The Edmonton Oilers played a crazy and entertaining game of musical chairs with NHL goaltenders last season. From afar, I’m sure it looked a little nutty—the difference in established level of ability between Devan Dubnyk and Ben Scrivens is not great—but for Oiler fans it all made sense. In this way, it may be the ultimate example of why numbers get lost when the visual is so overpowering. Can it happen again?


The things that doomed Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera a year ago could also derail the current tandem of Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth. How? Well, playing in front of a bad hockey club is not a ticket to long term employment for any goalie, and the “swarm” employed during the early part of the season was a magical system that gave Edmonton’s opposition clear chances in scoring zones consistently.

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Application. The Oilers were so bad at it a year ago that the goalie was exposed in a way you ordinarily see only on bad expansion teams. Execution. I’m certain Dallas Eakins was in favor of it many times during 2013-14.


The Contrarian Goaltender (formerly Brodeur is a Fraud) is possibly the best place to read about goaltending in the NHL. Quoting the blog author at the time of the Scrivens trade:

  • Over the past 4 seasons, Dubnyk’s situational numbers aren’t too far off
    Scrivens’ (.920 EV, .876 PK vs. .923 EV, .891 PK), and that’s despite
    playing on an Oilers team that averaged a 68 point pace over that span
    (including 34-70-15, .902 without Dubnyk in net). 


That said, I don’t think the Oilers had much of a choice at the time. Fans and observers were calling for something to happen, and the season bled away so quickly, dealing Devan Dubnyk was the right thing to do for the organization and the player.

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However, logic and numbers suggest Dubnyk will recover to previous levels and that Scrivens is going to climb a mountain every night with the Oilers. THIS is not as simple as dealing away Dubnyk, replacing him with Scrivens, and enjoying a brand new day.


  • Darcy Regier: “I once asked Al Arbour what’s the secret to building a team? He said no secret, it’s not complicated. Get good players.”


Craig MacTavish added some defensive help this summer, in Mark Fayne and Nikita Nikitin. You may feel that isn’t enough, but a quick glance at some of the men who lined up on the blue one year ago brings the upgrade into sharp focus. Add a maturing Martin Marincin and Oscar Klefbom and perhaps better days are ahead for the Oilers defensively.


izzy the dog

Replacing Devan Dubynk and Jason LaBarbera with Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth was, in my opinion, a necessary step for the Edmonton Oilers. Despite the correct and and on-point article by the Contrarian above, sometimes the eyes cannot be denied even if the math suggests temporary madness.

That said, we should not be surprised if Devan Dubnyk recovers his career in the desert, or shocked if Ben Scrivens has some wobbly bits to his season.

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The Oilers are a better team now, but they are not out of the woods yet. Not by a longshot. Good luck to all of the goalies who played for the 2013-14 Oilers. I think we all died a little during last season: Fans, managers, coaches, skaters and especially goaltenders.

  • D

    How much of Dubnyk’s save percentage was due to the fact that much of his NHL career was played in no-pressure situations? It’s been said a few times that Dubynk looked all-world when it didn’t matter.

    If Scrivens can maintain his average at the beginning of the season (when the pressure is on), and at the end (if the Oil are pushing for a playoff spot), that will make a huge difference.

    Dubynk disappeared during those times in previous seasons.

    • camdog

      Scrivens has also looked all world when it didn’t matter. When it did matter at the World Championships and he was the man, he reminded me a lot of DD. Time well tell of course. At least this season I don’t expect the coach with the GM’s approval to implement a new system that doesn’t work in the NHL. There is no denying that the first 20 games of the last season, were the most disorganized this team has ever been in all of its exsistance.

  • BlazingSaitls

    guess ill be the fist person to point out Far* afar.
    Since its been corrected I’ll edit my post to address the goalies.

    The Professor. I think he is gregarious and very easy to cheer for. An extremely nice guy, just like Doobie is. The difference is Ben has push-back. A fierce competitor lurks behind Ben’s nice demeanor. Whereas Dubnyk seemed to have very little push-back. I am still concerned about consistency with Ben. Bill Ranford acknowledged this in a very good interview while Ben was a King. With this Im sure lowetide is right. There will be ‘wobbly bits’ . I have yet to see enough of Fasth to comment on him but I liked the trade for him. Im stoked its almost labour day. Camps starting soon, season just around the corner. Happy times Happy times.

