Where Does Devan Dubnyk Belong in the Oilers’ Pantheon of Goalies?

 

With the advances in goaltending over the last three decades, it can be difficult to evaluate across eras. But it’s possible, by comparing each player to the league average at the time, to approximate how Devan Dubnyk stands up to Grant Fuhr and Bill Ranford and Tommy Salo and all the rest.

As most readers have likely guessed, this little exercise was prompted by Robin Brownlee making the point on this site last night that Devan Dubnyk is back in front of Dwayne Roloson for the top save percentage in Edmonton Oilers history.

Brownlee was right of course, but what happens if we adjust for era?

The List

Player Seasons GP Save percentage Adjusted SV%
Andy Moog* 1980-87 235 0.887 0.923
Grant Fuhr* 1981-91 423 0.882 0.916
Dwayne Roloson 2005-09 193 0.909 0.914
Mathieu Garon 2007-09 62 0.909 0.912
Tommy Salo 1998-04 334 0.906 0.911
Bill Ranford 1987-00 449 0.887 0.910
Curtis Joseph 1995-98 177 0.902 0.910
Devan Dubnyk 2009-14 164 0.910 0.910
Ty Conklin 2001-06 60 0.905 0.909
Bob Essensa 1996-99 74 0.904 0.909
Jussi Markkanen 2001-07 102 0.898 0.904
Jeff Deslauriers 2008-10 58 0.901 0.902
Nikolai Khabibulin 2009-13 117 0.903 0.900

With the exception of Ron Low and Eddie Mio – who played in Edmonton before save percentage was recorded by the league – that’s every goalie to play in at least 50 games for the Oilers (goalies with an asterisk played some seasons prior to the league recording save percentage). The “Adjusted SV%” column is based on all of them playing in a 0.912 save percentage league (the current average).

Surprised?

It’s important first to be realistic about these numbers: comparing against the league-average gives us a baseline, but – especially going back to the 1980’s, when shot quality may have varied more widely between teams than it does today – it doesn’t give us bullet-proof numbers.

Some of that might be why Moog’s at the top of the list; anecdotal accounts suggest Fuhr got the toughest opponents once he’d established himself as the top goalie in the rotation. But the bigger problem was that Fuhr’s save percentage dropped dramatically versus the NHL average after Moog was traded to Boston; in the seasons when both played for the team they were neck-and-neck.

Other points:

  • Dwayne Roloson is a little higher on this list than I had expected, but he was fantastic in most of his time with the Oilers, considerably better than the NHL average.
  • I didn’t take into account playoff performances here; Curtis Joseph was spectacular in the post-season for Edmonton and he was with the team for a short enough time that a mediocre first season drags down his totals.
  • Jussi Markkanen’s early career with Edmonton was quite good, but he played a few years after he was done at the NHL level.
  • I expected Jeff Deslauriers to be at the bottom of this list, but the rise in NHL save percentage over the last five years gives Nikolai Khabibulin the crown.

My personal ranking? I’d give Fuhr the top slot between his playoff work and longer body of work with the Oilers and slide Moog in behind him. After that duo, Roloson has a bit of a gap over Joseph and Ranford, and then there’s another gap before reaching Salo and Dubnyk. Nikolai “Maginot Line” Khabibulin takes the last spot.

Recently by Jonathan Willis

  • 2004Z06

    What does it matter? Oilers are a bad hockey team and are working on the 8th year out of the playoffs, unless they change their philosophy this team will be a perpetual non playoff team.

    Fire Kevin Lowe first.

    Oilers would be a playoff team if the NHL was Non- contact.

  • 2004Z06

    Too bad there wasn’t a stat for making the big save when it mattered. Or something that accounted for quality of shot.

    Predictive stats are so easily skewed. If every shot a goalie faces is from 50 feet out with no traffic in front, I expect them to have a high save %. It is all relative to the team playing in front of you as well as the quality of the opposition. Way too many variables. Why the need to analyze the crap out of everything. It’s a game played by athletes not a science fair run by mathematicians. Until they put robots on the ice, it is impossible to predict anything that involves the “human factor”. On any given night, each player sees the game, feels, plays, reacts differently. Just watch the Oilers, impossible to predict how they will play on any night against any team.

    Hell a referee or ice conditions can influence a game.

    Only stat that matters….wins vs. losses

  • Zamboni Driver

    That’s more like it!!! I was scratching my head about what Robin was referring to when the article was out last night, trying my best to dig up some kind of stats to dispute Brownlee’s claim, because back in my mind I think Fehr was the most spectacular of the lot with moog came a hair behind him. Even Ronnie Low (which you didn’t include in the list) was way ahead of Dubnyk, stat or no stat! I know I shouldn’t knock Dubnyk too much, but he is a perfect back-up goalie, who comes in every fifth game, or 2nd of a back to back game! I found that Dubnyk has a problem sustaining a high level of concentration, in a game, or game to game. he needs to be kept hungry for games to perform well. My opinion… what do I know!!!

  • It’s always fun to compare players from different eras, but the numbers on their own don’t provide an accurate picture if you don’t adjust them and but them into perspective.

    I watched every one of the goaltenders on the list Willis provided during my time on the beat because I’m old as dirt.

