOsta

    Beautiful post Brownlee;

    – Safe to say most of the nation is concerned about Superbowl Sunday and where his mental/physical stature is at… My bold prediction is he gets off to a good start (prediction or hope?)

    – MP’s demeanor seems impeccable, I think this kid is the real deal.

    Has Shawn Belle really been showing the coaching staff a solid outing at camp? Or, is it more the lack of Peckham’s development that puts Belle in your final 7?

    Keep up the good work!

  • Hey Robin good call on Belle, I totally agree with you hope he sticks. Good speed and Tambo likes size ! With some depth at d here does this maybe offer an opportunity to move Gilbert ? Also, any rumors on Cogliano ? I can’t see him fitting in here.

    • That “call” is as of today.
      Does Peckham show us something the rest of the way? Maybe. Has Belle done enough in a very limited look to show he’s clearly a better option than Peckham? Not yet.

      Belle might not ever get his act together and probably won’t ever justify being picked in the first round, but he’s got some game and I’d hate to miss seeing him put everything together for “fear” of losing a tough and willing but obviously limited prospect like Peckham.

  • Jack Michaels call of the game was palatable. Its going to take time for me to overcome some of my own predjudices. For example I would have prefered Bob Stuaffer behind the Mic calling the games because I appreciate his insights, enthusiasim, knowledge of the game, respect for the past and for his love of the team. I relate to him in the sense that we grew up in the same era, listened to same guys, Rod and John Short, Wes Montgomery,and Brian Hall.Bob has paid his dues. I think he should not have been cut off the list of candidates so early in the process. He was essentialy handed his hat and told ‘Thanks for coming’. There are alot of people in Edmonton who have a tendancy to place a higher value on people, places, and things that are not of Edmonton. How many times have I heard I love Vancouver”, and not “Edmonton is a great city”. I love Edmonton, there is nothing about this city that I would trade for anything or anywhere esle on this planet. Sure its cold 6 months of the year. But I love to skate, and ski and build snowmen with my son.Bob Stauffer is a talent, a little raw sometimes. A little rough around the edges. But he is ours and I think that should have counted for something in the process. Hindsight is 100 %. Your always right looking back. I’ll give Jack Michaels time to prove his proponents right. Right now one game does not a season make, or a career as the Oilers annoucer here in Edmonton. All the best to him and his family.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    Stauffer comes across crystal clear to me. I love hearing his insight. He has a passion for the game that is always interesting, always insightful and I find him refreshingly honest.

    You just don’t find that anymore, in my opinion.

    Bob is pure gold in my books!