Devan Dubnyk Eclipses Nikolai Khabibulin

Nikolai Khabibulin started the year on fire. He went 7-0-2, posting a 0.964 SV% and two shutouts over his first nine games.

Over the same span, Devan Dubnyk played in six games, winning two and losing four to go along with his 0.909 SV%.

With those sort of starts, Khabibulin should have had an insurmountable lead on Dubnyk. Last night, however, Dubnyk’s save percentage on the season eclipsed Khabibulin’s, 0.912 to 0.911.

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How could this have happened? It’s simple, really: Dubnyk continued to play like an NHL goaltender, while Khabibulin started playing like a minor-leaguer.

Since his miraculous start, Khabibulin has posted a 0.896 SV%. The Oilers have been terrible with him in net since that time – winning just five games, losing 19 in regulation and four more in overtime. Needless to say, a 5-19-4 record torpedoes any team’s hope of climbing out of the basement with lethal effectiveness.

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With Dubnyk in net, however, the Oilers have been a near-0.500 team since his start. They’ve gone 14-13-2. Dubnyk’s posted a 0.912 SV%, which while not Earth-shattering is a very respectable number for a guy in a 1A or 1B role on a tandem.

Still, there’s a small segment of people who feel the Oilers are better off with Khabibulin. Fortunately, it’s getting smaller by the day as the evidence obliterates any rationale for supporting his continued presence between the Oilers’ pipes. They typically say things like “the team feels more confident with Khabibulin in net” or “Khabibulin’s a proven winner.”

It’s total garbage. Aside from the occasional puck-handling gaffe, Dubnyk is Khabibulin’s superior in virtually every way on the ice, and the team’s record the last few years reflects that. Even with Khabibulin’s miracle run, the Oilers are 22-51-10 the last two seasons with him in net. They’re 28-30-10 with Dubnyk over that same span.

I used to think the coaching staff should give Dubnyk two-thirds of the starts, just to find out what they really have there. I no longer believe that. Dubnyk should be starting four out of every five games at least as long as the other option is Nikolai Khabibulin.

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      • Bucknuck

        Dubnyk is padding his stats when the games don’t matter. Where was he at the beginning of the year when we actually needed these points? Same story every year, Dubnyk is nothing more than a Shooter Tutor.

        Time for the Oilers to cut their losses, go after Lindback.

        • Quicksilver ballet

          How exactly does a goalie “pad his stats”? Teams that are fighting for their playoff lives are shooting real pucks at him. Is he pulling pucks into him to pad his save percentage? How do you do that?

  • Dan the Man

    The biggest problem is that the coach seems a lot more comfortable with the veteran. Dubnyk should have played more last year and in spite of his inconsistencies he should have also played more this year.

  • Gitagrip

    With any luck let me be Fist to say I hope Devan is the long term answer. Would hate to trade assets of a #1 pick to improve the position, but unless he can up his game something needs to change in order for the Oil to compete nightly.

  • Gitagrip


    One quick question and one statement I’d love your POV on:

    Question – Do statistical analysis show young goalies see save % improvements as they age, or is 0.910 the likely go forward expectation for Dubnyk?

    Statement – Depending upon your answer to the above, should we start to look at Dubnyk as a #2 goalie and look aggressively for a true #1?

    • To your first question, I haven’t seen a comprehensive study showing one or the other, but my personal belief is that goalies typically show modest progression as they age. It’s hard to tell because the goalie market isn’t efficient – terrible guys hang on for years based on reputation, and fluctuation up and down makes a solid look hard to do. My personal expectation for Dubnyk is that he’ll be a ~0.910 SV% goalie over the long haul, with peaks and valleys.

      To your second question, I see Dubnyk as a 1B goalie. I think locating a proper 1A should be one of the Oilers’ higher priorities.

  • He eclipsed Khabby back in Dec, it just has taken management this long to figure out what the fans knew. Unfortunately, going into next season this organization once again does not know what exactly they have in Dubby. Is he realiable back-up or potential starter. Great job Tamby.

  • Reg Dunlop

    If you look at the oil’s goaltending from the perspective of commercial endorsements, there is no doubt who #1 should be next year. I think Dubnyk will finally figure it all out, with respect to the right helmet and gloves and all. The only possible way Khabbi could rebound would be as pitchman for a DUI attorney,possible if we were a U.S. market but very unlikely here. Best case scenario; print ads for Aristocrat liquor during 10% off seniors Tuesdays making him a clear backup next year.

  • BigE91

    Oilers sign Tyler Bunz to an entry level deal today. If Dubnyk wants to be the guy here long term he better continue to play well because I think he is going to start seeing some pressure from within the organization.

