Time Enough at Last

The Edmonton Oilers had a hole in goal, addressed recently by the acquisition of David LeNeveu (in photo). We’ve discussed it at length, and in fact it remains one of the very important items for the Oilers this fall. The elephant in the room is this: what if NK fails and DD can’t hold back the water? 

The Edmonton Oilers have made many improvements over the summer. They’ve added Ryan Smyth to mentor the forwards and brought in some defensive help too. The major issue remains the goaltending. What if? What if the NHL duo can’t get it done?

The club has veteran Nikolai Khabibulin under contract but he’s hanging by a thread as an NHL option. Last season, Khabibulin’s SP was 45th out of 47 "regulars" (he beat bruiser Rick DiPietro and Ty "2006 G1" Conklin) and was 71st among 87 goalies overall. His final number (.890) improved after a devastating start (15gp, 4.07 .879) buried the young Oilers despite young Dubnyk being 4gp, 2.99 .923 at the time of Khabiblin’s November 2010 injury.

Devan Dubnyk has a real chance to be a solid NHL goaltender but is not a certain option. Dubnyk performed very well as a rookie. Of the 7 NHL rookie goalies who played enough to qualify as regulars, DD’s .916 SP ranks 4th. Considering the team he backstopped (DD was just behind Corey Crawford of Chicago and ahead of Washington goaler Neuvirth, Los Angeles’ Jonathan Bernier and the latest Flyer entry Bobrovsky) I think he could be considered as one of the best rookies in the class.

Yann Danis is the top AHL option and extremely likely to be the first NHL callup to the Oilers. He’s coming off a solid KHL season and before that an impressive showing in a backup role with the New Jersey Devils. Danis is replacing Martin Gerber as OKC starter and those are tough shoes to fill. In his last two NHL seasons, Danis’ play implied he might have the ability to play consistently in the NHL. I expect he gets an NHL chance sometime this season with the Oilers.

LeNeveu (photo at the top of this post) is a former Cornell goaltender (just like Ken Dryden) who was highly rated in 2002 (46th overall, selected 15 picks after Jeff Deslauriers). He’s had some ups and downs at the AHL level and a couple of shots in the NHL. I don’t think he’s likely to see much NHL time this season, but should be considered a solid AHL option.

The best news of all is that Olivier Roy begins his career in Stockton of the ECHL. This is a quality goalie prospect, someone who has already shown well in the AHL. His improvement year over year in junior suggests this is a prospect worth paying attention to this year. If he pushes the AHL vets at any time, it should be considered a major progression.  

Time Enough at Last

Is this enough? No. Nikolai Khabibulin and his salary make it difficult for the Oilers to bury the contract at the beginning of the season. However, if these young horses up front are running well and the defense is cobbled together well enough I think we’ll see a deal. Dubnyk will get a chance to start if and when NK falters and I believe the next option will be to recall Danis as backup if NK can’t handle the secondary role.

It makes sense. Why would the Oilers force their best young men to endure another season of subpar starting goaltending. This fall is the last chance Texaco for Nikolai Khabibulin.

Time Enough at Last to find a replacement. Don’t break your glasses, Steve Tambellini.

  • Skidplate

    Good riddance to bulin when he falters. he is like tiger woods right now. couldnt stop a puck if his career depended on it. i cant forgive him for the impaired. not just because it was criminally stupid. No I am mad because he did it while on rehab He had a back injury that he was getting paid for at the time by the Oilers to rehab. Yet he is out boozing it up and endagering his and the publics life while D+D. If it had been on his own dime I wouldn’t give a crud. But it wasn’t.Thats what pissed me off about the whole situation. Must be nice to be a millionaire and not give a crud about whether your employer fires your ass or not. It wasn’t the act so much as the attitude of NK that capped it for me. I look forward to seeing the last of this loser in the not so distant future.

    • book¡e

      Strange logic– You are angry because he was a bad employee, but not because he was a bad citizen who risked the lives of others because he is a selfish idiot?

  • Skidplate

    If the Oilers start Khabibulin, there isn’t any reason to waste a season of RNH’s in my opinion. Let the kid be a Canadian hero during the World Junior Championship in his NHL teams home town for god sakes.


  • a lg dubl dubl

    I just hope Tambolini doesn’t dither away time while waiting for his “mvp” to re-gain his form, Id give Khabby the time in pre-season to see what he’s made of and if he rebounds from last years sh*t show when he was in net. If NK cant hold his own when more prospects and rookies are playing than vets,chances are he cant hold it together when points matter. Thats when Id send him to the minors regardless of salary and look at Turco(if he’d come here) or a trade of some kind to get a quality NHL goalie(Leighton).

