Big Yann or Big Yawn?

Over the years I’ve learned that when it comes to signing free agents the Edmonton Oilers can fool you. Sometimes the big money guys are here for a good time (not a long time) and the secondary moderns are the ones follow. 

Speaking about goaltenders with any kind of authority is folly. Even goalie coaches use vague phrases about mechanics and positioning. I believe the language of goalies exists so that these poor souls don’t hear "why the hell didn’t you stop the damn puck?" every 5 minutes. It sometimes seems as though G’s are to hockey as pitchers are to baseball: even the best of them might get released, face several career crossroads and suffer massive amounts of booing at home and on the road. 

Inside the pitcher/goalie realm live the knuckleballers who are represented in hockey by the Tim Thomas group (waiting until 30+ before putting it all together). That group enjoyed a giant FU moment this spring, when "elite goalie all his life" Roberto Luongo questioned Thomas’ mechanics in game 2 only to let in an equally devastating goal in game 7 under similar on-ice circumstances (the Marchand wraparound, goal #2 in G7).

Making any kind of claim in regard to Yann Danis being from the Tim Thomas family of "elite goalies after 30" is ridiculous. That kind of good fortune combines talent, confidence, luck, karma and the Hockey Gods in equal measure. Still, the resume for Yann Danis suggests that he deserved the look he’s getting from the Oil Drop. 

Danis isn’t an obvious choice for a free agent steal, but there are some things on his resume worth noting:

  • Won the Ken Dryden award for NCAA’s top goalie, 2004. 
  • ECAC player of the year, 2004. 
  • Enjoyed some solid AHL seasons on the deep Hamilton (Montreal) Bulldogs team, mid 2000’s. 
  • Rookie NHL season (08-09) included a .910SP for the lowly NY Islanders. 
  • Backup in NJD the following season, posted a .923 SP for the Devils. 
  • Played well in the KHL last season.

Danis is considered a solid bet by a few good hockey minds. Robert Vollman wrote about him in Hockey Prospectus earlier this summer:

  • Some teams don’t look past Evgeni Nabokov when searching the KHL for options, causing them overlook Khabarovsk’s Danis. Initially a promising goalie prospect, Danis got stuck behind Halak and Carey Price in Montreal’s system. He eventually found his way to the NHL, playing 43 games for the Islanders and Devils from 2008 to 2010, earning an impressive even-strength save percentage of .926 and quality start percentage over 60. This success could be due to the small sample size, but Danis certainly deserves the opportunity to prove it.

There are a few things going Danis’ way at this time: he’s young enough to have several seasons of effectiveness moving forward; even if he starts the season in OKC the Oilers situation is fluid; Khabibulin’s downward trend may end up forcing the issue as soon as this fall; the Oilers have waited too long in free agency to add another goalie to the mix, meaning either they improve via trade or Danis is the de facto first option when the money runs out and the engine blows for the NHL tandem.

At this point the Edmonton Oilers have the look of a team that is about to rely heavily on a young goaltender. Devan Dubnyk is a solid player and may build on last year’s foundation to solidify himself as an NHL starter. Yann Danis is certainly behind backup Nikolai Khabibulin at this point (who may well be considered the starter by Oilers management) but the recipe exists for Yann Danis to get a huge NHL opportunity this season.

Hockey’s Tim Wakefield? I believe we’re about to find out.

  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    Ya buddy I can sympathize with you. My grandpa passed away last year and he was a big Oilers fan. Never in my life have i seen my grandpa change the channel during an Oilers game, until last year. He was so bitter toward the team because he said they had no respect for there fan base and that “trying” to tank was a very dishonorable way to rebuild a team. Obviously my views were different from his but I gotta respect what he was tryin to say.

  • SurfacetoAirMissile

    WOW as an Oiler fan I am truley disappointed in the garbage we signed this offseason. Vokun is getting paid 1.5 million and we couldn”t make a play for him? I’m ok with Barker and Symth, but over all we are not gonna make the playoffs… again, and my grandpa who is turing 87 will never again see the Oilers return to greatness or even mediocrity. I honestly hate this “next year we’ll be better” crap I’ve been hearing for the last 5 years.

    • SurfacetoAirMissile

      I read Vokun was offered $5M/yr from the Panthers but he turned it down to test FA…. Don’t kid your self, Vokun would not play for E-Town for 1.5M.

