DEVAN DUBNYK: MINEFIELD IN THE BLUE PAINT

Edmonton Oilers' Devan Dubnyk makes a save against the Columbus Blue Jackets' during the third period of their NHL hockey game in Columbus, Ohio, October 28, 2010.  REUTERS/Matt Sullivan  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SPORT ICE HOCKEY)

Can Devan Dubnyk overcome the Edmonton Oilers to become a bonafide starter in the NHL? I don’t know the answer to that, but unless the Oilers get a clue about how to develop goaltenders, he’s going to have to.

Unless the Oilers change how they handle their stoppers under coach Tom Renney, Dubnyk is going to have to succeed in spite of the situation he’s in rather than because of it as he caddies for Nikolai Khabibulin and his wonky back this season.

That’s something Jeff Deslauriers wasn’t able to pull off after being so brutally mishandled by the Oilers it was laughable before he was passed on the depth chart by Dubnyk at the end of last season. Deslauriers, 26, now awaits his ticket out of town — I’m guessing he’d prefer one punched to a new organization rather than Oklahoma City of the AHL to cheerlead for Martin Gerber — while the Oilers again dither about by keeping three goaltenders on the roster.

So, while Dubnyk, 24, was way better than he had a right to be with 39 saves in a 3-2 shootout loss to the Columbus Blue Jackets Thursday, history tells us he still has plenty of work to do to avoid ending up on this organization’s growing scrap heap of NHL stoppers.

A FIGHTING CHANCE

I’d like to see Dubnyk succeed because he’s a smart young man who survived awful teams with Kamloops of the WHL and has persevered to get this far after being drafted 14th overall by the Oilers in 2004.

I wanted to see Deslauriers make it, too, mostly because of the jam he showed after being drafted in 2002 and being chewed up by playing for five different minor league teams in his first five pro seasons before being thrown in over his head and left to drown by the 30th-place Oilers last season.

I thought he’d beaten the odds during one torrid five-game stretch last season after Khabibulin went down — think backsides and critics — but the bottom line is I was wrong, at least as far as a future with the Oilers goes. Deslauriers has one foot out the door and whether he deserved better or not — he obviously did — that’s the hockey business. His best chance now is for the Oilers to move him along.

One can only hope Dubnyk gets a better opportunity than Deslauriers did while he waits his turn behind Khabibulin, but that will take an about-face in terms of how the Oilers have mishandled their goaltenders for the longest time.

GET IT RIGHT

When Khabibulin went down, I thought Deslauriers and Dubnyk should have split the remaining games evenly so the Oilers could best evaluate both of them. Apparently, that made too much sense.

After being left to gather dust and playing just 10 games in 2008-09, Deslauriers ended up seeing action in 48 games last season, wilting behind a team going nowhere. He finished 16-28-4 with a 3.26 goals-against average and .901 saves percentage.

Dubnyk, meanwhile, didn’t get his fair share of the action, playing in just 19 games. In spite of having to sit around, he finished very strongly, even though his overall numbers, 4-10-2 with an .889 saves percentage and a 3.57 GAA, weren’t as good as those put up by Deslauriers.

Still, he got a two-year deal and came into camp this year ahead of Deslauriers. The way I see it, if the Oilers intend to get a reasonable assessment of Dubnyk’s potential as a starter this season, he needs to see action in at least 25 games. And by design, not by happenstance — like when that bad back catches up to Khabibulin.

Put Deslauriers out of his misery by moving him along, use the roster spot more wisely and give Dubnyk a chance to succeed, as bizarre a concept as that seems to be around here.

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

  • Zamboni Driver

    The annoying thing to me is that they keep saying that no one wants the 3-goalie albatross. But no one does anything about it.

    I know that ole Steve-O has to do a LOT of analyzing, but surely by now he has come to a realization….ANY realization?!

    No one is going to pick up one of his mis-used, sort of okay maybe million-buck cap-hit back ups if you send them down. Or if they do….really…so what?

  • BigE91

    Yes, with Gerber waiting in the wings in case of an emergency, it is only fair to let Deslauriers try and resurrect his career somewhere. As much as the million dollars he is collecting this year I bet he would just as soon be playing somewhere.

  • Grumpy OM

    I full heartly agree, the Oiler have to get off the snide and fix this problem now !!! Give one of these kids a real chance to prove themselves and play every 5th game at minimum. We are not winning alot with our #1 and like Renny keeps saying this is a process.

  • Jodes

    Here’s where not having a Farm Team for most of the 2000’s came back to bite us in the butt.. Both of their careers were tarnished by Oilers Management (not sure about the ownership group on this one, Brownlee, did they have much input on acquiring one?)
    because neither one of them were starting goalies in the AHL..