  • book¡e

    If Khabibulin falters, the Oilers will get a better pick than they would if he doesn’t. They will improve, but will likely be no better than 20th with a good Khabibulin and somewhere around 25th with a bad one.

    I don’t think Tambellini sees the need to replace Khabibulin so that they can get a worse draft pick.

    The GM is seeking to see the team improve this year with the ‘Kids’ putting on enough of a show to sell jerseys and keep the fans and players from revolting. However, winning is likely not the overall goal.

    If Khabi sucks, he is easy to replace next year when you are trying for the playoffs. Hopefully by then DD is rounding into a top notch starter so that he is prepared for the next season when really competing in the Playoffs is the plan.

    Not saying its a fun plan or the best one, but I suspect its what ST4.0 is doing.

    • Skidplate

      I absolutely agree with this statement. I don’t see the major panic for this situation. The Oilers are not.. I repeat not making the playoffs this year. If a miracle happens and they do… There’s always other Goalie options floating around to shore things up. In the mean time lets give the reins to DD and see what he’s made of. The kids in front of him will develope wether its DD or Tim Thomas in net.

      • In the Grease

        Agreed, agreed…. it seems like it wasn’t so long ago (last year), that there was a healthy dose of ‘reasonable’ voices ‘reminding’ everyone that it was Year 1 of Plan Rebuild. This is Year 2 and from the tone of most commentary it seems like a LOT more is expected this year…. Better forward production, Better defense, Better goaltending….


        So we can get back to mediocrity as quickly as possible??

        Honestly I think we need to once again remind ourselves that it is still very early in the process – and that drafting in the top 5 next year is preferable to drafting 10th overall…. we’re still in rebuild!

        Don’t worry about goaltending I say – focus on enjoying the progress of the young core, and let’s hope to see continued strides from DD and remember: PATIENCE.

        Let’s parcel out more of the ‘worry about goal and D energy’ next year…..

        • Stack Pad Save

          The problem with the “rebuild” to date is that the goaltending situation is one of the main areas needed to be rebuilt since we lost Curtis Joseph. It has never been fully addressed or developed very well from within the organization. You argue that goal tending will not matter for next year because we are still in a rebuild. Look at the pantry of prospects we have. We have more quality prospects than we have spots on the team at forward especially. You need to remember that outside the top 3-5 any kid drafted is probably going to take 2-3 years to develop. SO if this is going to be year 3 of the rebuild the Oilers should be starting to take strides to make sure that 2 years from now they have a quality goaltender. I assure you a quality goal tender in 2 years will be much more important than who ever they draft in next years draft whether they draft 5 or 10th overall. The Oilers need to know if Dubnyk can be that guy, because if it is not Dubnyk they need to trade for a goal tender next year because Olivier Roy and Tyler Bunz who both may be good prospects don’t have the prospecting reports of a Carey Price to step up early into the NHL. Goaltending is a huge issue starting now in this rebuild.

  • GSC

    I think the elephant in the room is how in the heck reKhab is going to be allowed back in the country. Canada treats felony DUIs the way the US treats Simple Possession charges–that person is non grata no more-a. And the law is quite clear on the matter.

    Considering the hefty number of people denied travel because they’ve received just one such conviction, I would hope there’s public outrage if Canada makes a celebrity exception. Let’s prove that the rules are the same for everyone.

    And I’m not saying the rules are just, but it sure would be nice to see them applied equally.

    And–before someone says sumthim–yes, I would be saying all this even if he didn’t suck.

  • Krusher

    I am not a Khabi fan but I can’t shake this gut feeling, just like the last time he was somewhat written off or questioned (in Chicago), he will bounce back very well. Good for the Oil if he does, and hopefully then they can trade him with only one year left on that stupid contract!

    The thing I can’t understand however is not having more faith in DD. He is a large man who does not overplay his technique and uses angles well. It’s a formula that is more receptive to consistency and personally don’t see a huge drop off save percentage wise. If he keeps that save percentage in the .915 range and the Oil get better defensively giving up a few less shots here and there, he will be the answer. Patience this year and let’s let DD play 45 – 50! We’ll be singing his praises by Christmas!!!

    • Stack Pad Save

      I couldn’t understand why the Oilers kept rolling other goalies out there last year. You have Dubnyk, the goalie of the future, playing very well. You have Knabi playing so bad. Why would you not give the goalie of the future more starts to see what he is made of? Were they afraid of working him too hard? Are the conspiracy theories true, they play the worst goalie to tank the season? It makes no sense. If they keep giving a subpar Knabi more starts over a better playing Dubnyk next season you are going to have to wonder what is going on with management in this organization.