      • justDOit

        Thanks for pointing out the obvious! If he were offered a bigger and better deal here I’m sure he woulda taken it, because Oilers are obviosly better then the Panthers.

        • SurfacetoAirMissile

          Khabi isn’t going anywhere (contract) and Duby is developing…. why not just go out and over pay for a third goalie? …… pretty obvious!!!!

  • Wolverine_Oiler

    Question to the Nation,

    Even though I don’t think this will ever happen, lets say Khabi gets demoted. His contract would still stay on the books even though he’s in the AHL because the over 40 rule. Correct? This is why I don’t think it will happen. No way the Oilers have 3 goalie contracts on the cap. Otherwise I think Khabi would have been shipped out like Big Sexy last year.

    • Souby

      I thought that if Khabby was sent to the minors, his salary would not count against the cap, but I was incorrect. I googled it and had the following in their FAQ section:

      What is a “35-plus” contract?
      Players who sign multi-year contracts when they are age 35 or older (calculated on June 30 of the season the contract begins) count toward the cap under all circumstances, regardless of where (or if) the player is playing. The only cap relief is $100,000 from the player’s cap hit if he is assigned to the minors after the first year of the contract.
      CBA reference: Section 50.5 (d-i-B-5) (P. 203)

      So the only way out of this contract is find a GM willing to take on the big cap hit on an aging goalie, with a bad back, who can’t stop a beach ball…..where is Mike Milbury when you need him?!!!

        • SurfacetoAirMissile

          Honestly the cap hit does not matter this year or probably next year either. What I am sure Kates and managment would be conserned about is actual dollars. I’m sure it stung to send Souray to the minors and still hand him his pay check. It would sting just as bad to send Khabi to the minors and still pay him his money. That is why I am sure he will be with the Oilers no matter what his play is like.

  • Ender

    I think bookie is on the right track here. Was Khabby a bad signing? Sure. Does Tambi & co. know that? Of course they do. These guys have been INSIDE the NHL for decades. They know the difference between goaltending and bad. As a stroke of luck though Khabby’s craptasticness paved the way for Hall and RNH.

    I think it’s reasonable to assume that the amount Khabby plays will depend largely on the play of the rest of the team, which on paper should be markedly better. More so if they can bring in another D.

    If the team is playing well and Khabby’s play is the primary factor in losses I expect we’ll see more of DD and maybe Danis gets a look. If it’s still a “developing” year for all the young guys and the playoffs are unrealistic, then playing Khabby more improves your draft slot and maybe helps push DD in that his starts aren’t simply handed to him. Which is something Renney spoke of last year. Plus from all accounts he’s a good mentor to young goalies which may be more difficult to find than we realize.

  • shau_co

    Based on the comments so far, most people here likely won’t agree with me on this, but I honestly think Khabby will turn things around a bit this year.

    I am betting that the off-ice issues last year affected his performance and although I don’t expect him to be an all-star or MVP, I can definitely see him getting back to his prior form and post a SV% above .900.

    I think the best would be to see a 50 / 50 split with DD to start. Then let the two goalies earn their starts based on performance, such that either one could get up to 60% of the starts.

    • Souby

      While I would like to see DD get the majority of the starts, I like your thinking on this. Begin the season as a 50/50 split and if one outplays the other, than they earn more starts. I could live with that scenario as opposed to Khabby just being handed the starting job again.

      • Ender

        I don’t even think you decide on the 50/50 split at this point. Training camp is specifically designed to assess a player’s form before the season starts. That’s why you have a TC – to see who should be playing where and how much.

        If Khabby comes to camp and is shutting down everything on skates and Dubnyk isn’t, then Khabby should start most of the games in September. I think that’s highly unlikely, but the point is that if the objective is to win (and I’d like to think it is this year for a change) then the coach should play the goalie that gives you the best chance to do that. Based on last year’s statistics, that puts DD in net. Last year, though, doesn’t mean so much come September. In a perfect world, the guy playing his face off in training camp should be the guy starting your games and he should stay there until his play suggests that you do something different. The name on the sweater shouldn’t be the determining factor for a team that wants to win; the only thing that should matter is whether the pucks are staying out of the net or not.

        • book¡e

          Sure – if Khabi is doing great, then by all means, put him in. To be honest, if Cogs straps on the pads for fun and plays like an all star goalie – put him in…

          However, the question that we are asking/exploring relates to what the plans going into training camp are. Do the Oilers really think they have a number 1 goalie – if so, which one?

        • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

          True to a point.

          ie if Hemsky gets shut out in TC and Eager gets 5 goals, I don’t think we’re going to see Eager on line 1 and Hemsky on line 4.

          Other then the odd case, past performance should mean a heck of alot more then a few weeks in training camp.

          • Ender

            Training camp isn’t a one-day exercise. I understand what you’re saying, but between you and me if Hemsky goes through all of camp and doesn’t find the twine even once (let’s not complicate things with assists) then I’m thinking he doesn’t start on line-1 anyway.

            History plays a part – you’re right – but hockey is an awful lot about “What have you done for me lately”.

          • I don’t know if this has been answered yet, I dont feel like reading through all the post’s but, what happens if Khabby isn’t even at camp?

            When does his sentence start? Dubnyk could be the #1 going into camp.

            What happens when Khabby comes back? Does Khabby become the back up or starter?

          • Ender

            There’s little chance Khabbi misses camp. Originally, there was talk of him being finished his 30-day sentence in a mere 10 days factoring in ‘time off for good behaviour’. It was reported that he screwed something up with his probation recently, though, so I don’t know if that will be a factor. In any case, the odds of him starting his sentence so late in the summer that it drags into camp are pretty long. One way or the other, I’m sure he’ll be in an out as quietly as possible and be ready for camp come the fall.

          • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

            “what have you done for me lately” is that not more for fans? I seem to remember Jones getting a spot over Reddox and Peckham over Belle because of what they did in the previous year and not TC.

          • OB1 Team Yakopov - F.S.T.N.F

            Each situation is obviously different.

            If the team feels Eberle is close to Hemsky going in, and Ebs puts has a steller camp while Hemsky struggles, Eberle will probably start as 1C.

            However, Mike Comrie scored more goals then both Crosby and Malkin last pre-season, I’m confident their was never any debate in Pits as to which two centers will start the year at 1C and 2C.

            Marty Gerber also put up a SV% that was at a minimum .27 better then both DD and Bulin…. and he clearly wasn’t getting a sniff at the starters role

          • Ender

            In 2006, Patrick Thoresen was a virtual unknown. Came into camp and played his way onto the roster. Did great for a couple of months . . . and then fell into the abyss of NHL-players-past. Right or wrong, that was MacT’s decision at the time.

            You’d be right to point out that that was then and this is now. Last year, many fans thought that Reddox had played his way into a spot because of a strong camp and that Omark wasn’t even given a fair chance at all to make the team. Renney didn’t seem to care; it appeared he had his mind pretty well set before camp ever started.

            In my original thought here, I stated that I thought a player should have his place on the team determined in large part on camp performance. Yeah, you’ll get the odd Thoresen that dissapoints you, but that’s why you have a farm team and that’s when you call up someone who is doing better at that time. Still, I have to admit that I don’t believe Renney (or even Quinn, for that matter) and I see eye-to-eye on the value of camp performance.

            I think the better goalie in camp should start the season. I also think you’re on the mark to suggest that’s not necessarily what will really happen under this coaching/management team.

          • Horcsky

            It’s definitely a little from column A, and a little from column B; however, my instinct is that this coaching/management group has been more interested in a player’s past performance and future potential than his performance in training camp.
            Exhibit A would be Theo Peckham’s training camp last year. Outplayed by a number of d-men, but the coaches liked what they’d seen in the past and felt he still had the most potential of the bubble d-man group, so he made it despite a poor training camp.

          • Souby

            I am in agreement with OB1 on this that past performance should weigh heavier, but you are right that “what have you done for me lately” definitely plays a part in the decision making.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I think what i’ll enjoy most this coming season is watching Khabibulin get comfortable in that saddle again and play 60+ games…..friggen awesome!

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    I think it is funny how most Oil fans and the media have jumped all over Khabibulin for what happened last year. I understand that Dubnyk had a reasonably better year statistically and in the wins/ loss column, but he did it in a sheltered environment. Dubnyk had nothing to lose everytime he went out on to the ice. He wasn’t the starter, he was a developing prospect, the team wasn’t expected to win and Khabibulin was there as the “vet” to take the heat from the fans and the media. Khabibulin is the starter, and it is his job to lose based on experience, contract and the other goalies the Oil have signed to one way deals. Plus, he will still be there to be the whipping boy for all of the fans and media until they take the training wheels off Dubnyk, or he surprises us all and returns to form and makes us all eat some crow.