    How could Kevin Lowe think our futuere would be okay playing for another organization? It it truely mind boggling..

    • D-Man

      Not having a farm team was a bit more of a business decision rather than a hockey decision… In the early 00’s, we didn’t have a salary cap and being a ‘small market’, couldn’t afford to have an AHL team… I’m not sure you could blame to prior ownership group on that one, as they were losing cash hand over fist.

      Agreed that not having an AHL was an extremely poor hockey decision though… Drafting another goalie with a first round pick two years after you’ve used a high second round pick boggles the mind too – thank you very much, Kevin Prenderghast…

    • It wasn’t most of the 2000s, but the decision to fold the Roadrunners without having at least a split affiliation with another AHL team caused players like Deslauriers to be shuttled around and lost behind prospects from other teams that it clearly hurt development.

      I don’t know how many prospects bit the dust because of the set-up and how many fell by the wayside because they just weren’t good enough, and we’ll never know, but it was a terrible decision from a hockey-ops point of view.

      • O.C.

        Disasterous. That was under the old ownership, remember the ones where the minor interest holders were first to moan about cash calls, and the first to be gluttons at the pre and post game owners room.

        When the lockout came up, the Roadrunners were a short sighted, how can we make money off the season ticket base during the lockout, kind of decision… It had NO contingency plan for when the Oil took back Rexall.

        In their greed, they lost sight of the objective. A short term solution would have been to keep the Roadrunners, ANYWHERE, but that would require investment.

        The rest is history, development was lost.

        And then the Oil won the first pick in 2010.

  • Grumpy OM

    I don’t think we’d have more then 5-10 points if Khabby stayed healthy last year. We’d still have finished last. You put JDD and DD on a decent team with decent support, and they’d be both decent back-ups in the NHL. They played on a AHL team last year and frankly I thought there were nights when they let in 6 goals they did not look that aweful.

    I just wish they would pick one and send the other one down regardless of one the chance one is snatched up. If one goalie goes somewhere and became a player, that is great for them, cause I doubt that they will get the opportunity here.

    Ive got no clue as to the decisions made by the Oilers management in regards to developing players. I guess we can’t expect perfection from a group that did not value having and AHL team 3 years ago, and keeps guys who can’t play who have “character.” If these guys develop well, its because they were either that good, or this management is starting to have a clue about what it takes to develop players. Chances are its because of the talent .

  • I’m still confused about what people see in Dubnyk that Deslauriers doesn’t have in spades. He’s got the physical tools, got the technique (or at least enough of it to overcome the lack of experience he has), and has arguably better numbers. He’s also shown more fight and intensity than Dubnyk. It’s served him in good stead thus far. I don’t particularly see age playing into this equation, as a relatively under-utilized goaltender should have some additional mileage on his body. See: Dwayne Roloson.

    Truly though, management needs to grow a set, make a decision, and move ahead. If Habby does go down later in the year after we’ve cut bait with one of the two kids, are we really unable to get a reasonable Dubnyk/Deslauiers facsimile off the waiver wire?

  • Puritania

    It seems to me that management is still not sold on Khabi’s health or legal issues. I can’t believe Tambellini is this cruel or stupid. Then again, maybe Lowe is still pulling the string.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Not bad for Dubey last night, maybe they should throw Deslaurier to the wolves tonight and see what shakes. If they both are strong maybe they can each play again in 3 weeks or so.

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I don’t understand it anymore. We have guys like Foster that even if he does play isn’t a 100% and then guys up front like Jones that get 4-5 minutes. Sure would be nice to have that wasted roster space being used up by someone like Reddox or Belle at this point, so that Renney would have some options with his lineup.

  • Cervantes

    I’m still hoping against hope to see Khabby moved, and Dubs/JDD splitting the games and developing this year. Another year or so and that save % will start to creep up, and even though they’re polar opposites, they’ll be a great tandem. Fuhr and Moog. Niemi and Nittymaki. Ren and Stimpy.

    Yes, JDD has been brutally, brutally mishandled by the Oilers. And yet, he’s coming into prime goalie age, he’s got a high compete level, and oh yeah, he posted save numbers just one percent lower than a solid NHL goalie on a last-place team that saw fit to give Chorney and Strudwick important minutes.

    Really, I think and hope that we’re running 3 just so Tamby can try and prey on a team having their starter go down early. We take back a not-great contract, Khabby gets the door, and JDDD start to rock our show.

    Or, to put it another way… Taylor Hall is 1-1-0 and -4 (iirc) in 8 games, and everyone talks about “potential”.