  • justDOit

    I always feel the NK discussion is tilted against him unfairly. Doesn’t anybody remember that last year the Oiler team was an absolutely horrendous joke. People have their rose colored glasses, dreaming of Hall & Eberle each getting 35+ goals as rookies. Omark and Magnus dancing circles around the league potting 60 points and the Oilers of 2010-2011 looking like the 83 Oilers. But damnit they couldn’t do it because the goaltending was so bad.

    If you think we locked up last place in January last year because of goaltending you are completely delusional. That team was horrendous plain and simple.

    Ya, ya Dubs numbers were so much better blah blah. Any comparision extrapolates stats from small numbers of games and doesn’t take into account competition or the fact that the team in front of them was a complete crapshoot night to night. The fact is its a team sport and the tenders numbers can dramatically swing with the teams fortunes. The jury is out on if NK got the brunt of the laughable team we iced last year or if he really is part of the problem. Either way if we had Tretiak in net last year it wouldn’t have helped. Tambo built this team to suck, and suck it did….

    Give NK 20 games to evaluate this year. There is no harm in it, its not like this team is gonna be hoisting the cup in 2012. That gives Tambo this entire year to find a replacement, and that seems like a good fit considering his dithering decision making pace.

    • Stack Pad Save

      Did you actually watch games last year? Because if you did you can only evaluate NK years as more than subpar. I agree with you in the fact that the team was horrendous last year and it didn’t matter who we had in net we probably would still have been in last place however NK was still very bad and DD was obviously better. Goalies are the only players on the ice for an entire game and the better the goalie is playing the more a team has confidence in front of him and the more likely they are to take a chance to create scoring opportunities and the Oilers need a goalie to allow them that. Last year NK was not that guy and DD looked like he could be that guy, What I think needs to happen is a fair evaluation of DD over NK, because their is no way NK will be around when the rebuild is done, so I don’t care how much NK gets to play except in relation to how much does it allow DD to play!

    • Lowetide

      At the time of his injury last season, Khabibulin was 15, 4.07 .879 and that was with the roster healthy.

      During the SAME period Dubnyk was 4, 2.99 .923 with the Oilers.

      I don’t think we can reasonably argue that the gap between the two was random, luck or quality of defense. Khabibulin was beyond poor.

      If the Oilers send him out and he performs as he did a year ago then there’s simply no hope for him. If they tie their season to NK even after he underperforms then there’s no hope for anyone associated with the Oilers in 11-12.

      You can’t keep sucking forever. Sooner or later, you have to address weakness. They’re going to (obviously) give Khabibulin a chance this fall, but I suspect it’s a very short leash.

      In fact, Tom Renney said as much recently.

      • justDOit

        Well said, LT. While the entire team pretty much sucked last year, it was NK who got them all started down that path and injuries and inexperience road shotgun.

        I don’t think we’ll see reKhabby get 20 games in which to suck – I think his leash will be much shorter. And I don’t want to see him much in the preseason either, because it would be nice to audition Danis and LeNeveau thoroughly.

        I also don’t see why some are worrying about Doobie so much. As this article points out, he served up some pretty nice numbers playing behind a team that was almost 20 points behind the 29th place team! And besides all those numbers, I see him good. What, me worry?

        And a parting shot at NK: When you’re rehabbing any injury, a diet containing any alcohol will serve no other purpose than to increase inflammation and decrease the body’s ability to heal. Same goes for excess sugars and white flour. Maybe that was a parting shot at the Oilers medical staff…?

  • Quicksilver ballet

    20 yrs old and they’re going to shelter him in the ECHL? If he can’t even back up in the AHL, is he really even a prospect?

    How many years are the Oilers going to waste on this kid.

    • book¡e

      He can be a starter with 60+ starts in the ECHL as opposed to 20 games as a backup in the AHL.

      At 20, it would be a lot more impressive if he were challenging for a starter position in the AHL, but he is not. It looks bad, but the prudent thing to do is give him the chance to ‘play his way up’ and that is what the organization is doing.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        He’s being sent to a team that could have a different agenda. The Oilers have no control over this ECHL affiliate. Didn’t the Oilers do a similar thing to JDD?

        Why coddle the kid, let him do the 20-40-60 thing in the American league (during the next 3 yrs) where they can have more control over him.

        On the other hand, maybe the Oilers are sending him a message by letting him know, at 20+yrs old he’s not worth a spot on their AHL club.

        Patience my arse, let Perhonen back up Khabibulin this yr. I’m hoping this Perhonen kid steps right into the NHL when he commits to coming to North America, throw him in the deep end much like the Oilers did with Grant Fuhr.

