Last night, new Oilers general manager Craig MacTavish participated in a question and answer session with Oilers season ticket holders. The question of goaltending came up, and as he has since taking the job, MacTavish indicated significant concerns about incumbent Devan Dubnyk.
”If you have to ask the question…”
In between all but saying that Nikolai Khabibulin would not be back, and that the organization doesn’t have confidence in Yann Danis to replace him, MacTavish said this about Devan Dubnyk:
Devan, I think that you’re right, the verdict is out on Devan. I’ve always believed that when you’re assessing goaltenders, if you have to ask the question you know the answer. The question would be, has Devan established himself as a number one goalie in the National Hockey League? And I still think it’s a valid question. So, I think that Devan, although he’s trending upwards in his numbers and played adequately for us this year, I still think, and I know Devan feels the same way, that there’s another level for him. From our standpoint, we’ll see that he can get to that level.
And here’s what MacTavish said in his end of season press conference:
I think Devan took a step this year. His numbers were good, on the year. I think he’s got further to go. To be a top level goaltender he’s got to play better. Not to say that goaltending was any reason we were in the situation we were in; he took a lot of good looks night in and night out, breakaways, shots from the slot. But he’s a guy who is still developing, still growing as a goaltender, so I have lots of faith in his ability to get there, but you’ve got to make the development happen. I think Devan going into the summer has really got a proper focus, he’s going to be around Edmonton, he’s going to put in a good summer of training and I think it’s going to have a huge benefit in his ability to perform next year.
Devan Dubnyk posted a 0.920 save percentage last season, tied with Washington’s Braden Holtby for 11th among starting goaltenders. However, his even-strength save percentage was scarcely better (0.922) and ranked 19th among starting goalies.
This matters because Dubnyk had an extremely high save percentage number on the penalty kill, and typically those numbers can’t be sustained. Ryan Miller is a great case in point – in 2009-10, he was Ryan Miller, Vezina Trophy Winner (0.928 EVSV%, 0.919 PKSV%) and this year he’s Ryan Miller, guy the Sabres are open to trading away (0.928 EVSV%, 0.862 PKSV%).
Unlike MacTavish, I do see Dubnyk as an established starting goalie. However, I don’t see him as an established above average starting goaltender, and it could well be that MacTavish is one of the (many) hockey people out there that believe a team needs an above-average starter to be successful.
Can Dubnyk get there? Maybe. In recent history, players like Tomas Vokoun, Kari Lehtonen, and Jimmy Howard have all posted significantly better numbers after their age-26 season. Others, though – including Evgeni Nabokov, Jose Theodore, Martin Biron, Patrick Lalime and Chris Osgood – have seen their numbers either stay flat or deteriorate.
Don’t forget that it’s not too late to play StreakCred – the new playoff pool game from the Nation Network. You can win a trip for 2 to Oktoberfest in Germany among the awesome prizes up for grabs. Now it’s only $10 and a portion of the proceeds go to Edmonton Charities. Sign up here.
Recently around the Nation Network
Over at NHLNumbers, Rex Libris asks Who Are The Edmonton Oilers Best Scouts? Here’s how he describes his process:
I am looking at the Oilers’ prospects taken between 2008 and 2012, the Stu MacGregor era, grouping them according to region drafted, and then grading them based on a variety of rankings including Lowetide’s top 20s, Hockey’s Future, Corey Pronman at Hockey Prospectus and giving weight to LT’s oft-cited preference for players with a “wide range of skills”. In some cases players who have made the jump to the AHL/ECHL may be ranked ahead of those still playing junior and those who have signed professional deals are ahead of those still unsigned.
Click the link above to read the whole piece, or feel free check out some of my other pieces here at Oilers Nation:
- Is Devan Dubnyk safe as the Oilers’ starting goalie?
- Big decisions: Drafting Devan Dubnyk
- Valeri Nichushkin just did the Oilers a huge favour
- Building next year’s bottom five
- If Ales Hemsky has low value, does it make sense to trade him?
- Follow Jonathan Willis on Twitter!