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.

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"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.

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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.

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— 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.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Dial on the radio is welded on 1260. What is this 630 stuff you speak of, is that the guy Gregor will be replacing soon?

    Dubey gets 2 yrs max on his next deal. Time to poop or get off the pot.

    Time for a couple new statues when the new building opens….Messier and Fuhr?

  • TwoSkidoos

    Yeah, I don’t think Tambo is the best orator in the world, I wouldn’t read too much into what he says because he just uses the same canned retorts – compete, crust…

    I really hope he does something about Khabby, he’s simply not good enough anymore to be effective. Dubey can at least make a few saves before the team wakes up which does give them a better chance of winning the odd game.

    Why not take a flyer on a Harding this summer? What say you Tambo?

  • John Chambers

    My confidence in Tambellini is largely resting on whether he decides to maintain the status quo in goal, or whether he has the appetite to turf Khabbi and run with a 1 and 1a tandem of Dubnyk and someone moderately capable next year.

    We should be able to get Dubnyk on a 3 or 4 year value contract this summer. Between 1.5 and 2M per. Another guy like Harding or equivalent making similar dollars, making 30 starts a year would give us good value and needed redundancy in goal.

    Or it could all go tits up. We’ll see.

  • Cervantes

    To me, Tambo clearly doesn’t want to anoint Dubs as the starter because he’s hoping to still have the option to lure a solid #1 here in the offseason. There’s no way that yu look at Dubs numbers and say he can’t be a number one goalie, posting a very respectable 914 on the worst team in the league, Tambo is just hedging his bets here. Dubs will get 60 games, unless a proven starter drops in our laps, and I don’t see that happening with this USA crop.

  • bazmagoo

    Goaltending is one position where the Oilers won’t make any changes. They are stuck with Khabibulin’s contract, Dubnyk is due a raise, and there aren’t any UFA’s that are elite goalies available.

    I’d be surprised if Dubnyk didn’t take another leap forward next season, and hopefully Khabby just fades quietly into the sunset after 2012-13.

    With the likes of Kari Lehtonen, Mike Smith, Jonathan Quick and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers possibly available via free agency next off season I personally think the status quo for 2012/13 is the right course of action.

    You can’t spend more than $5 million on goalies and be competitive in today’s NHL, with the exception being that your #1 goalie is top 5 at that position.

  • Why add Harding?

    Who is going to take Khabibulin? If not by trade, then what? Buy-out? Why? Because Harding is better (when he’s not injured)?

    Floating this idea might seem practical, but it sends a ripple through the dressing room that does the Oilers no favours in the wake of Souray’s banishment. Khabibulin isn’t a good goaltender any more, but he is a good teammate who is well-liked and respected.

    Let Khabibulin cheerlead from the bench this coming season and finish out his contract. Let’s see what Dubnyk can do.

    • I could see a lot of value having Bulin in AHL mentoring a guy like Roy for at least a season. I just think that it is evident Bulin cannot help this team win and if DD falters in anyway there is no one that you can honestly bring in that gives you a chance to win. If harding did get hurt, or any other acquired goalie for that matter, then you have Bulin on the farm to call up and fill the hole. At least that is my thinking.

    • Mark-LW

      Which message is worse:

      Buying out a well liked but no longer effective goalie, or sending out a goalie with 3 combined wins post Christmas in the last two seasons?

      You can’t possibly try to sell it to your players that you’re serious about contending and then retaining the worst goalie in the league

  • Truth

    Ideally the Oilers sign Harding and find a KHL team willing to start Khabi in net. This would give the Oil a solid 1A/1B goalie situation and allow the coach to play the hot goalie (unlike the farce that was advertised by Renney this year).The tandem idea worked great for St.Louis all year and I bet Bylsma was wishing he had a decent backup to turn to the past couple of weeks.

  • I think that I’ve heard Kevin Weekes in the past say something about Dubnyk needing to improve his conditioning to take the next step. I would like to see us get rid of Khabby and find somebody new to truly push Dubnyk. As Willis pointed out in a recent article, Josh Hardin would make an awful lot of sense if we can get him.

  • Dipstick

    He still goes through some bad patches but they seem to be progressively milder and shorter than before. The good stretches are definitely better and longer. As long as he continues to make progress, they have to keep giving him the starts.

  • GSP

    Robin…are we able to send Khabi to the minors and then recall him and maybe someone would take him at half the price? or because he was signed after age 35 this is not allowed? I would prefer this than buying him out.

  • Truth

    @Robin Brownlee

    I agree that sending Khabibulin out of town or buying him out would send a ripple through the dressing room. Every player in that dressing room knows that Khabibulin has simply grown too old to be an efficient starting goaltender. To replace him with a legitimate 1B goalie would send the message that management expects to win, being dead weight is not accepted anymore. It’s the NHL, not beer leagues where you keep your obviously incapable goalie just because he’s a good bud.

    What happens if Dubnyk tears his knee apart? The cheerleader is now a starter.

    For the record I also think the Souray situation was the right thing to do. Edmonton has had enough of the Prongers, Heatleys, Hossas, and the like. Be a man, you signed the contract.

    Also, the reply button doesn’t seem to be working.

    • db7db7db7

      So it’s okay to bury or buy-out the contract management made with Khabibulin; but if a player asks for a trade it’s “Be a man, you signed the contract”? Not much integrity there.