    As far as Khabibulin goes, aren’t things progressing the way they were supposed to have? Going into the 4th and final year of his contract a young goalie is rising up to take the number one job. If the trend continues as it should Dubnyk should see between 50-60 games next season while Khabibulin fills in and possibly gets moved at the deadline to look at another of the Oiler prospects in net.

  • geeker99

    Would be nice to see how Dubnyk play’s with a stronger defense in front of him, I think some wins and a bit of confidence would write a different story. We are starting to see that now. Imo

    • Really? A one-time shot from the hashmark is one a goalie “should” have. I agree that he gives up the odd “softie” which is frustrating, but sometimes I think fans have unrealistic expectations of a goalie.

      Over the last 10 games, Dubnyk has a 6-3-1 record with a 1.97 GAA and a .930 save percentage. Outstanding numbers by any measure for an NHL #1 goalie. The question will be his consistency. I hope he can find that here by continuing his solid play in the last 10 games and into next season.

  • reaperfunkss

    Dubnyk should get every start the rest of the way. Just my opinion. I don’t know what the answer is in goal but it clearly is not another year of Khabibulin.

  • geeker99

    I don’t think Dubnyk gets credit where it is due. I think he keeps this team in most of the games he plays, but due to the lack of secondary and tertiary scoring he doesn’t get as many W’s as he should. Not to mention the lack of NHL dmen on the roster. If it wasn’t for Eberle, Hall and Nuge, this team would be worse then the BJ’s.

  • geeker99

    I would hope that the brass has seen enough to decide to write off Khabby’s last year and bring in a Goalie, like Vokoun on a 2-3 yr contract at a reasonable price. This off course in addition to 2 reliable D and one or two large fwds.

  • Reg Dunlop

    I think its coming for DD, but goaltending is a bit like golf – any competent pro can have a great tournament but a great pro can hold it together through the inevitable ups and downs of a season and career. Dubie seems to slowly putting it together – still the occasional softie, but it seems lately a timely HON type save to bail out a defensive lapse. At least 3 ten bell saves in the last couple of starts spring to mind.

  • Bunz is signed, Roy is doing great, and Dubnyk is pushing Khabi out the door.

    At least things are pointing up for the goalie situation, but I agree with the other commenters. Dubnyk is not a solid enough goalie to rely on fulltime.

    If I were the Oilers’ Brass I would be split into two camps. 1 looking for a 1D, the other looking for a Goalie. Free Agent, RFA, Trade, there wouldnt be an avenue I wouldnt have considered.

  • Lexi

    I feel DD has been showing more consistency lately and if the Oilers can improve their defensive zone systems next year he has the potential to be at least a top 15 goalie next year, which should be enough for them to challenge for the playoffs. I really do think he is better than Mike Smith and he is still a year younger than Rinne was when he played his first full year in the NHL. The only goalie available this year worth going for is Schneider who is the same age and if he just let in 3 goals against Columbus I don’t want to send quality assets to a team we play 6 times a year for him.

    In my perfect world DD plays between 50-55 and NK plays 25-30. For all his flaws NK has been okay enough most of this year and he seems like he’s been a pro this year. I also think he could be very valuable if the Oilers draft Gigerenko.

  • gb67

    Save % doesn’t tell the whole story:

    Thomas .919 30-18-0
    Fleury .916 39-14-4
    Luongo .916 27-14-7
    Miller .914 25-18-7
    Dubnyk .912 16-17-2
    Bryzgalov .911 30-13-7
    Biron .906 12-5-2

    Makes me wonder what DD’s stats would be if he played for the Penguins or Flyers or Canucks, etc….

  • gb67

    I’m having a hard time seeing DD as our #1 for the future, as much as I want him to be. Is it possible the club might try for Cory Schneider over the summer, or is the asking price to high? Are there any other good goalie options out there?

  • gb67

    First trading away a lotto pick is complete insanity, there is no other way to get fired quicker than doing that if not getting a Weber, Crosky type in return.

    Second I don’t care if DD is the #1 in the future the problem remains that he is not, as of right now, a #1 guy and a team would be foolish to not go out and find an equal or better option to play tandem with him. I would look to Harding personally and buyout Bulin or offer him a coaching gig with the team. His experience and history in the game can still be of a big use for any team if in the right role. Landing a goalie as a UFA shouldn’t be to difficult and then I would focus on a trade to make the top Dman happen.

