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.

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.

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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  • 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.

  • 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.

      • 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?

  • 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.

  • geoilersgist

    Agreed, I dont know why people still argue that Khabby should be starting makes no sense to me. His career is coming to a close and his play indicates that.