Zero to two, in seven games or less

It wasn’t all that long ago that “panic” was an apt description of Edmonton’s goaltending situation. Devan Dubnyk was struggling badly, Jason LaBarbera was struggling badly, Richard Bachman was injured and it looked like the men in net were going to flush an otherwise decent season from the Oilers.

There have been developments since.

Devan Dubnyk

The interesting thing is that even as people – myself included – grew more concerned about the situation in net, the biggest part of the turnaround had already happened. There’s a theory that Dubnyk started upping his game after the Oilers signed Ilya Bryzgalov, and while I don’t think the rival’s arrival hurt the process started much earlier.

Let’s break Dubnyk’s season-to-date into three pieces:

  • First four games: 0-3-1, 0.829 save percentage
  • Next seven games: 3-3-0, 0.907 save percentage
  • Last six games: 2-4-0, 0.917 save percentage

The two dividing points in those segments are a) Dubnyk’s worst outing, on October 12 when he allowed six goals on 20 shots vs. Toronto and b) the signing of Ilya Bryzgalov. In total, Dubnyk’s been a 0.912 save percentage goalie since his fourth game of the year, meaning that the solution to the Oilers problems in net had already started being the solution when the level of concern was highest.

Ilya Bryzgalov

When Bryzgalov signed with the Oilers, the consensus view was that he was likely going to be tossed into the fire immediately. Dubnyk’s return to form has meant that isn’t necessary, which is likely good for everyone involved if only because it takes a while to get back up to 100 percent after missing the start of the season.

Bryzgalov is a career 0.913 save percentage goalie, making him a starter-calibre option for many NHL teams. As much as he’s an odd sort, he can stop pucks, and that’s what really matters. If Dubnyk falters for a short time, Bryzgalov can step in; if Dubnyk falters for a long stretch Bryzgalov has the ability to steal the starting gig.

Bryzgalov offers the Oilers the kind of safety net they thought they were getting in Jason LaBarbera, the kind of safety net that a goalie like Marc-Andre Fleury has in Tomas Vokoun in Pittsburgh. If Edmonton opts to continue with Dubnyk beyond this season – something which is unlikely at this juncture – it seems probable the Oilers will insist on hedging their bets.

The two big moves – the return to form for Dubnyk, the acquisition of Bryzgalov – make what was a position of considerable weakness into one of strength. Put another way, the Oilers went from zero plausible starting goalies to two.

  • Spoils

    Dubnyk is 27. His play early in the season will cost him, but could be a benefit to the Oilers. They can negotiate with him from a strong position and get him to a low cap hit and a 3 year contract. He is still young and will probably play his best hockey in the next 3 years. Sign Bryz to a cheap deal as a 1A goalie and get him to push DD. Goaltending will be locked up, use Hemsky, N. Schultz and Gagner at the deadline to get some assets, and use your FA dollars on some Defencemen and role playing forwards this summer.

    • Spydyr

      So you think Dubnyk and Bryz are the answer moving forward?

      I disagree whole heartily. Pick up one of the top free agent goalies this summer there are a few out there.

      • pkam

        I think they are our best option yes. MacT will throw way to much money at a FA goalie, and the quality isn’t that good. Reading the thread they are not much more proven than Dubnyk, and they are all older. Again we should use our FA dollars for a defenceman and a big 2 line C.

  • barry.moore23

    I agree completely. Dubnyk is about a .913 goalie. He will likely average that over his career. That to me doesn’t tell the complete goalie picture. How many time in a year can you honestly say Dubie won the game for the Oilers tonight? How many times do we need the “opportune” save in the game to not give the other team light. I like the guy. It seems like he’s got a great attitude and is a good teammate. And he makes an ok average NHL goalie. But with almost zero killer instinct I don not feel a team can win a cup with him in net. Unless its a team with a juggernaught defence.

  • Lowe But Now High Expectations

    DD is not an NHL quality 55-70 game per year starting goaltender. Bachman will be our backup next year and Mac will get us a starter via free agency.

    1st rounder+ traded for defence coupled with a key FA or two just like Gordon and hello playoffs!

    Is Nurse eligible for OKC next year?

  • @jonathan

    Are there any statisticians out there that track play completion %’s for nhl players? or anything similar?

    Ie When a player has full control of the puck, what is the % chance that it will land on the tape of his teammate, result in a shot on the opposition’s net, get dumped in the opposition’s end and be retrieved, etc…

    I’d say retrieving a retrievable dump-in would count as a completed play as well.

    I’m assuming a dump and change play and plays of the sort wouldn’t count. Lots to track, but I’m sure someone out there is doing it for their team.

  • pkam

    Dubnyk had to play well at the start of the year to give this team a chance to win. Instead he lost us games. He couldn’t handle the pressure.

    The fact he’s playing well now is great, but MacT already has his answer regarding whether or not to resign him.

    I figure he’ll be going hard (i.e. overpaying) after Hiller.

  • Johnnydapunk

    The thing that makes a good goalie great is not as much the simple numbers of GAA and save percentage, it’s the ability to play big when you need to play big, being able to stop that shot when you lead the game 5-4, take a stupid penalty in the last 2 mins, the other team has pulled the goalie and you are under fire. Letting that bad goal in and being able to forget about it and not open the floodgates. All that makes a number 1 goalie, I am not convinced Dubnyk has that ability, not sure about Bryzgalov yet, but we will see.