  • paul wodehouse

    IMO i hope the club brass go after Schneider this summer and have Bunz and he as the one two goalies of the future…i floated this a month ago and someone asked what color the sky was in my ‘alternate world’… the Canucks would match any offer sheet so Schneider may be expensive at 3 or 3 and a half per…he’s played ten games less than DD and sports a decent GA and SV%…he also has the illusive ‘compete’ ingredient in his bag-o-tricks too…DD hasn’t reached that part in his development and so he’s not the goalie of the future in our future….Schneiders young and game and could possibly be crazy good…

    a keeper of a keeper…

    • paul wodehouse

      I would offer 3.5 for 1 year less than whats left on Loungo’s contract. Even if they do match it could handcuff the team. Almost 10 mill in goaltenders and the year of renewal they would have to offer him even more money which would either really cripple them or they would have to trade Lou. I don’t think its only about getting a player but also making things difficult for other teams in your conference.

      And don’t think teams won’t be trying to offer sheet Nuge, Ebs, or Hall if they have a chance because they will.

    • vetinari

      How do you know Dubby is not the goalie for the future. The team has a lot to do with a goalie success. Is Brian Elliot a stud, or how about Jimmy Howard. Everyone’s in love with Schneider, but why are we going to pay a ransom for a back-up on a powerhouse team.

      Dubby is on one of the worst defensive teams in the league. A team with no stud defensemen. Right know the Oil only have two quality top 4 d in Smid and Petry. Dubby needs to be given the final ten games to see what we got, how can anyone make a solid assessment on his play when he’s never been given the ball to run with it.

      • Quicksilver ballet

        What was it about the first 72 games this season that makes you think the next 10 are going to be any different?

        #Dubnyk=Underwhelming when he’s been given the opportunity. He should be playing 60 games a yr in Oklahoma, not developing here in Edmonton where people are paying 250.00 a seat.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    The Oilers have dropped the ball with Dubnyk as well. He was best served spending most of the last two and a half seasons in the American league. Here it is almost 3 seasons later and the jury is still out on if he’s the guy or not. If the answer isn’t a resounding yes by this time, then we really know what the answer is/must be.

    • Bucknuck

      The point of this article is that the jury is NOT out. He’s been playing behind a terrible defense and still managing to keep close to .500 hockey and a league average Save percentage. I think his stats improve when they get another top D in front of him (and ship Peckham/Barker out of town).

      Whether he is a 1A or 1B option, when Dubnyk is in net I know that the Oilers have a good chance of winning, and we haven’t had that since Roloson rolled out of Town.

    • Quicksilver ballet

      I’m not sure what playing him in the AHL would have accomplished, especially given that he would have had to clear waivers for most of that time to get sent down there to begin with.

      This was actually a good way to bring Dubnyk into the league.

      At the very least, he’s a competent NHL backup which is good to know you have.

  • gb67

    I wasn’t aware Schneider is RFA this summer. In that case, I agree with going for Harding and get him plus Dubnyk as 1A 1B for next year. I don’t see a problem with that tandem if we improve on defense over the summer. Also keeping Khabibulin around in some coaching role would be great for two inexperienced goalies.

    • Dan the Man

      The way I see it talking about going out and getter and elite goalie is all but useless if you are putting a swiss cheese defense in front of him. That is y for now I would follow suit with Detroit and just have two average goalies. If you manage to develope a top ten then thats a bonus but giving up assets while there are other areas that need improved just makes no sense.

  • vetinari

    I’m generally uneasy with DD in net, but I’m downright freaked when I see Khabi in goal lately.

    Khabi is the better puck handler on most nights but DD seems to be better at his positioning and rebound control, although both will often let in a soft goal or two at the wrong moments.

    I still think we need to look a replacement for Khabi on the main roster, even if it means a demotion or buyout for him, and hopefully we can find someone who can play 1A or 1B minutes in the offseason.

  • vetinari

    When healthy, I would prefer to have Nik in net. I am not sold that Dubnik is ready to be counted on to be the go to guy next year. I wouldn’t be surprised if I heard one day the Oilers would start going a different direction with their goaltending.

  • Spydyr

    Lots of posters going on about the weakness in the Oilers defense.Yes it is weak, probably the weakest in the show.

    That does not change the fact Dubnyk lets in a weak goal almost every game.You could have Orr in front of you it does not change the fact you muffed a shot.

    The teams needs a goalie this summer.Don’t think it will happen thought with Khabby signed for another year and no way to lose the contract outside of a trade.

  • Eulers

    Hopefully this is the last year of Khabi taking about half of the starts. We’ve got our lottery pick (causal?). Next season, Dubnyk should play 4/5 of the time as you say, JW.