  • So, we all agree that the defense has “theoretically” gotten better. I believe this will have an avalanche effect on all other players, goalies and forwards. The goalie should be facing less quality shots and hopefully less totals as well. The forward group should also “Theoretically” have the puck more as the new defense should be able to stop a cycle and retrieve the puck better.

    the Oilers forwards have the potential to be incredible, and I do believe that a better defense will allow the forwards more puck time as well as more of a focus on offense not chasing the puck all night. I hope this comes to fruition because if it does it may be a fun year.

    All starts on the “D”.

  • Fili

    At least if anything I enjoy watching Scrivens interviews, rather than dubnyk and his monotone surfer voice. I pictured Keeano reeves, every time he talked. And the professor
    At least gets mad, shows heart. I’d rather see that every game.

    It’s going to happen this year, they’re going to gel, this whole team will come together. And I’m not saying playoffs, but they will be knocking on the door. And other teams will take notice, by next season we’ll know what holes are left, and go from there.

  • theoil

    One thing that the numbers don’t tell you is that Dubnyk seemed to give up that back breaking goal at the worst possible moment.. Yeah, his numbers are similar to Scrivens, but how many times were the Oilers down by one and fighting to come back and Dubnyk would give up a long one or a soft one… Too many damn times

  • ATL Oiler

    Off topic – I Plucked the projected Flames line-up from FN:


    It made me feel good to be an Oiler fan again as we can beat these guys right?

    • Sevenseven

      The worst part of last season was when the flames crushed us on hnic. If we cant beat the flames next year, man, I dont know. Oilers please crush the flames at the very least. I hope Fasth and Scrivens both look like elite #1s. Its hard to keep hope with our centre line depth. Hopefully the rest of the lineup has career years.

      • Serious Gord

        They have better d. More experienced goal. Better Centres. The oil has better wingers. Could be some close fought games… But the potential for the flames to blow out the oil is greater than the opposite.

  • DieHard

    I trust scrivens. Guy was never drafted and had to go through the ranks. Plain and simple he’s a battler. He came in for relief one game for fasth and the game was a blowout. He still battled for every single damn puck to see it thru traffic. I’m not expecting a Vezina winner, just a guy who can be relied to battle hard and maybe wake up some guys.

      • Serious Gord

        Too bad MacT wasn’t given a similar compilation video last year – maybe then he would have dumped DD preseason. The body language of DD after he gets scored on says it all for me – he’s a loser.

          • Serious Gord

            He knew the same way he knew gagner was the wrong fit for the oil. But his habit of falling in love with the inventory prevented him from acting until it was far too late in both instances.

          • How do you know MacT wasn’t looking for an upgrade for Dubnyk all summer? You don’t.

            How do you know he thought Gagner was “the wrong fit for the Oil”? You don’t.

            Do you know that what looks like “falling in love with the inventory” might actually be inability to make a trade based on loser status, fishbowl market, weather, travel, league worst bad management or a combination thereof? I’m pretty sure you do but those angles don’t flatter your position.

            I get it. Stauffer gives you some regular play on his show and somehow that’s supposed to infer some sort of insider credibility. In reality you have none.

            Here’s an idea. How’s about putting some meat behind your accusations. Real. Tangible. Proof.

            As it stands right now you’re no more credible than all those other self-ascribed legends in their own minds like “The Warrior”.

          • Serious Gord

            There were goalies available during the summer – including one that he finally signed – Bryz. Instead he took the third best goalie in camp to be the backup. This after he publically said he wasn’t happy with dubnyk thus tanking his trade value (a chronic failing of MacT is to say stuff in public a competent GM wouldn’t).

            If he thought gagner was a good fit he’s a fool. That he signed him to far too rich a contract confirms it.

            Tangible proof in both cases.

            In both cases he fell In love with the in-house inventory – turning a blind eye towards the flaws in both players.

            I have never ever put myself out as an insider. So stop with the slur.

