Pay You Back With Interest

The day Edmonton signed Nikolai Khabibulin, I said we should consider it an overpay. I also said "don’t like the money and don’t like the terms. I’m completely fine with the goalie, he’s always been a favorite of mine." If the Oilers had signed Khabibulin to a 2-year deal, it would have been fine with me. As it turned, the first two years were filled with stories bad and worse, injuries great and small, and the humbling of a pro athlete. 

From here, it looks to me as though Nikolai Khabibulin is planning on repaying the Oilers and their fans in full for that contract. With interest.

Nikolai Khabibulin is defying gravity, pushing the envelope, boldly going, well you get the point. Historically, men his age shouldn’t be doing what he’s doing. SInce 1979, the expansion that brought the Oilers into the NHL, here’s a list of goalies NK’s age and older and their stats:

That’s the list in 30+ seasons since the WHA expansion, that’s according to hockey-reference (>1GP). Guys Khabibulin’s age are pretty much done, especially the ones with lots of miles on them. Roloson is a bit of a freak on the list in that he wasn’t a starter for many years, and a quick glance at the years active suggests that only Rollie and Dom hung around awhile.


Logic dictates that Khabibulin won’t be able to keep up this pace, even through the end of the season. Ten games is not a big sample size and overuse and injury are certainly possible, even probable.


Probably, but hey let’s enjoy it while we can. The reality is in the graph above from hockey-reference, and the other reality is that a pro hockey goalie has a strong desire to be remembered for something other than activities on Super Bowl Sunday. Nikolai Khabibulin is a proud guy, and at some level he’s gaining back his reputation through outstanding play. I don’t know how long his body can stand up to it, but history tells us never to bet against a pro athlete with something to prove via strong motivation.


Enjoy the view. Tomorrow is promised to no one.

Nation Radio is on the air today at noon (Team 1260, link to the right). Among the guests scheduled to appear:

  • Jim Byers from the OKC Barons. The team’s pbp man is a great resource for Oiler fans interesting in the goings on with the farm club. I’ll ask about the team’s record breaking win streak and the early MVP this season.
  • Dennis King from everywhere. We’ll talk about his scoring chance measurement (what counts, what doesn’t), the information he gathers from those advanced stats and how he applied them. King has a good mind for these things, I’m looking forward to his thoughts on SC and the Oilers in 11-12.
  • Derek Blasutti from C&B. Dawgbone has always been an interesting read no matter where he posts, but his exceptional instructional items at Copper and Blue are music to my ears. I’ll ask Derek about how he sees the game, why the Oilers frustrate him (it’s only a two hour show so we won’t get too far into that) and if he’s ever heard of Howie Meeker.
  • James Mirtle is a stand up guy and a brilliant writer. Why is he a stand up guy? Well, years ago I linked my blog to his blog, and now even though he writes for the national fishwrap he still takes my calls on his busiest day of the week. I’ve been in media since most of you were in diapers and can tell you it’s rare thing. Plus he’s a smart guy.
  • Kent Wilson from the Nations. Kent is a regular on the show and we’ll talk Flames but also discuss a new project called NHL NUMBERS PODCAST. Great information available in episode 1 and more to come, I’ll ask him about future projects.

Email is and you can tweet @ItsNationRadio or @Lowetide_ with comments and questions. Hope you can join us.

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    LT thanks for the tune! You’re often lifting lyrics from songs.. nice to hear them.

    Hasek’s numbers are sick. that win/loss ratio is totally ridiculous (101-34-15[t/o]). Roloson is definitely a freak playing this good this late… but what about Thomas (I think he’s 38?)… maybe we live in a era where the late blooming goalie is king?

    Pessimism Pete wants to remind you that 10 games of stellar play does not pay off a sizeable four year deal.

    Excitable Eric just says KHABBSQUEEEEEEEEE!!!!

  • OBC'84

    Well, the entire balloon may well be dropping back down into the regular atmosphere. We’ve seen improvements in all departments and hopes are high, but if we miss the playoffs, as generally predicted, at least we had this start to remember for next year. I’m not giving up on the playoffs, I’m just saying that Happy Boozin’ may be defying gravity now but can’t hold a team that still has holes in it in the air for a whole season. Tim Thomas has the Bruins in front of him.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    I’ve been shocked at Khabbys play so far, I do think some of it has to do with all the blocked shots the d are taking. My only concern is what might happen if #35 gets hurt, Dubnyk is more than capable of taking over but its the dude that will back up DD, I’m not sold on Danis as a backup in the NHL but that’s just me.

    How are the goalies in OKC doin anyway?

  • Spydyr

    The way Dubnyk played the last couple games I would not even consider him a good backup.Hope he picks his game up his next start.The team needs him to play 20-30 games.If he wants to be the goalie moving forward he better show it soon.

    • a lg dubl dubl

      True DD does have to pick up his game abit, but as good as the d has been blocking shots for both goalies they have left Dubnyk out to dry more than Khabby IMO, especially against the Coyotes the d was brutal that game.