    Fuhr was godly like that, his career goals against was mid 3s save percentage below .900 but he rarely let that game tying or game winning goal in during his prime, that’s why he is in the hall of fame and was a proper number one goalie.

    (yes he was off his nut apparently and had the quickest glove hand in the west as a result, but everyone was on it back then, it was the 80s after all 🙂 )

  • pkam

    With all the money the Oilers will have tied up in their forwards and considering the gaping hole on the back end that can only be filled by a big money legit number 1 defenceman the Oilers can’t afford to think about UFA goalies. Yes the cap will go up but you’re still better off spending the money on defence. Dubnyk is at this point average. yes. But if he’ll re-up at around 3.5 million per season then sign him. He won’t be able to prove he can take a team to the playoffs until he has a playoff worthy team in front of him and we’re not there yet.

  • pkam

    It’s almost like a progression to the mean. Dubnyk isn’t as bad as he was to start the season. Still, I think the damage has been done and it’s time to go in a different direction next season. Dubnyk lacks consistency in my opinion and it seems like even when he is having a good night, he is prone to a momentary lapse. He is far from the only problem but I do believe that an upgrade is in order beyond this season. It’s nothing personal because I’ve always had a soft spot for Dubnyk and want to see him succeed but that’s just my personal opinion of Dubnyk as a goaltender.

  • It gets expensive when you have to a pay a good back-up goalie to push your starter. Maybe Dubbie is a starter, but if he requires an expensive back-up to be constantly pushing him for the starting spot he will never demand top dollar – nor should he.

    Again, can we just develop 2 d-man & 6-7 forwards by surrounding them with greasy old vets like Ference/Gordon, etc. Lets not try to develop a starting goalie, 12-13 forwards, & 4-5 defence man all at once.

    … watch … Dubbie gets a shut-out.

  • Quicksilver ballet

    I like how someone’s actually debating that Crawford is a better goaltender than DD even though the career stats are essentially a wash, mninus the perrenial Cup contender status and a blueline that boasts the likes of Keith and Seabrook in Crawford’s favour.

    How is this a debate again? This harping on the 32 games of .892 as if it was DD’s fault entirely that this TEAM managed to be the worst in the league for consecutive seasons in a row is mindboggling to say the least. Bored much?

  • OttawaOilFan

    I have said it before but it needs to be said again. Save percentage is the best gauge we have for rating goaltenders, but it is flawed in obvious ways. It does not, and likely cannot, factor in the quantity and quality of shots a goalie faces. Dubnyk has not only faced a far higher average number of shots in his career than most NHL goalies, anyone who closely follows the Oilers has to know that they give up a huge number of high quality chances from the slot and at point blank range, and are horrific at clearing the front of the net or stopping rebound goals. I can only imagine what kind of SVP Dubnyk would put up playing for the Blues or the Bruins. His actual performance is clearly better than his numbers for these reasons. He does have a habit of giving up some bad ones, like the one tonight, when he was excellent in a 4-1 win, but overall he has vastly underrated by most posters. In the Oilers last 5 games, in which he has given up only 7 goals, he was voted a star 3 times, should have been picked one in the Calgary game and pitched a shutout in the other one. After an awful start to the season he has been very good. It is much too early to predict what his final numbers will look like, but if he keeps playing as he has since his first four starts, the Oilers would be fools not to re-sign him.

  • OttawaOilFan

    I know I’m late to the party but I guess one thing to consider in all this that maybe people haven’t thought about (or maybe haven’t voiced yet) is the goalie coach. Has he not been a constant for the Oilers in the last few years? I’m not able to follow the team as closely here in Ottawa as you fine people but when I looked up Chabot on I was FLOORED to see that he has exactly 32!!!!!!!!!!!! NHL games under his belt. I know DD hasn’t played well to start this season and has those mental lapses we all have seen but is it possible this lack of NHL experience on the part of the goaltending coach plays a part in all this? Just thought I’d throw it out there.

    • Dan 1919

      You have a point, there certainly would have been plenty of justification and still is to fire the G coach. But the biggest problem was Dubnyk and his lack of effort. Willis made him seem better than he is in this article. It was well passed the 4 game mark and he was still letting weak, short side goals in from the top of the circle. His save % isn’t very indicative, teams put everything on net against the Oil because of Dubnyk’s reputation.

      Even last night’s weak goal, what if it was only 1-0 Oil and they’ve been playing good but that’s all they’ve managed to get in, then DD does that AGAIN to the team. He’s let in weak goals his whole career because he can’t bare down and focus. It will be a nice relief to see Bryz come in. DD is a starter on a bad team, or on a good team, an excellent backup that can play more than the average backup and even support the team if the starter is injured.

  • Dan 1919

    Unfortunately the damage to the season is already done..24 games complete / 58 remaining.. assuming they are good enough to play.500 hockey til the end and get a few mercy OT loser points that would equate to about 80 points. I hope they are good enough to achieve that based on their play of late but I guess we’ll see. The best case scenario is use the year for a lot of rotation with OKC to gauge the talent and get ready for the trade and draft season. It is too late to make any big moves to save this year , the only trades I would make would be if someone comes knocking on the door and it is a good deal for us and does not include any of the kids.