    Based on this signing of Danis, I think ST is taking a flyer on a solid goalie, who has fallen through the cracks and is going to get a shot at playing some NHL games, because there will be injuries to either NK, DD or both. Plus, if they take the wheels off of DD and let him run with it, we might see the kid struggle with the pressure of having to perform under brighter lights and more expectations. So, we might see the learning curve get a little more linear for DD.

    • book¡e

      So the guy who is guaranteed to make his $3.75 mil/season had more pressure than the guy trying to make his name and get the contract that can support him and his family well into his retirement years?

      Dubnyk had a rough ride in the NHL in 09-10 and without a good showing in 10-11 could have found himself in goaltender pergatory.

      Besides, how much pressure can their be in a situation where all you have to do is come in and be adequate? Isn’t he a Stanley Cup Winning Goaltender (TM), shouldn’t the pressure he faced here be dwarfed by what he accomplished 8 years ago?

      Isn’t that why the Oilers signed him? To handle the pressure?

    • I think the media and fans deserved to jump on Khabby for the year he had.

      In what way was Dubnyk sheltered?

      Dubnyk had nothing to lose?

      No game in the NHL is a “safe” game or “sheltered” game. players play to win! there professional athletes!

      I have to disagree with those statements, had Dubnyk under performed at anytime during the season the coaching staff or management may have reconsidered playing him more. That alone puts extreme amount of pressure on the goalie by the coaching staff, and exceedingly more pressure put on by Dubnyk himself. Not to mention that he is a back up and gets less rep’s in practice and has to continually be mentally sharp through out the season cause his starts depend on how Khabby feels. I thought he was under played and deserved more starts based on his play. Khabbys done and deserves to be ripped.

  • billylikestodrinksoda

    Dubs and khabby are basically 1A and 1B in the eyes of management right now. I mean yeah obviously dubnyk was the better goalie but with khabbys contract they are gonna be splitting time. Its wrong but they handcuffed themselves with his contract and unless he blows his back permanently; and I mean the chances are actually pretty high so fingers crossed, he will be there. Yann Danis is an ahl goalie this year unless injury occurs and anyone who even remotely thinks he’s gonna win a job outta camp is completely off the tracks.

  • O.C.

    Danis would never slot in as P1 out of training camp. Is it even remotely possible that either NK or DD will be in the AHL on NHL opening day?

    Someone has to mentor Roy, and Danis is (to me), the obvious of the three.

  • Morning Coffey

    If khabby is the defacto #1 acording to management I wonder how that will affect dubnyk’s confidence going forward. He was clearly the better goalie last season. I also wonder how khabby might be feeling about losing his job to dubnyk and now potenrially dannis. Since goaltending seems to be as much about psychology as much as technique I’d really like to hear what the players themselves are saying.

  • Lowetide

    Khabby is turning out to be one of Tamb’s worst moves since arriving. On the surface it looks to me that the Oilers did not do their due diligence before signing him to too much money over too much term.

    I have yet to hear Tambs ever say ‘I made a mistake’. He just seems to have such a fragile ego he can never say he dropped the ball or screwed up (read Souray affair).

    Action taken in the recent drafts and this years signings points to some sort of awakening on Kingsway but the past poor judgement is scary. The lack of willingness to get a goalie in here tells me they are preparing for next years draft already.

    • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

      Do any GM’s say they made a mistake?

      He has at least made moves that make you realize that he understands he made a mistake. Like buying out certain players, or trading Brule/Fraser/Foster.

      I’m not sure what people want to do with Bulin. It isn’t exactly an easy move. No one wants to trade for him and does ST have the green light to send another big salary to the AHL this year?

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Couple things. We did well last time around when we went to the KHL for a goalie, so for now I’ll give the team them the benefit of knowing what they’re doing.

    Second, I like the fact that we can potentially have Dannis a bit more long-term. With Gerber it seemed that it was pretty much a 1 year thing right from the start. With Danis being 30 there is potential that if he does well that he could be kept around for a bigger position come the 12-13 year.

  • Lowetide

    bookie: Oilers management have (as WG suggests) always stood by Khabibulin. Either they believe it, or think we’re idiots who can’t see the game and read the stats.

    They had no problems demoting Roloson’s ass for Garon even though Rollie took them to the SCF’s.

    No sir. Steve Tambellini has constantly told us Khabibulin is the starter. I think it’s reasonable to suggest that at least some portions of the management group believe it now.