      As for Souray and it being the right thing to do … would you choose to work at a place where the management roasted someone in public and demoted them because they spoke out about the working conditions?

  • Truth

    The Oilers need to do what the Coyotes did with Smith this year. Give Dubnyk the starting job, and if he has a bad game, get him RIGHT BACK IN THERE. Give him some confidence. Tell him he’s the guy moving forward, and that they believe he can and will get the job done. I personally think he has it in him.

  • smiliegirl15

    Tambellini’s ability to judge any talent at all is in question. He thinks Khabi is amazing and has it in him for more seasons. Does that foreshadow a contract extension for Nick? If that’s the case, it’s grounds for immediate dismissal of Tambellini. It’s truly painful listening to him speak.

  • I already made it pretty clear which message I think is worse (at least in this case under these circumstances).

    It’s way easier to say this makes more sense or that makes more sense if you completely take the human element out of it, as amrchair GMs are prone to do do.

    I hear it time after time when it comes to entry level contracts and buy-outs etc. Easy calls to make from afar. More difficult when it comes to the real deal.

  • master of my domain

    now I could be wrong, as I usually am, but I see Dubnyk as a Jason Labarbera type goalie- very solid back-up with the ability to take the net for periods of time, but never quite a bona fide #1.

  • Wanyes bastard child

    Buying out Habby, and then signing another goalie for say $2.5 mil.comes out to alomost the same money, Keep Habby as a back up , all be it an expensive one.
    It is concerning if in fact Dubnyk is not in NHL game shape. He will have to face 60 games or so, you have to be in shape. Not being in shape would mean banishment to ECHL in my books. Couple of really week area`s in his game is puck handling, brutal, and his lateral movement isnt the swiftest.
    Forget Harding, he is more injury prone than Hemsky.

  • Devan’s not an over-emotional player and that serves him well.

    He’s not easily rattled and his approach remains very much the same whether he’s on a hot streak or things are going badly. You might remember how composed he stayed while he was waiting for his first NHL win, when he was playing well but lost some tough games.

    JDD was a very emotional player and had a lot of fight in him. I admired that, but it worked against him in some ways. When he got in a groove, he was ridiculously good despite his technical flaws. The downside is when things went bad, he’d work himself over and make things worse. The swings between JDD’s best and worst games were huge. That makes for a short career.

  • Lexi

    I just went through the backup goalies in the league and there are less than 10 backups who are definitely better than NK. Yes he is overpaid and was a horrible starter but he can be a middle of the road backup for one more year, and we’re paying him anyway. Detroit’s backup was Ty Conklin, Labarbara only went 3-9, Pittsburgh just got eliminated because they didn’t trust their backup. Backup goalies are backups for a reason, they are usually not very good.

    In 2013-14 hopefully they can get someone like Neuvirth as a $2Mill a yr 1B goalie with DD.

  • Jay Gray

    I really liked Dubey’s play down the stretch…the only way you know you got something is letting him play…this is Decision Dubnyk 2013.

    Buyout for Khabby would be on my to-do list, but not if I was the one footing the bill, so I understand if he see’s some action, but no more than 20-25 games, max.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    A kid who started well and has struggled the last yr is Cory Crawford in Chicago. I can see him being available soon on the cheap end of the scale. The Blackhawks aren’t about to start from scratch again on a new goaltender, they’re probably a possible destination for Luongo this summer. Maybe Crawford could have success with this Oiler group. 2 yrs left on his deal at about 4.75 spread over those 2 yrs.

  • TwoSkidoos

    I disagree with keeping Khabibulin, he’s done nothing, nada, zilch since he’s been here. Cut your losses and use the 1, 1a attack.

    You’re better off taking a flyer on a player like Harding and in the event he doesn’t turn out – who cares. On the other hand, if it works out – even better.

    By keeping Khabby you’re taking away from the possibility of someone else perhaps emerging.

  • justDOit

    Honouring a contract of an over-the-hill veteran sends a worse message to the players in the room that doing something to improve the team’s chances of winning? Buying him out means ‘giving him money to not play any more’.

    Yeah… that’s a worse message.

  • Doing what’s best for the team in a competitive sense is ultimately the top priority of a good GM and making decisions to that end is the primary consideration.

    In the real world, though, it’s not the only consideration. While you have to make difficult or unpopular decisions in the best interest of the team, you also have to consider the people involved and that how you treat those people can cast the organization in a certain light.

    You don’t just keep throwing money at a player because he’s “always been a good Oiler” or is a “really great guy,” but neither do you kick people to the curb just because “it’s a business.” There is a balance the best managers have a firm grasp of.

    • John Chambers

      Robin, we’re not talking about a guy who has been a model employee, or whose star is rising. Khabbi had a very public DUI incident and has been pretty much the worst goaltender in the NHL over the last two seasons. He’s made buckets of money playing pro hockey and is owed nothing.

      If a GM doesn’t have the heart to send him to the minors, then he doesn’t have the stuff to do the job. Period. Tambi’s role now is to field the most competitive team that he can. That team doesnt have Khabibulin on it.

  • db7db7db7

    I think Khabibulin could possibly play better as a backup playing 15-20 games. I also think it would be good to have another Russian on the team assuming they draft Yakupov.

  • db7db7db7

    I think Khabibulin could possibly play better as a backup playing 15-20 games. I also think it would be good to have another Russian on the team assuming they draft Yakupov.