Injury Alert: Khabibulin on the shelf, Sutton may never play again

Even when there’s a lockout, it seems like injury news is an unavoidable part of the Edmonton Oilers experience. This holds true even for the players not playing elsewhere. As the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland reports, veterans Andy Sutton and Nikolai Khabibulin are both currently on the injured list, and the news isn’t good.

Ireland’s piece is here (h/t Lowetide). We’ll start with the more surprising and more disappointing news.

Sutton: “I may have played my last game “

Sutton, who talks in the piece about how he had planned to retire last year but stuck with it because he enjoyed himself so much in Edmonton, had surgery a little over three weeks ago to correct a knee problem that came up over the summer. Now he’s looking at a second surgery, and Ireland quotes him as displaying something other than confidence:

I was going to retire after last season. I’d had a good long career, especially for a guy who was never drafted, but I enjoyed myself so much in Edmonton I decided to sign on for another year. I am usually a pretty quick healer, but I have a pretty long road ahead. I had trained so hard and was in such good shape. But this is another thing I have to deal with. I may have played my last game last year and not even known it. This injury has really beat me up. I had trained so hard and was in such good shape, probably the best shape of my life. I had never felt better. You think of your farewell and how you’re going to do it … and now all that has changed for me.

It will be unfortunate if this latest injury, as seems likely, forces Sutton into retirement. The Oilers had the option to move Sutton at the trade deadline last year, but chose not to – not only was Sutton playing quite well, but reportedly the Oilers also highly valued his off-ice presence on the young team.

As I understand it, because Sutton signed just a one-year deal, the Oilers don’t need to worry about his cap hit sticking if he’s unable to play when NHL hockey resumes. A side effect of a serious injury would be to create space on the Oilers’ crowded back end, and buy some time for both Corey Potter and Theo Peckham to show that they have an Oilers future.

Nikolai Khabibulin injured once again

There’s less detail on Nikolai Khabibulin’s injury; Ireland describes it as “lingering hip/groin issues” from last season. Presumably these are the same lingering hip/groin issues that plagued Khabibulin before he even signed his current four-year contract with the Oilers.

Will he retire? The Oilers would be in decent shape if he did – Yann Danis should be able to provide comparable (if not superior) goaltending, while Tyler Bunz and Olivier Roy would seem to be a serviceable AHL tandem. The Oilers, with a pair of good prospects between the pipes and the lessons of years past fresh in mind, seem to have learned that depth between the pipes is something well worth cultivating.

But there’s no reason to expect retirement from Khabibulin based on the description of his injury. More likely, he’ll just provide more of what has been the norm the last few years: lots of time missed, and below-average performances when he does play.

Elsewhere…

Meanwhile, among those guys currently playing, AHL forward Josh Green is on the shelf with a rib injury and is currently probably best described as week-to-week. More concerning for Oilers fans will be the fact that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left last night’s game early in the second period after taking a stick to the face and did not return. From the sounds of it, he may not play Sunday, but so far it’s only been reported as a dental injury, which is painful and unfortunate for him but shouldn’t have any lasting ramifications to his health as a hockey player 

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    • Yann Danis has played four games. Against that, we have five consecutive seasons of superb play.

      It boggles my mind that you can seriously suggest that we should be worried about Danis because of four games – particularly given the number of power play opportunities and weird deflections in those games.

      It’s like looking at Brian Boucher’s five-game NHL shutout streak, shrugging your shoulders, and declaring him “God.”

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        It boggles my mind that you think Dannis is going to come in and have some sort of superior play to a guy that’s been in the NHL for the past how many years?

        There is a reason Yann Dannis was re-signed so quickly with the intent to play in the AHL and that no one else stepped up and offered him a one way deal.

      • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

        So you are comparing a guy in the NHL to a guy in the AHL?

        Go ahead put Dannis as your backup, just don’t be wondering why things go south when Dubnyk does his usually poor play when the games matter.

        • I’m saying that ‘Danis won’t play well in the NHL because he’s struggling in the AHL’ is a terrible argument when all you have is four games of evidence.

          Danis has been excellent in the AHL and KHL. He’s also a 0.911 SV% goalie over 50 NHL games since the lockout. Meanwhile, you’re banking on Khabibulin (0.903 SV% goalie) to be a superior option.

          And, no: I don’t think it’s ridiculous to state that the best goalie in the AHL is a better option than one of the NHL’s worst.

  • The Soup Fascist

    Very sad news about Sutton. Guy is an honest player who apparently was good in the room. He brought some of the “edge” that has been missing for years. If he is done we are that much easier to play against. Maybe Theo will switch back to #49 and bring back Teddy.

  • Bicepus Maximus - Huge fan boy!

    Oh and our one man Russian wrecking crew had 7 SOG and scored 2 beauties* today!

    *Totally didn’t see the goals. Just a complete homer comment. This is how Leafs fans must feel like.

  • What I wont forget about Sutton was how absolutely SHOCKED I was the first time I saw him dangle and walk around somebody while he was rushing the puck.

    It was like watching a pig fly. The guy had more skill than he was ever given credit for.

  • DSF

    Sutton being out shows you how shallow the Oiler’s D pool really is.

    If Whitney is less than 80% (a good bet), they’re left with Smid, Petry, Schultz X 2 and 3 AHL level defensemen.

    An injury to any of those four is disaster.

    Good thing the Oilers keep drafting wingers.

    • I’m the last guy to argue the Oilers’ D is deep – it’s a subject I’ve been harping on literally for years now.

      With that said, dropping Nail Yakupov in favour of Ryan Murray strikes me as a completely indefensible position.

      “Gosh, they can’t sign a couple of Rozsival types to act as stopgaps until Schultz, Klefbom and the rest are ready. Dump that future 40-goal scorer over the side!”

      • DSF

        But the drafting of Moroz over Matt Finn is indefensible.

        At some point soon, they are going to have to dump a future 40 goal scorer over the side in any event in order to shore up the D.

        And that doesn’t even begin to address the organization’s woeful lack of depth at centre.

  • If the Oilers would have drafted Murray, I have a feeling they wouldn’t have even got the best dman. I think the better dman will end up being Morgan Reilly. The Oilers got really, really lucking in the draft lottery imo.

  • RexLibris

    How long before Sutton joins the coaching/management staff?

    Honestly, I wonder if he might have some coaching ability for the minor leagues? Maybe follow in the footsteps of guys like Rocky Thompson.

  • Calvin

    This has me thinking that the lockout may end up being a blessing in disguise for our Oilers. Perhaps a period to get our affairs in order before the actual season starts. Fingers crossed!

  • Ogden Brother Jr. - Team Strudwick for coach

    Well, if players are injured during the lockout, are they still entitled to a paycheque? If so, then we will see more players opting for some sort of surgery especially those players of retiring age.

  • vetinari

    I feel bad for Sutton… I was expecting Khabi to injure himself picking up his fat wallet… and Oiler management failing to build in some contingency plans over the summer… (Slow clap)…

  • Quicksilver ballet

    Very sad news about Sutton…….very well spoken with the right attitude for a young team.

    I doubt that we will be able to replace his kind of character easily………..surprisingly good hands and puck patience for a third pairing defenseman!