    • Puritania

      That’s because Garon far outplayed Roli and gave MacT no choice (even though MacT resisted as long as humanly possible).

      It should be noted that the following year it took MacT all of 5 games to give Roli back the #1 job after Garon EARNED it…

    • book¡e

      I tend not to take much of what Renney and Tambellini say at face value. For example, if Renney truly believed that the Oilers were going to make a push for the playoffs half way through last season, then the guy would likely be too incompetent to even make his way to the rink. Given that he showed up there most days, I think we can assume he has an IQ of above 80.

      I think that most of what they say is for strategic reasons, although they are not really very subtle in doing so. DD had taken on the #1 role at the end of last season. If Khabi is the starter this year, we can assume that the strategy for the year is to finish poorly – to play well, but lose a lot of games.

      Let’s face it, only a total idiot would truly see Khabibulin as a #1 goalie if the goal is to win. Its not a debatable subject like the initial contract offer was. You may not like Tambellini, Lowe, Katz, etc, but I doubt that they are total idiots.

      • D-Man

        I agree with what you say.. Coaches/GM’s can’t go out and say – “We hope to finish in 12th place” this year and not expect to get lambasted by the general public.

        Although DD was by far the better goalie last year, I won’t be shocked if we see DD and Khabby split the season 50/50 – assuming Khabby doesn’t struggle like last year. DD isn’t ready to take on 60 games yet and should be challenged like any other younger player on the roster for ice time.

        Unfortunately, Khabby’s not going to OKC as we don’t have enough depth on the back-end yet and (I might be wrong) from my understanding, the CBA prevents us from buying-out the remainder of his contract… I just pray he turns his game around so he can let DD play 40 – 45 games this year and (assuming DD still plays up to his ability) 50 – 55 games the year following…

        • book¡e

          Yep, it might be that DD and Khabi split the season. If so, its because the goal of the year is to develop DD and other players on the team. It’s not about winning. I don’t think they want another 30th place finish because it would be a hard sell to fans and even more importantly to the players. However, I think they would be fine with being in 20th spot all season (just 4-8 pts out of the playoffs) and dropping to 24th or so right at the end (when Khabi mysteriously gets loads of starts).

    • VMR

      Hey, dont you be checking out the stats!!

      Just watch Khabi make those amazing flopping saves when he should have no chance, so what if he had to make that save because he gave up a big greasy rebound watch him flop!!!

    • Souby


      I must side with Bookie on this one.

      As actions talk louder than words, DD was the real #1 by the end of last yearno matter who is saying what. If someone in the organization says something else it is just lip service.

  • Perhaps Danis will get a chance this coming year. Let’s hope Oilers brass dont ignore him like they did Gerber, choosing to ride Khabibulin’s coat tails down the slimy sphinter to 30th place. Who else do we see in OKC behind Danis?

    • D-Man

      Probably Roy – unless he stinks it up and is forced to start his pro career in the ECHL… I don’t think we missed out too much on Gerber – 29 other teams passed on him as a FA and he’s back in Europe…

      Let’s all pray in the name of the mullet that Khabby turns his game around and can properly caddy DD this year.. Wishful thinking probably, but I’m hoping Bulin can play 35 games and keep his save percentage at 90% and keep his GAA below 3…

  • book¡e

    I don’t believe the Oilers believe that Khabi is the starter for this season. They say things like ‘its his job to lose’, but I am pretty sure that is just the moral/respect part of the job (i.e. supporting players in the media).

    Last year the team did a lot of things that were confusing – unless you view the season from the viewpoint that the GM was attempting to finish in last place – and I think that was telegraphed enough.

    I could be wrong, but I suspect that the Oilers are either hoping that DD can play 60 games and Khabi can still come in successfully for 20. If Khabi is not good enough, you swap him with YD in OKC. I think they are OK with goaltending that is ‘satisfactory’ as their goal is probably to be a bit better (20th overall would probably be the target), but development and team building remains the primary goal.

    I don’t think they were looking for a one or two year rental such as Vokuhn because it does nothing for the long term goaltending needs of the team. Young goalies would have to sit and watch Vokuhn play.

    Anyway, that’s my guesstimate of what’s going on in the minds of the decision makers.

  • Yann Danis is certainly behind backup Nikolai Khabibulin at this point (who may well be considered the starter by Oilers management)

    MVP!! MVP!!! MVP!!!!

    I wonder when Khabby is going to do his time in tent city?