DEVAN DUBNYK: MORE, PLEASE

The way I see it, Devan Dubnyk is progressing nicely along the development curve and has a decent chance to be the Edmonton Oilers starting goaltender for the next decade. Some of you may see it differently.

Of course, the way you and I see it doesn’t matter a bit when it comes to what’s going to unfold in the crease for the Oilers moving forward. What GM Steve Tambellini sees and thinks carries more weight than the opinions of those of us sitting at home playing armchair GM.

It was interesting, then, to listen to Tambellini’s comments about Dubnyk this week – and to maybe read between the lines — when he sat down for an exclusive interview with radio analyst Bob Stauffer on his Oilers Now show on 630 CHED.

WHAT HE SAID

"I think he has it in him, ability wise, to be able to be, a chance to have a starting role," said Tambellini, mangling his opening remarks like Doug Friedman assaulting the puck while attempting to stickhandle.

"But I need a statement this year. I need a statement from him, physically, that he’s brought himself to a totally different level that can match No. 1 goaltenders in the NHL. He hasn’t done that yet.

"I need someone that can bring me months of play that shows me he’s the guy; he’s the guy we can rely on.

A statement from Dubnyk "physically?" That could be construed as raising questions about Dubnyk’s conditioning and fitness level, no? I haven’t had a chance to rifle through the drawers in the Oilers training office to get a peek at Dubnyk’s file, so I can’t say for sure. I might be reaching.

More telling – and accurate, if you take a look at Dubnyk’s game logs – is Tambellini’s remark about "months of play." If he’s saying Dubnyk needs to string together longer stretches of the kind of performances he’s teased us with in flashes, and I think he is, to be a long-term option, then that’s on the money. Who’d disagree? More of the best. Less of the rest.

COMING ALONG

Dubnyk, who will turn 26 in May, has progressed to the point where he’s clearly a better option than Nikolai Khabibulin heading into the 2012-13 season. Big deal. It doesn’t take a vast intellect to figure that out.

The question, as it often is with developing goaltenders, appears to be that elusive quality known as consistency. Can Dubnyk be good enough often enough to be Plan A in goal or is he just keeping the crease warm until the right stopper comes along?

— In 2009-10, Dubnyk got into just 19 games and finished his first NHL season with a record of 4-10-2 to go along with a saves percentage of .889 and a goals-against average of 3.57.

— In 2010-11 with Khabibulin battling injuries, Dubnyk almost doubled his workload as he got into 35 games and finished 12-13-8 with a .916 saves percentage and a GAA of 2.71. A marked improvement.

— This season, Dubnyk got into 47 games and finished at 20-20-3 with a .914 and a 2.67. He was particularly good late in the season, including a stretch that saw him allow just 18 even-strength goals against in his final 11 appearances (he gave up four PPG in that stretch).

I think the progress Dubnyk has shown is enough reason to turn the crease over to him for the vast majority of the workload, say 55-60 games, in 2012-13. What Dubnyk does with the opportunity will show Tambellini, and us, if he is the goaltender of the future or just a caretaker.

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

  • You would think that a message of “we’re going to do what is necessary to compete” is a stronger and better message to be sending than, “This guy could be the worst active goaltender since the lockout that is still playing, but his lack of adequate performance doesn’t matter as much as how good of a mentor he is.”

    Isn’t that Chabot’s job?

  • I’m not saying Khabibulin is owed anything. Just saying the optics of sending him to the minors or buying him out are a consideration in what’s done moving forward.

    Khabibulin is a good teammate and has a relationship with Dubnyk. That doesn’t change the DUI stuff you mention, but it’s a separate issue. A good teammate can make a bad decision — driving impaired certainly rates as that.

    I want to see more of Dubnyk and I wouldn’t be surprised if Khabibulin doesn’t fade as badly as he did this season if he’s limited to 15-20 games as the clear-cut back-up.

    • John Chambers

      Perhaps naively, I’m taking a playoffs-or-bust approach to next season. I think management owes that to the fans and players.

      As a result they need to make tough decisions about the coach, the depth chart, the team philosophy, and in goal. In my amateur opinion, goal would seem like the easiest area to supply a quick fix. Khabbi won’t be back in 12 months even if he wins the Vezina in ’12-’13, so why not try to shore up the goaltending tandem now.

      I like that they’ve brought Dubnyk along slowly, so I’d hate to have the overwork him. Therefore they need a reliable netminder to cover 25-35 games. With Khabibulin starting those games, the dream of making the playoffs next season is exactly that.

    • striatic

      i think this is important to note.

