AT RANDOM UPDATED: LET’S PLAY

Edmonton Oilers coach Tom Renney can send the right message by starting Devan Dubnyk in goal against the Pittsburgh Penguins Sunday, but so far he hasn’t said publicly he will give him the nod over Nikolai Khabibulin. Privately? We don’t know.

Renney, as coaches often do, has had some fun keeping reporters and fans guessing as to who’ll get the call, but when in comes to deciding based on merit and who, to paraphrase Renney, gives the Oilers the best chance to win Sunday, Dubnyk seems the obvious choice. Whether he’s Renney’s choice remains to be seen.

Really, is this a tough call?

MAKE A STATEMENT

Dubnyk, 25, has outperformed Khabibulin by a wide margin this pre-season. It isn’t close. In 187 minutes through four games played, Dubnyk posted a 1.60 goals-against average and a .947 saves percentage.

Khabibulin, 38, had the crease for 151 minutes through three games and finished at 2.38 and .872, his numbers hurt by one atrocious outing in which he allowed three goals on 10 shots.

Those who suggest you can’t judge too heavily on pre-season results against less-than-complete NHL have a point. After all, had Taylor Hall or Jordan Eberle stunk this pre-season (the didn’t), they wouldn’t be looking at fourth-line duty or tickets to Oklahoma City.

Fact is, though, Dubnyk has performed better than Khabibulin since the start of last season. He went 12-13-8 with a 2.71 and .916. Khabibulin was 10-32-4 with a 3.40 and .890. We all know this already.

With two more years on Khabibulin’s contract, and recognizing a pretty good career and seniority and all that, I get it why Renney isn’t about to publicly kick Khabibulin to the curb. He shouldn’t.

Likewise, giving Khabibulin the start Sunday doesn’t mean Dubnyk won’t get more work, likely the majority of it, this season. He should. That said, there is a degree of symbolism in that first start.

The way I see it, the Oilers will be best-served moving forward if Renney uses that opportunity Sunday to give Dubnyk his chance and see what he does with it. Make a statement.

THIS AND THAT

— Jason Gregor asked me Thursday who I’m picking to lead the Oilers in scoring this season. I’ll say now what I said then: if Ales Hemsky plays something approaching a full season, 75 games or more, I expect he’ll be the guy. I’m thinking 68-70 points.

Again, assuming something close to a full season, my best guess is Hall will lead the Oilers in goal scoring, something in the range of 28-32, edging Eberle for the honour.

— By putting Ryan Nugent-Hopkins between Hall and Hemsky, Renney is giving the kid every chance to succeed and that’s how it should be. Going into camp, before Sam Gagner got injured, it looked like Nugent-Hopkins might be shoe-horned into duty on the third or fourth lines. Better he be in Red Deer than cast in a role like that.

— If Nugent-Hopkins excels through nine games and sticks here, using a year of his entry level contract, where does Gagner fit? If it Nugent-Hopkins and Gagner on the first and second lines, does it make sense to have Shawn Horcoff and Eric Belanger playing on the third and fourth lines? And if Lander impresses, what of him?

— About that blue line . . .

UPDATE: MARTINDALE SIGNS

Via Oilers news release:

"General Manager Steve Tambellini announced today the Edmonton Oilers have agreed to terms with centre Ryan Martindale on a three-year entry level contract.

Martindale, 19, spent last season with the Ottawa 67’s in the Ontario Hockey League, playing in 65 games, collecting 83 points (34G, 49A) and 28 penalty minutes.
 
The 6’3", 207-pound Brooklin, Ontario native played his entire junior hockey career with Ottawa, recording 207 points (84G, 123A) and 97 penalty minutes in 243 games played.
 
Martindale, who was Edmonton’s 5th choice (3rd round), 61st overall in the 2010 NHL Entry Draft, is currently with the Oilers top affiliate, the Oklahoma City Barons."

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

  • The Farmer

    The team is built for the future in every way right now, and as of right now anyway Dubnyk is the goalie of the future. It only makes sense that he would start. That is why it is 100% garaunteed that tommorow’s starter is in no way shape or form anyone other than Khabibulin.

    ( In case you haven’t noticed it’s kinda how we do things around here )

  • Bucknuck

    I am not sure how much more clear both Khabby and Dubnyk could make it as to who the more reliable goaltender is.

    It’s been pretty clear since December of last year that Dubnyk is the better bet if you want the team to win. He must be really good at chatting up the coaches or something. I don’t know how he keeps getting starts.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    Dubnyk should start but I kind of get the feeling that Khabby will get the call.

    Turkey, family and the Oilers’ opener. Doesn’t get better than this. GO OILERS GO!!

  • Wax Man Riley

    I’ve been reading all summer, hoping for any scrap of Oilers news, signed up for twitter to follow some Oilers, had to endure the Canucks in the playoffs, and just hope for the year ahead.

    Now I have been watching Andrew Cogliano score with the Ducks, Kessel dominate with the Leafs in Toronto, and Skinner score in Carolina.

    If I don’t get to watch the Oilers play a real, regular season game, I think I’m going to snap. SNAP!!

    We have had the longest drought without hockey…

    …except for Winnipeg, of course.

    *goes back to simulating opening game of the Oilers’ season on NHL’12 for the 332nd time while wearing Oilers jersey….. and nothing else…*

    • Douche Nietzsche

      I’m thinking Hall, Hopkins and Hemsky are going to tear sh!t up tonight @ Rexall. Watch for the 3 Swedes to stay with them. It will be an epic affair.

  • I’m thinking DD as based on performance since last December it’s no contest. Sending Brule down does tend to indicate that they are serious about performance based decisions.

    Intersting that Brownlee thinks Hemsky could score 30 this year given he has only one season over twenty. He says he plans to shoot more this year and it is a contract year.

  • Chris.

    The Guaranteed Decline, Uncertain Opportunity sign should be relocated to Red Deer for hockey fans trying to decide if they are taking the QE2 north or south.

  • Nice insight there Robin but definitely a predicament we’d rather have. I was thinking maybe Gagner or Lander could move to wing but it’s crowded there too. It will definitely be interesting with Hemsky and Smyth being UFAs next year… I wonder if both will be an Oiler same time next year with other kids like Hartikainen knocking on the door. I know some advocate trading Gagner but he’s only 23 or 24 with tremendous upside and a nice price package. I like Hemsky but it seems more likely that he’ll get traded sometime in February (unless we’re in playoff territoty); too bad we can’t keep all of them.