  • RexLibris

    Once again, we have to thank our lucky stars that fate stepped in our way and prevented the organization from sabotaging ourselves. When the Vanek offer sheet was matched we saved ourselves Eberle, Paajarvi, and Hall. When Khabibulin had those two awful first seasons it helped us walk away with the 1st overall pick rather than another half-tank pick like we had in 2007.

    I’m glad he has been able to put these numbers together. It must feel really good for him to be able to SIUTBOHC as Brownlee says. He’s shown himself to be a good team/locker room guy and that makes it easier to cheer for him.

    Normally I’d be a little worried about our lack of offense thus far, and fretting over whether our young line will actually turn into a dominant force or will they max out as a Heatley-Alfredsson-Spezza line. But I’ve been overindulging in a little Schadenfreude over at FN and it helps to soothe my nerves.

    Is it just a matter of time before Renney alters his coaching strategy this year to push the offense? Or is he planning his ice-time with the rookies with a view to the longer-term, managing over a whole season?

    • justDOit

      SIUTBOHC indeed.

      I’m guessing there’s an overly optimistic fan or two who said Khabibulin would bounce back — the same people who insisted Rob Schremp was a big-time player and saw unlimited potential in Tony Salmelainen. Mostly kooks for whom the Oil can do no wrong.

      The vast majority of people, though, were flat-out wrong about Khabibulin. I was wrong. The numbers guys were wrong. MSM guys, basement-dwellers. Everybody. We said he was finished. We made fun of his off-ice issues. We made fun of his bad back. We sh*t all over him.

      We came up with a lot of derrrrrrrrrrr stuff like Khabbyboozin, Khabbylosin,’ whatever. It happened on this site, on Lowetide’s site and on sites only “really smart” people frequent. We had Nikolai done, finished, over. And for those so inclined — we know who they are — his failure provided yet another reason to have a bowel movement on Oilers management for signing him. To pile on.

      Now? Doesn’t matter a damn bit that it’s been only 10 games or that Khabibulin’s numbers are bound to come back to earth over the balance of this season. Of course they will, which is something people like to point out in mitigating how badly they blew it by writing him off. Ass covering.

      Doesn’t matter. We didn’t think Khabibulin had 10 minutes or 10 periods, let alone 10 games, of hockey left in him at the level he’s played. We were wrong.

      No matter what happens from here on out, his performance is one of the greatest examples of SIUTBOHC in recent memory. Period.

      • Romulus' Apotheosis

        I call this the “Reverse Mr. Poopy Pants”

        Usually Mr. Poopy Pants comes in here to calm down the Excitable Erics around here, but now here he comes to scold the Pessimism Petes for not being excitable enough!

        I love it!

      • Crash

        You may soon be writing the same post with regards to the defense corp too…

        Many of you have piled on the defensemen here just as hard as you did on Khabby..

        None of you thought the defense had 10 minutes, or 10 periods, let alone 10 games of good hockey in them either.

        Looks quite possible that the long list of people crapping on the d were all wrong too.

        Then next up after that could be the apology posts towards Tambellini…haven’t heard much of the Tambellini bashing in here lately either.

        Can’t see why it would be a stretch to suggest that Khabby could bounce back after putting the injury and legal issues behind him…good on him…I’m happy for him.

        But then again, I suppose all it will take is a bad stretch and the whole crew will be back at it.

        • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

          i am always game for a good tambellini bashing.

          i, for sure, was one who didnt think this d group had this sort of start as a possibility. 110%, i was wrong about them. Will they keep it up? doubtful, but i hope im wrong on that one too.

          As for Tambellini, he will get his apology when the Oilers, under a different GM, are raising Lord Stanleys Cup in the new Rexall Place.

          • Crash

            Fair enough…but maybe a little credit is going to have to go out to Tambellini.

            Maybe Tambellini has gone about building the kind of team here that everyone has wanted in the right manner despite so many in here who know better….heck, they only started this over the last 2 yrs…it could be they’re ahead of schedule…who knows, I guess we’ll see.

            As far as raising the Stanley Cup….there’s only one team a year that gets to do that…if the Oilers do get a chance to raise it again…don’t be surprised if both Tambellini and Lowe are in the picture.

            Who would you suggest the different GM should be?…I’m assuming it must be one of the GM’s that has won one already.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            The rebuild 100% had to be done. And, given the substantial number of high quality picks it can be argued tambellini was the right guy to drive the ship right into the toilet and keep it there. He fell ass backwards into the rebuild, it wasnt planned until it was there with little/no other options left.

            However, going on the assumption the Oilers are following the pens/hawks drive it in the toilet and then win formula, there ends up being a transition from bottom feeder to contender, both on the ice and off.

            It might just be the pessimist side of me, but i dont see much in the way of tambellini that instills a lick of confidence in regards to him building a cup winner. Personally, i see a New York Islanders sort of build with him at the helm long term, never really getting over the hump. Just my beer leaguer opinion talking there, i have no corsi relative to the talking out of my ass to back it up.