    • justDOit

      Not that I’m going to change your mind about hating Oilers management, but there’s more to this than just assuming ST is screwing up.

      Roy had a really bad WJHC. Then he got pulled in all three starts in the Q playoffs, going .739 sv and 6.88 GAA.

      These two performances alone would say that there’s something really wrong with this kid, and some say that he has already proven to be a bust.

      So to play him enough to gain confidence, logic would dictate that he should play against the lowest quality competition and play as much as he can. He has to regain his game, and most importantly, his confidence. You can’t do that by playing 20 games in the AHL.

      You may resume your hating now.

  • justDOit

    What is Roy outperforms LeNeveau in camp? Why would you want to start him in Stockton if he shows he can handle AHL competition?

    Roy is 20. He’s not a baby. His controlable window has kicked off. He needs to play at the highest level he is capable of. If that’s the AHL, so be it. Plus he gets access to better coaching in the AHL.

    I don’t know how so many bloggers can definitivly say he belongs in Stockton without him playing a single game. What ever happened to the concept of performance determining where you play?

  • book¡e

    The TSUNAMI KIDS – Catch the WAVE !! Who’s going to benefit from riding the Wave of Oilers youth ,success and excitement this season ? Oilers to much talent this season not to be a contender .

  • Stack Pad Save

    I just wish we could get Billy Ranford back out of retirement … that guy had the most electric stack pad saves I have ever seen, plus he styled them with a roll over all the time!

    • Quicksilver ballet

      The names have changed in that 30 yrs from Kurri,Coffey and Fuhr to Hemsky,Hall and Hopkins. You’re right, some kids can play, and some can’t, why waste 3-5 yrs on marginal players at best.

  • CanaDave

    I don’t have a problem with Roy going to Stockton if it means he’s starting most of the games. A 20 year old goalie needs to play in games, not watch them from the end of the bench and if it worked for the darling of this thread Devan Dubnyk, than why not take the same route for Roy? It’s not like the Oilers invested a 1st round pick in Roy so to me, a 5th round pick going to start in the ECHL as a 20 year old isn’t really anything to get concerned about, especially when he’s a goalie.

    My opinion still stands that the best thing that could happen this year in net would be for Dubnyk to clearly and unquestionably wrestle the starting job away from Khabibulin and prove he’s the guy going forward. If he can’t do that then it means either Khabibulin caught lightning in a bottle and made himself a viable starter or the Oilers will spend next off-season looking for NHL goaltending while waiting on Roy, Bunz and Perhonen to develop.

  • Semenko and Troy

    The Bulin Wall obviously hasn’t recovered fully from the crack in his back and chances are he will never regain his form.

    Having undergone the same herniated disc surgery this past spring, I’ve been told that it will take a full year to heal. And after, any training will always be tempered physically and mentally by the risk of re-injury(a sneeze will do it).

    I can’t imagine the rigors a professional athlete has to subject his body to in order to play and compete effectively, let alone a goalie who needs world class flexibility and mobility.

    This was the wrong type of injury for the Bulin Wall.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        What bothers me is hes a legit top four dman, that was signed for cheap. We are 2 players away from a real shot at the playoffs next year. IMO, he was one of them.

        • Correction –> him or another player of that ilk. People around here get way too stuck on one name and turn there blinders on. We couldnt have just straight up signed him (today anyways) we need to deal some contracts first. Why not get one of those players back in a trade?

    • Quicksilver ballet

      What is most bothersome is how or why the Oilers may have passed on Hannan . There has been several others one wonders about as well . Do they feel what we have now is better than going after short term players like Hannan ? Same scenario when it comes to goaltending ? Getting a good read on management is difficult and frustrating at times . Same goes for our coaching . We seem poised to make a playoff run this season , but reluctant to make it happen at the same time .

      Management does not seem to take well to criticizm , or those critical of them . I, as a fan , just want to see them put forth the best possible on ice product .

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I’m sure the Oilers were in on the so called Hannan sweepstakes, perhaps the Oilers offered more and he still chose Calgary who may still be playing in late April.

    No big deal. Selling the farm in early march combined with another lotto pick is in our best interest anyways.

    • No disrespect, but your last sentence disgusts me. That way of thinking is so flawed I dont even know where to begin. What do you mean exactly by ” selling the farm? ” We have missed the playoffs for five straight years, missing again isint in our best interest. We have enough pieces to make a run at playoff hockey right now. Yet, another lottery pick is in our best interest? Either you are the most patient Oiler fan I have even met, or you are Steve Tambellini himself.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Good call PG.

        It’s hard to tell right now, things could go north quickly or south just as fast this upcoming season.

