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.