    Fuhr’s a cut above everybody in my books as a big-game goaltender and Cujo would be next followed by Moog and Ranford.

    • Zamboni Driver

      Moogs play in the Montreal and Islanders series’ in 1981 was the best goaltending this franchise has ever seen. Was the better goalie in my eyes. Sat thru to many regular season games where Fuhr didnt care for 55 minutes. With Moog getting starts as opposed to Fuhr in the playoff runs the result would have been the same. At times Fuhr’s brilliance was needed due to his play earlier in games,

      • camdog

        The difference between the two is that a lot of Fuhr’s saves looked flashier. I always thought that Oiler fans preferred goalie that made a stunning save when out of position rather, than an a simple save when the goalie was in position.

        Ranford was my personal favorite because he won them a cup, a cup that with Fuhr in net we don’t win.

  • John Chambers

    Great idea for an article.

    Cujo seemed like a much better goalie than this suggests. At the time he seemed to be around 5th to 10th best in the league, and that league included Hasek, Roy, and Brodeur.

    In those years right after the ’06 Cup run it’s amazing to look back at the numbers and realize how underappreciated both Roloson and MacT were.

      • Zamboni Driver

        Tough call, you’re right.

        First guy to wear white pads, vs. a guy who says “Wicked Haa-h-rd”.

        My one regret is Gene Principe wasn’t around when the Oilers had Takko. Think about how many “funny”* puns he would come up with.

        *I find Gene’s gig tiresome and hope he ditches it and becomes a real sports guy when Sportsnet takes over the world.

  • Zamboni Driver

    I think Dubby would be a much better goal tender if 2 things were to happen: 1) if he had decent defensemen supporting him and, 2) if he had a decent rebound and puck handling ability.

  • Zamboni Driver

    A question which immediately arises is “How many of the higher rated goalies played for atrocious teams?”. This should consider atrocious, both offensively and defensively, as the mental attitude of a goalie is a key consideration. If the goalie believes they are in the game with a chance to win that is very different from a goalie who is hanging on to try to stem a tidal wave of chances against.

    In DD’s case I would suggest he has to deal with the tidal wave rather than thinking they are in the game with a chance to win.

  • camdog

    JW, I like the calibrated stats, now if you could calibrate all of the other advance stats you use in some your writings it would be much appreciated! 🙂

    As to DD he struggled horribly to start the season. Some of the ugly goals he gives up are a result of him cheating because he has no confidence in the d stopping the cross ice pass. On the other hand some of those weak goals he gives from a distance have me thinking he’s half blind.

    All goalies have a weakness, the good goalies have one weakness and the bad goalies have multiple weak spots. I always thought E-town fans were hard on Rollie and his 5-hole, I thought he was a really good goalie.

  • Coolwhip

    Man….to think what if Roloson wasn’t hurt in the Stanley Cup finals in ’06. I’m sure we’d have a 6th cup for sure. And he’d be Conn Smythe MVP no doubt.

  • Rob...

    ~Well, and here I thought I wanted to see his jersey retired because it means we’d have moved on to a better goaltender.

    PS: desperately hoping Dubnyk somehow becomes the goalie that proves me and all other haters wrong

  • Aitch

    Dubnyk might be the best positional goalie in the game today. On the other hand, he may have the worst reflexes. That’s what bugs me about him, every save looks like it just hits him. If it doesn’t hit him, he doesn’t appear to have a chance. The better goalies on the list made you believe they could bail you out of a bad situation. With Dubie, I don’t feel like he can make “that save.” He’s like the anti-Hasek.

  • S cottV

    The numbers probably show that Dubnyk is in the mix and with proper team support, he is still worth some optimism to develop into a true #1.

    Bryz is still an unknown despite a positive first impression and if it continues once back in the line up – who knows if he will stay in North Pole. My guess is that he is outta here, if a better / warmer option presents itself.

    I really feel strongly – that the failed swarm had more to do with Dubnyk struggling than most people know. Eakins admitted that it was a mistake. Who the hell can tend goal with the number of glaring chances that the swarm threw at Oiler goaltending, earlier this year? Dubie was giving up 2 (normal) – swarm stupidity gave up 2 = 4 and we lose. Dubnyk says the right things publicly, but in private he knows that dumb@ss system was killing him.

    So – the jury probably still needs to deliberate over whether or not the goaltending is good enough whether Dubie, Bryz or in combination, but lets reasonably support them -so – you can actually tell.

    Geez – the way its been going, you could easily bring in someone like Miller, pay a ton and get a .910 on the investment.

  • NsxZero

    I still remember that overtime save by Josepgh against Dallas (Joe N.?) that I think Joseph was even amazed he had stopped to allow us to win the series.

    That Oilers team of 97 is the team I keep hoping we become… but it did take a 10 game win streak to get into the playoffs.

    We were such a hard working hockey team back then and Dougie Weight just grabbed this team made us play tough hockey.

    Don’t get me wrong… it’s fun watching these young guns out there. However, that 97 team was pure heart and sole. What did they call that Marchant line in the playoffs… the “cardio kids” line?

    I wish the team still had that passion…

  • A-Mc

    This was an astute adjustment made by you JW. Save %’s need to be normalized some how, for sure, if goalies from different era’s are being compared; and you did just that! Thanks.