Where the Edmonton Oilers and his many doubters are concerned, Dwayne Roloson might just as well be wearing a latex glove as a leather trapper on his left hand in these playoffs for the Tampa Bay Lightning. That’s right, all the way up.
I don’t know about you, but I was one of those know-it-alls who was quite happy to thank Roloson for his 2006 playoff heroics, wish him well and see him head down the free agency road rather than have the Edmonton Oilers give him the multi-year deal he wanted a couple of summers ago.
After all, it made no sense, none, to give a 39-year-old goaltender, even a dogged warhorse like Roloson, more than one more year at a time at his advanced age, right? A two-year deal? No thanks. Three? Adios.
So who, at the creaky age of 41, is scripting one of the best stories of the 2011 playoffs? None other than Roloson, now wearing the silks of the Lightning instead of showing Devan Dubnyk the ropes — and battling him for playing time — here in Edmonton, where he would have been perfectly content to stay on.
At least the Oilers got Nikolai Khabibulin . . .
ROLLIE SHOWS ‘EM
I’ve been wrong about a lot of players, and Roloson is one of the better examples of that. I thought the old man has been used up and worn out by the workload of games and the weight of losing with the Oilers, so I was OK with seeing him go.
Instead of Roloson, the Oilers ended up inking Khabibulin two a four-year deal at $3.75 million a season. We all know how that’s working out, not that a fifth straight year out of the playoffs for the 30th-place Oilers all falls on his shoulders.
As for Roloson, he played every game of the first round for the Lightning and will face the Washington Capitals with a 4-3 record, a 1.77 goals-against average and a .949 saves percentage — the latter number being the best of any goaltender in the post-season. Johnny Bower, he is.
Roloson, against the longest of odds, seems to be turning back the clock to 2006, when Oilers fans had more fun in two months than they’d had in the previous 15 years. Kind of makes you want to pull for the Bolts for old time’s sake just a little, no?
JUST SAYING . . .
Hindsight is a luxury the Oilers didn’t have when they decided to let Roloson walk, of course. What it shows us is that the Oilers had the right guy for the transition and rebuild the team is undertaking now and let him get away, opting instead for Khabibulin.
And this isn’t the case of a two-week hot streak. Fact is, Roloson has been a better goaltender since he left after the 2008-09 season than Khabibulin has been since he arrived for the 2009-10 season.
— In 2009-10 with the New York Islanders, Roloson saw action in 50 games, going 23-18-7 with a 3.00 GAA and .907 saves percentage. Here in Edmonton, Khabibulin played just 18 games, going 7-9-2 with a 3.03 GAA and .909 saves percentage.
— This season, Roloson played 20 games with the Islanders, going 6-13-1 with a 2.64 and a .916. After being traded to Tampa Bay, he played in 34 games, going 18-12-4 with a 2.56 and .912. Khabibulin, meanwhile, saw action in 47 games, going 10-32-4 with a 3.40 and .890. Now, these playoffs.
I’m not suggesting that Roloson would have made a marked difference in the fortunes of the Oilers these past two seasons or bringing up this gaffe to rub the noses of Edmonton’s management in what’s been an obvious mistake — it speaks for itself.
But there’s no question Roloson has a chance to become one of the best stories of these or any playoffs. I wouldn’t be unhappy if, just for the sake of a little nostalgia, he did exactly that.
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TEAM 1260.