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.
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.