Devan Dubnyk has played four games for the Oilers this season. He has four losses and a 0.829 save percentage; he’s probably directly cost Edmonton two wins and three points with his poor play.
What can the Oilers do about it?
Option 1: Stay The Course
The argument: Devan Dubnyk has been successful in Edmonton’s net for three years now. Throwing that away over a lousy four-game stretch would be crazy. Goalies have bad runs sometimes. It’s hard, but the best bet is to just ride this out rather than wasting assets bringing in a guy who isn’t likely to be any better than Dubnyk is long-term.
Option 2: Jason LaBarbera
The argument: Sure, Jason LaBarbera didn’t look very good in his first game for Edmonton. But he’s been a darn good backup for five years now. Putting him in net gives Dubnyk a break, gives LaBarbera a chance to show whether he can handle the job, and costs nothing in terms of assets. The Oilers’ play seems to have improved quite a bit; if LaBarbera can be average (and history suggests he can) that should be good enough.
Option 3: Ilya Bryzgalov
The argument: Sure, he didn’t work out in Philadelphia, but this is a guy who was a Vezina candidate not that long ago. Signing in the ECHL shows he wants a North American job, and he should have plenty of motivation to prove he can still handle NHL minutes. If he can be anywhere near where he was a few years back, the Oilers will be smiling.
Option 4: The Big Trade
The argument: Edmonton’s goaltending sin’t good enough. Devan Dubnyk lets in soft goals and can’t handle pressure; LaBarbera is a career backup. The team needs wins now, which means bringing in a new starter. Call him James Reimer, or Viktor Fasth or Ryan Miller, or whoever. The cost will be dear – nobody is giving these guys away and Edmonton’s in a terrible position – but this team needs wins now and that means making a trade right now.
The decision was made in the summer. Maybe it was the wrong decision, but a) four games isn’t enough evidence to overturn it and b) the cost of trying to overturn it is going to be very, very high. I’d be tempted to go with Jason LaBarbera against Washington, to give Dubnyk a game off and see what the backup can do; if LaBarbera plays well he stays in until he doesn’t and if he plays poorly Dubnyk gets another shot. The history of both these players says they’re a good enough tandem to provide NHL-average goaltending; clearly the Oilers felt at least that was possible when they made the choice this summer and there hasn’t been enough evidence to overturn that decision, yet.
That’s a hard decision to make; given the pressures on the team this season it’s extremely difficult to see the goaltending almost single-handedly losing games. But the alternatives are either unlikely to be a good fit (Bryzgalov) or likely to be cost-prohibitive if there’s any other way out.
But it wouldn’t hurt to get a feel for the goaltending market, either.