            As for who would be a better fit to build the team going forward? That right there is, in my opinion, the 400 million dollar question. The Oilers only really get 1 shot to “build” this sucker into something sustainable. I dont think it has to be a guy who has won one already. Burke hadnt won as GM before Anaheim won, same with Rutherford, Feaster…Stan Bowman… Ray Shero… and most recently in Boston…I think it comes down to finding a guy (or in Feasters case being sh*t ass lucky) who can find the last pieces needed.

            So, who is the guy? Is it Rick Dudley? Is it Tambellini? Is it some assistant GM sitting out there waiting for a chance? Smarter (hopefully) people then me will make that call. I dont, however, think the guy piloting the ship to back to back 30th place finishes is going to be the one to pilot them all the way back to the top.

            edit: in summary, i dont like tambellini, and if the oilers screw this up im going to be pissed.

    • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

      You are worried if the young line will “max out” at a Heatly/Alfredsson/Spezza level?

      I’d be thrilled if Hall/RNH/Ebs reached the level of the Ottawa 3…. you have to think getting there is absolutly best case scenario.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    What could’ve been, what could’ve been…. the young Oilers team brimming with confidence, with a goaltender who’s at the top of his game, went into Boston to face the struggling Stanley Cup Champions.

    Renney must’ve been feeling a little cocky starting his backup goaltender against the Bruins.

    • justDOit

      Well, he had to start DD against either the Cup Champs, or the surging Wings who destroyed Colorado and Anaheim recently.

      I still think he did the right thing by giving his team the best chance to win against a western conference opponent. Too bad the Oilers couldn’t provide even one goal of support for their aged ‘tender.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        Felt that Renney chose wrong. It’s poor decision making like this that sets a team in the direction of a 3-7 record over their next 10 games. With Devan rewarding Renneys confidence in him like this, Turco may not be out of work much longer.

          • Quicksilver ballet

            Throw him under the bus for all i care. By the time Khabibulin moves on Tyler Bunz will have pushed Dubnyk to the side of the road. He won’t let Renney down many more times before the Oilers start looking elsewhere for a backup. The sky is falling on Dubey if he can’t get his ship together.

          • a lg dubl dubl

            DD has only been in the league goin on 2 full yrs now…on behalf of Dubnyk I’m sorry he’s not the 2nd coming of sweet little baby Jesus lol geeze. Id rather have DD than a choke artist like that sieve in Vancouver

          • Quicksilver ballet

            I’m not sayin dubl dubl, but i’m just going to say…

            18 wins in his 3 yrs as a pro. A collective .904 save%, what’s not to love about that, decent numbers if you’re in the AHL, i guess.

            I think we can all agree that the games this season certainly hold more importance than the previous 2 seasons. The games have plenty more meaning this yr, now that there’s something at stake, he’s 2-4 so far. Dubnyk isn’t delivering the goods most nights.

          • a lg dubl dubl

            I hear ya Dubnyk does have to get better but as I stated earlier its petty hard to stop a puck when the defence isn’t really there to clear away the 2nd and 3rd shots that thier supposed to.

            And 18wins over the last 2yrs with the team he had in front of him is pretty good for a young goalie…heck look at fleury and how he started out in Pittsburgh.

          • cableguy - 2nd Tier Fan

            So you suggest Turco as a replacement option? The same Turco who ended up with a glorious .897 save% and over 3GAA on a playoff team last year? His numbers were worse then dubnyks last year, and dubnyk played on a last place team….36 year old Turco… career save% of .910… .904% is decent numbers for the AHL apparently, but .910? bring him in!!

            I agree Dubnyk has struggled, and may not be the answer long term, but sweet jesus man lay off the pipe for a few days

  • 24% body fat

    we need to do something to get the offense going. Even on the kid line (while on the road) . Try

    Smythe – Horcoff – Paajarvi
    Hall – Gagner – Hemsky
    Jones – RNH – Eberle
    petrell – Belanger – lander

    Three balanced lines so the gagner and RNH line can score some goals , while smythe seems to score no matter who he faces plus this line can eat hard minutes against the other teams top lines.

    The kid line doesnt seem to produce on the road, and even at home mostly on the pp, so stick them together for the pp than. Gagner and MPS need to get going if we want to start winning games on the road. They need to play with better players than belanger and jones if renney wants them to produce.

    • Crash

      Could be….I don’t have a prediction one way or the other….it’s always been about, let’s just see for me….but where are all of the people that already had it all figured out?

      I guess waiting for the wheels to fall off again so they can continue to spew venom.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        It isn’t about distributing the venum Crash. We all care, some of us just like to biotch and moan more than others.

        As always, losing invites criticism and winning differs it. We’re not being overly hard on these guys, are we?

  • Romulus' Apotheosis

    RE: Turco. Just want to remind you all that one M. Turco fed our beloved 94 his teeth on a stick sandwich and played for Dallas. two strikes. never, never.

  • Little Buttcheeks

    I maintain that we will not make the playoffs on the back of one goaltender. I’ve read a few places that we should just ride Khabibulin because he is on fire right now but I would still like to see Dubnyk in there once every 3 or 4 games. He’s a quality backup and we will need him because as good as Khabby has been so far, he’s not as young as he used to be. GO OILERS GO!!