      Khabibulin has a bad overall record, but he does seem to have a good record when starting seasons, before tiring out, so maybe he’d make a good backup?

      otoh, i also seem to recall him doing poorly in spot starts late in the season when Dubnyk was getting the majority of games.

      if the Oilers are going to keep Khabibulin, they should try to keep a Danis/Gerber type in OKC to bring up if Dubnyk destroys his groin or something. though if i’m a Danis or Gerber type, i’m staying the hell away from the Oilers organization.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    @John Chambers

    Where do we draw the line on having the balls to do what needs to be done as far as GM’s go. Didn’t Steve let a struggling Corey Foster hang around here all of last season despite his issues? Why stop at Khabibulin, maybe it’s time to send Horcoff to OKC as well.

    • John Chambers

      You bring up a good point – when does the right business decision not trump the human decision?

      I think the issue is about simple accountability. Nilsson, O’Sullivan, and now Khabibulin have seriously underperformed … what does it suggest to Taylor Hall and the crew to keep them on the roster? Perhaps we disagree about Horcoff – if his cap hit was $3M per season we might be calling him the team’s MVP. As long as he plays as he does and we’re not bumping up against the cap, Horcoff is our steady 3rd line C taking on the other team’s top line while the kids start in the offensive zone.

      Unless we have a chance to ink both Suter and Weber, thereby pushing us up against the cap, Horc stays. Under that mythical scenario I would no problem playing the role of cruel bastard and turning good captain Shawn into an AHL player for the duration of his contract.

  • John Chambers

    We are just about to get the buyout penalty from Robert Nilsson off our books, as well as get past a large piece of the Souray buyout penalty, and now we’re talking about adding Khabibulin’s $3.75M as another penalty spread over 2 years? Our cap book will look like the New York Islanders’, and the Oilers are already drawing too many comparisons with them.

    I agree with Brownlee. There are a lot of bad optics with buyouts. It tells your current players that they’re more easily expendable than their contract term would indicate. And it tells free agents that long-term contracts with this franchise won’t be honoured. Not to mention that if it’s the same GM who offered the contract who then buys it out, then he’s basically admitting to have made a huge mistake with the owner’s money.

    But with all of those optics at play, I guess the question is… if there is an amnesty clause available this offseason for 1 buyout, will the Oilers look at buying-out Horcoff?

  • Slapshot

    Renney gets sent away and has to come back with a report to Tambellini on how he is going to improve his coaching.Tambellini wants Dubnyk to make a statement.He wants Yakupov to show why he should be picked 1st overall.Why cant Lowe and Katz demand the same things from Tambellini? They should have him come back with a report on how he plans on making the Oilers a championship team,Tambellini should make a statement and show the owner,the president of hockey operations and all the fans that he wants to be the general manager that can lead the Oilers back to the playoffs!!!

  • It’s a fine line — even if it’s one where the GM should err on the business side. On-ice performance and building the kind of team that wins titles is the biggest consideration (by a long shot), but it’s not the only consideration.

    There’s been lots instances where organizations have made decisions that reflect the human element. Some that come to mind include the aforementioned Foster case, Nashville’s handling of coach Brent Petersen during his battle with Parkinsons and the loyalty the Oilers have shown Joe Moss, who is the organization’s longest-serving employee.

    • John Chambers

      There’s certainly an upside to operating as a class organization. But everything needs to fall second to on-ice success.

      The Rangers aren’t accused of being a scumbag organization, nor are they having challenges getting Brad Richards to sign on to play the rest of his career because they made a sober decision to bury Wade Redden in the AHL.

      Teams should give back to the community. They should keep good guys in their employ. They should encourage ethics, sportsmanship, and character. And they owe it to their fans to ice the players who give the team the best chance to win.

  • Good read Brownlee.

    Not to be that armchair GM but…

    I can’t help but think the Oilers have to explore options on the goalies .

    DD is a restricted free agent this year I think, maybe next not sure. The year after he will become a UFA. Do the Oilers sign DD long term? I think based on what we have seen, heard and read it’s not likely. That could leave the Oilers without a capable goalie as soon as 2013.

    However, what if he post significant numbers? A extended contract after one good season? Risky, very risky, especially with a lot of UFA’s on the books for 2013 season.

    What if DD wants to only sign a year by year contract’s so he can “test” the market in two years?

    It makes sense that the Oilers explore signing Harding based just on DD contract nevermind that he’s been inconsistent and unproven as a starter.

    Can the Oilers afford to look past 2012 without having a capable 1B option?

    Time to start looking ahead as an organization instead of the moment.

  • A good GM is always exploring options to make upgrades at every position, even if he’s happy with what he’s got.

    As for Harding, not the guy for me. Cheap? Sure. So is a 1987 Lada, but I’m not driving one of those.

    Harding has proven more than capable so far in his career, but I’m not placing any bets on a goaltender one year removed from surgery for a torn MCL and ACL.

  • longbottom/P.Biglow

    This is one idea I can get behind Switch Danis and Khabi for a year let Khabi work with Roy and give Danis an opertunity at at least a 1b type of shot he has earned it. It worked well in the past at giving older AHL goaltenders a shot at the Primetime. Can anyone say Thomas nobody wanted the guy(including the Oilers) till Boston gave him a shot. How did that work out?