    JDD had a .901 last year. If he’s .911, everyone is happy. If he’s .915, he’s a top-30 starter. That is a ridiculous 1.4% difference. Tiny. Improved positioning, learning not to play the puck, and stopping those weak over-the-shoulder goals from being too deep, and that’s easily the difference right there. Or, to put it another way, in an average 30 shot game, that’s letting in one less goal every three games. That’s nothing.

    And yet we’re all ready to show him the door.
    Potential is potential. And just like Hall loses the puck on dangles and misses the net and gets stuffed by D because he can’t decide what to do, JDD lets in softies and plays too deep and isn’t Turco with the puck. And just like Hall, JDD will improve. That’s what happens when you take potential and let it play.

    • As you might know, I suggested last week the Oilers might be hanging on to all three just hoping another team has their No. 1 guy disclocate his spine by falling down the stairs or knacker himself with a snowblower ala Joe Sakic.

      That’s the only justification I can see for hedging like this. Given the track record here, I might have been giving management an unjustified benefit of the doubt with that train of thought.

        • They’ve still got Ned, and it’ll depend on how long Anderson is out.

          In my original reference I was thinking more along the lines that it might not be as impossible to trade Khabibulin as it might seem — under the right circumstances.

          That said, if Colorado’s situation allows for Deslauriers to get out of town and get another opportunity and it gets the Oilers something in return, however minor, in the process, that would work.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            I still don’t see Bulin being dealt, there’s just something that makes me ask why would a team deal for him.

            I know Bulin brings a pretty good resume, but his price tag is what I’d think would scare teams away. Although with Rolston going on the LTIR I know have 100% evidence that him getting injuried doesn’t hurt a team as much as it was made out to be last year in terms of cap relief.

            Is keeping Bulin for this rebuild really that bad of an option either? I kinda like the idea of having someone that is going to at least give us a chance to win on most nights. Seems like a better environment for the rookies to play in.

  • Hemmertime

    Tambo should ask Lowe his opinion, make him make a decision on who to keep. Then do the exact opposite.

    Couldn’t hurt. Just pick one (my personal choice is Dubnyk at 6 ft 6, though JDD at 6’4″ is no slouch)

  • Good article, Robin.

    My read on the three goalie thing is that Steve Tambellini is loath to let Deslauriers go without getting some sort of return, and the imploded goalie market makes getting any return extremely difficult. Is that the impression you have ?

    Edit: Actually, I guess that’s pretty much what you’re saying in comment 19 and fits with what you’ve said previously. Nevermind.

  • @ CalgaryMike:

    The team stinks, and has been making bad decisions for ages. If you want positive coverage of that, I recommend watching the in-game coverage provided by the rights holders and ignoring EVERY OTHER THING said about the team.

    • Crash

      Are you sure this team stinks? So many experts around saying that this team stinks.

      I’m not here to tell you that this team is a contender but it’s wayyyyyy to premature to say that this team stinks.

      This sentiment is getting old….fast.

      This team may have it’s struggles this year but there’s a good chance that however good this team is right now, they only get better from here on out due to young up and comers continually improving.

      They may or may not be a playoff team but I hardly think this team actually stinks.

      Can we at least wait for 1/3 of a season before all you negative pundits make this call?

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    When I went “Camping” back in Sept. I made an effort to stare at nothing but JDD & DD. Jeff looked dis-interested, while Dubey was wide eyed and “into it”. That pretty much sealed it for me. Ship out JDD, anywhere, even if it is just for a bag o pucks.

    BTW, NICE Wrister by #4

  • Oilers G- Nations Poet Laureate

    Maybe the Oilers ought to bring Khabby into the mix for trade too !!! He seived on the first goal against Calgary and he seived again on the first goal against Chicago tonight. Those shots must be stopped at this level my friend Khabby !! Wake Up !!!!!!!!!

  • @ Crash:

    Suit yourself. They’re 27th in shots for, 26th in shots against, and the penalty kill is a disaster. Those were the same indicators present when they started 6-2-1 last season, and I think it’s a good bet it turns out the same way this year.

    You don’t have to believe it – and feel free to point out how wrong I am later, if I am in fact wrong, because I’ll be happy to take it – but I see little evidence this team’s any good.

    • Crash

      For god sakes man, the season is 9 games old….so tell me you don’t see any signs of things improving?

      How about the balance they got on the scoresheet tonight. It almost looked like a throwback to the team of the 80’s where they didn’t care how many chances they gave up they would just score more than the other team.