        No real long term improvements have been made in goal or on the blueline for this upcoming season. Sutton is a short term bandaid and if Barker’s much the same as the last two seasons, where will the Oilers blueline be at? This won’t address the long term needs for the Oilers on their back end. Khabibulins back acts up on him again, Dubnyk plays like a confirmed backup goalie and we’re pooched again.

        If Hopkins goes back to Red Deer it well set the rebuild back a year, and combined with the usual dosage of injuries? Hordichuk and Eager are their usual undisiplined selves taking their fair share of bad penalties, there is a case to be made here that we could be done by the 40 game mark this season, worse case scenario. I see 32 wins max with this lineup. Not sure if you see this as a possibilty but after what we’ve seen here the last two seasons….anything is possible.

        The sell the farm thing. If the Oilers are bottom five at the end of January. Try to find takers for Hemsky,Gagner before the deadline. With what’s left at seasons end, offer anyone who’s not wearing 4,14 or 93 to David Poile in exchange for his #6. Paajarvi,Hartikainen,Gilbert,Petry and the Oilers first in 2013 would about do it.

  • paul wodehouse

    At best Khabi is a backup now. It’s time to Devan a shot.

    Giving Khabibulin more that 20-25 starts would be detrimental to Dubnyk’s development.

    I’m not expecting Dubnyk to have a flawless season, only to continue to progress towards a quality #1 goalie.

    There will be bumps in the road, but the team needs to stick with him regardless of the standings.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    With 2 years left on Khabibulin’s contract and with his past resume, management has to at least give him a chance and see what he has left. If he plays well, then he’s trade bait at the deadline and we can unload the last year of his contract. But no one will trade for him right now before knowing what’s he got left. If he still sucks, well then he’ll be bought out next summer and the cap penalty won’t be as bad as if we bought him out now. In any event, it’s in everyone’s best interest to give him 15-20 games to prove himself, even if it’s in a backup role to DD (we can only hope).

    I think Dubnyk has been brought along nicely with respect to his ECHL, AHL and NHL workload the past 5 years, especially considering the awful teams playing in front of him and the risks of blowing his confidence. He has shown steady improvement each year and it’s now time for him to step up as an NHL starter. It’s just too bad ST hasn’t put a better defence in front of him.

    As for Olivier Roy, it looks like he will follow the same development path that Dubnyk did in first getting lots of games at the ECHL level. If a first rounder like DD can do it at 20 years old, then I don’t see why anyone would have a problem with a 5th rounder like Roy doing the same thing, particularly as Roy’s confidence level can’t be that great after the WJC and QMJHL playoffs. I think by season’s end one of Bunz or Perhonen will overtake him on the organization’s depth chart, so Roy’s future is likely to be more of a AHL filler/callup anyway.

  • paul wodehouse

    …a very well crafted synopsis Q…this team, even with all it’s activity whirling around via our mr. tambellini back in June is most definitely on the that north south teeter tooter that you broke out with…i thought you might have done one of your “the sh!t flew, the wind blew and the old folks didn’t know what to do” routines when the beaker offered justincider (love that name)his brand of how pretty sure he was…i decided to run for cover just in case…all of your points are well taken, from how our goalie could (and prolly will) poop the bed to how our newest number one pick could be sent packing for more fame and fortune in Red Deer…i worry dearly about the eager ben and dastardly darcy taking idiosy to another level and putting so much undue pressure on the likes of gilbert and barker after whitney toasts yet another ankle or foot or whatever wheel issues he still might have left…crikey then there’s that ‘sell the farm thing’…pass the razor blades Q

    • Quicksilver ballet

      We’ve been through it twice already PG, nothing to fear here. Myself, i’m pulling for just one more lotto pick. If things go from bad to worse see what we can get for 83 and 89 at the deadline, then go really hard after Weber in July.

      Wouldn’t that be something, to go from a lottery team one yr….to the third round of the playoffs the next. Could happen if all of my wildest dreams come true….

  • paul wodehouse

    …@ ed in mada

    our goalie needs only to fare badly for a minimal amount of games in the NHL this year until such time as he becomes the starter in OKC…we agree on that but as for who’s the backup i only wish we coulda kept Gerber for another playoff run…our goalie’s the big question mark and i can only wish he wasn’t…

    may i ask…how’s the weather in Madagascar …what time is it there???

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Habby is getting all the negatives out of his head. Positive move for him. If I had “going to prison” possibility in the back of my head, i’d have trouble focusing on the job at hand. I’m going to give him the benefit of the doubt. He just might feel good about himself again. And play outstanding for the Oil. Hope he has a really good year.