      You don’t think it’s possible that as each game goes by and Paajarvi, Eberle, Hall, Gagner, Brule, etc continue to improve that this team improves with them?

      You like to point out the same indicators of last year when they were 6-2-1 but this team looks a whole lot different than that team did. This team is stocked full of high end offensive potential that stands a very very good chance of getting better each and every game.

      How many games last year did the Oilers score 7 times with balance throughout the scoresheet. All three of the Oilers scoring lines tonight were dangerous and the 4th line actually worked their butts off tonight.

      This team didn’t beat Calgary once last year and I’m pretty sure they never ever walked into Chicago and beat them. So they’ve earned 3 pts in 3 game vs the Flames and have now walked into Chicago and beaten them. Is this not possibly a sign of better days ahead?

      But, hey, you’re one of the experts here, so you go with this team stinks….heaven knows you’re not alone in that line of thinking in here.

      • Who said there is no possibility of this team improving? There is, in time. That said, this is still a team with some obvious fatal flaws, as Willis points out.

        One need not make circus catches every time an Oiler player farts, or the team wins, to have a grip on reality. Improve? Of course they will, but don’t get too far down the garden path based on just nine games, either.

        • Crash

          Willis boldly stated, this team STINKS….that doesn’t sound like someone who is expecting improvement to me.

          It is not I that needs to realize that the season is only 9 games old. I’m ever the optimist, yes, but I have made no claims as to how good this team is or is not going to be. How could I, the season is only 9 games old.

          When I hear things like this team STINKS, it makes my blood boil. To me there’s too much of it, but that’s just me….I’d love to hear one of you actually tell the coach and the players in one of the media scrums that this team STINKS and follow it up with the reasons being they are 27th in shots for, 26th in shots against and the PK is a disaster after 9 games and see what the response is.

          What does the “one need not make circus catches everytime an Oiler player farts” mean? All I’ve stated is it’s way too early to declare anything with this team and that it stands a very good chance of getting better everyday which is certainly different than last year.

          Willis doesn’t point out anything in his post to Mike other than this team STINKS. He also cherry picks the PK and shots on goal totals in his post at me…no mention of the PP which I think they said was 13th right now…no mention that Hall seems to have found his stride and all arrows are pointing up, no mention of the poise and skill of Jordan Eberle…no mention of Horcoff getting off to a fast start or that Peckham seems to be showing well, etc…

          Nope…all he says is the Oilers STINK, after only 9 games. I would suggest Willis shouldn’t get too far down the path of doom after only 9 games.

          • One of you? I run in different circles than Willis, and we have our own takes on things. We often disagree.

            In case you haven’t picked up on it, I cover the Oilers on a daily basis and I can tell you they are well aware of what I write here. I’m not sniping from afar under a fake name.

            By writing what I do here and elsewhere, I do tell the coach and anybody else who reads it what I think about any given aspect of the team’s game, with my name and face attached to it. Then, I go to the rink the next day and face the people I’ve written about. What a coward I am.

          • Crash

            No need to take offense to me placing yourself and Willis in the same stead…all it means is you guys that cover the team in one way or another. I don’t really follow any of you close enough to know what circles you run in. I do hear the audio of the media scrums, and I’m not privy to who all is there.

            I don’t get the opportunity to be around the team as closely as you, so kudos to you if you do tell the coach and anybody else who reads it what you think. My guess is you have more cooth than to tell them that their team stinks.

            Don’t remember saying anything about you being a coward but I can say I’ve never heard anyone in a scrum come right out and tell the coach and players that their team STINKS…I truly would love to see what the response would be to that claim.

          • I don’t take offence to you including me in the same reference as Willis. I do find it amusing you seem overly sensitive to legit criticism of the team — whether it comes from a person who attends game or not.

            Our job in scrums isn’t to make statements, it’s to ask questions. We make our statements with what we write, and what we write is read by the people we’re writing about.

          • Crash

            I love the healthy constructive criticism and debate…I don’t consider saying the team STINKS as being legit…maybe you do, if so, again, I’d love to hear it in the media scrum. In the form of a question.

            It’s the straight out bold ignorant statements coming from people that I am, as you put it, overly sensitive to.

            If I hear someone give constructive criticism I can debate it with them if I disagree (which I have and which I did in post 29 & 31 to Willis), but how does one respond to things such as the team STINKS, or DD and JDD are crap, or that it’s reported management is blindfolding all the kids on the way into and out of the United Center so as to keep things positive? Or how do you debate things such as when one says tonight will be like the Harlem Globetrotters vs the Washington Generals? This doesn’t sound like legit criticism to me.

            Yes, I get up in arms about these type of bold statements in here….maybe slowly I’ll become numb to it but for now it makes my blood boil. Actually it seems I’ll need to fast track this as these type of comments run rampant in here. But if I disagree with any type of criticism do I not have as much right to disagree and debate it as the person who levys the critcism has in saying it in the first place?

            Criticism is one thing, ignorance is another. I’m glad you find me amusing.

  • Zamboni Driver

    Dear Crash,

    Whitney
    Gilbert

    (and they’re the better ones…and list that Gilbert is on that’s positive is NOT positive)

    Vandermeer
    Foster
    Peckham
    Strudwick

    and the other guy.

    This team is NOT good.

    Deal and roar for the floor.

    • Crash

      Dear Zamboni….

      Says you…again, it’s only 9 games in but I think Peckham has looked quite good this year…just tonight he pasted Kane and contiued playing hard nosed defense. All those who have been screaming for something for Foster (who was leading the team on shots on goal btw)..he picked up 2 points tonight…one of those was a beauty of a stretch pass to Jones.

      Whitney is the 7th highest scoring d-man in the entire NHL right now….again, it’s only 9 games but can’t see how anyone can complain about Whitney who is in the top 5 or so for minutes played and is even on the year so far.

      Thought Smid had a good game tonight, he’s picking up more minutes now….could he continue improvement? Maybe, maybe not, I guess we’ll see….

      I do think the Oil’s 6th and 7th d-men are an adventure but I’m not as down on Whitney, Gilbert, Smid and Foster as many seem to be…at least not until the season has a chance to play out some games.

  • Gerald R. Ford

    I don’t know how “good” they are, but they’re darned entertaining. I, for one, am loving this season so far. I admit that part of it is due to losses not hurting near as much when your expectations are zero, but, with that said, they’ve shown they have the ability to get off the canvas and punch the bully in the nose, we’ve got a fantastic teacher behind the bench, and we’ve seen some absolute beauty goals. Goals for the ages. That’s improvement, isn’t it? Not the kind that can be easily quantified, perhaps. But, a step in the right direction, I should think. There are aspects of this team that certainly do “stink”. But, after nine games, I’ve yet to notice the stench of absolute despair that permeated the air all of last season. So, the stink ain’t as bad.

    I dunno. Maybe I’m just a victim of Wanye’s eternal optimism and cheerfulness (*shakes fist*), but I see quite a bit of improvement in a relatively short amount of time.

    Me likey.

  • Things to write on a Friday night whilst living in Calgary and cheering for the Oilers.

    While I applaud ST from afar for doing a reasonably good job with some of the moves he’s directed, I cannot understand why the team has a 3 headed goalie problem. Logically I can only conclude there are things going on in the background that we,the public,are not privy to, things that bode well for an all but immediate trade of one of them. If not, he receives a failing grade for he does a disservice to the goalies, the team, and the fans. . .

    The notion that this team will not improve as the season progresses is patently absurd. Of course they will, that’s what re-building and developing youth is all about! With current personnel, however, the playoffs are but wishful thinking; the Oilers won’t be going anywhere fast with the way the blueline is currently structured.

    Frankly, the forwards are playing a more entertaining brand of hockey than in a long while. I for one would be quite happy if the club loses 50 one goal games this year, enabling them to draft 1-5 next year. And should they be fortunate to draft first overall again they’ll have one very interesting decision to make, center or defence. . .

  • Chris.

    Crash Wrote::

    it’s reported management is blindfolding all the kids on the way into and out of the United Center so as to keep things positive?

    It’s called humor… try it sometime Crash. The Game Day, Obvious Game Day, Not-So-Obvious Game Day Prediction Schtick has been a staple on Oilers Nation “Game Day Bitches Blogrolls for years. It’s very obviously ment to be humorous… nobody is “reporting” anything.

    I’m getting a little sick of your now regular drive by smears. Without any provocation, last GDB roll you write:

    Actually you can add Chris to that list of guys who predicts doom and gloom at every turn….turns out he used to be positive but as the season drew closer he decided to join the ranks of pessimistic on anything and everything that is Oiler.

    He especially enjoys the shots at anything management does. While not alone in this area of expertise, he is one of the more consistent ones.”

    This was not addressed to me. This was not about any comment I had made. You provided no examples or any logical reason for your libel.

    Here is what is going to happen. You are going to stop doing this. Forget everything you think you already know about me… Please feel free to disagree with anything I say from now on… but do so on a case by case basis. Here is how:

    1) Quote an actual comment that I make. 2) State your case or point of disagreement on that exact comment and that comment alone. 3) Read and consider my response (If I choose to make one).