          • Serious Gord

            It doesn’t matter if MacT was looking around or not, what does matter is that he failed to correct the situation in a timely manner. And it was one of the biggest reasons we were out of the playoffs before it even started to snow. Intentions don’t make you a good GM. Making things happen no matter how challenging the circumstances is what makes a good GM. He should be judged on the performance (wins) the team gets. Not that he had good intentions! If only my boss would pay me for my intentions instead of the work I actually get done. Haha. I’d be rich!

  • Serious Gord

    I was reading Hockey Abstract and they picked out one interesting fact about Devan Dubnyk: against high grade shots within the slot he was actually among the best goalies in the league. He was also one of the worst at stopping the so-called “easy shots”, which in my mind lines up exactly with what we saw. He’d use his size effectively on the tight shots and would make a few miracle saves and just when you thought everything was going to be fine someone would score on him with a wrist shot from the blue line. Twice.

  • Spydyr

    Scrivens is a battler and hates to lose you can’t have enough those guys on your team. Fasth I am not sold on yet, this year should bring things a little more into focus with him.

  • MacT's Neglected Helmet

    Perfect example of I saw it good vs only stats matter guy. How do you quantify letting in a soft goal and the demoralizing effect it has on a team. We saw all too many of those with Dubby and not just last year. Even though his body of work is solid as a whole as shown by only stats matter guy, if the confidence in your tender is shaken, this is very hard to overcome as a team. Balance of both is always the key. Carry on…

  • Wax Man Riley

    You can be the best technical, hard working goalie in the world, but if you don’t have a good mental game as well,(Dubnyk) might as well hang up the skates.

  • Serious Gord

    I think going into last season most of us thought Dubnyk at the very least deserved an opportunity to prove whether he was ready or not to be a no. 1 based on his previous season numbers. We know how that turned out but not why? Doobie went south and by eye he just simply did not play well and everybody knew it including himself. MacT did the right thing and responded as well and as fast as he could but the team psyche was gone by then. If we have goaltending this year it will give this young team a chance.

  • Serious Gord

    I think Serious Gord is a school teacher – his opinions all seem to say “I am right and everyone else’s opinion is wrong” – I have a hard time dealing with that.

  • TerkMaJeb

    Scrivens did well at every level on his tough ride to the NHL. Dubnyk was mediocre at every level on his spotty ride to the NHL. Crappy development, I mean what team doesn’t have its own minor league team? Sorry Duby, we failed you big time.

  • Stack Pad Save

    “The Warrior” was the best, whatever happened to that guy?

    @ Max, don’t be so mean to teachers, it’s not fair to say all teachers are like Serious Gord. Some teachers are good and some are bad. Some internet trolls are good and some are bad. Saying all teachers are like Serious Gord is like saying that everyone else is wrong and you are always right. Right.

  • Serious Gord

    Yes, there are stats supporting that Dubnyk is not as bad as last season showed us, but the stat that many have not looked at was how much losing he has done over his career. Dating back to junior he rarely wins more than he loses. I know there are other factors like quality of team and coaching can change a few things, but a goalie is only as good as his record. Last year’s start with a new coach, bad system implemented, and injuries put a lot of pressure on Dubnyk and he failed to rise to the challenge, but it was not out of the norm for him in the wins/ loss column. Unfortunately, for him and the Oilers, he’s a good enough goalie to be in the league, just not a guy who can win you games you don’t deserve to win, or not let in that goal to preserve the win late in the game. Confidence is huge for a goalie, not only for himself, but for the team to play their game, as well. Dubnyk and LaBarbera did not supply that at all. However, Scrivens and Fasth seemed more calm in the net and the team seemed to be more relaxed in front of them too.

    Dubnyk may return to form in a more defensive system like Tippett’s, but I don’t see him ever being a #1 tender on a good team. Scrivens on the other hand, seems to have everyone’s confidence, let’s just hope he can continue his development in to the goalie we need now.

    • JBear

      I thought in 12/13 Dubnyk earned his keep in the crease even though he let the odd softy in. Then in 13/14 he totally fell apart and started letting in a lot more soft goals that killed the team. It’s like his mental game went back to zero. I’m hoping that whatever was ailing him (I’m thinking new baby maybe had him somewhat distracted) has worked itself out. He has the potential to be an upper-echelon starting goalie.

    • Serious Gord

      Not to troll you, but Patrick Roy had a losing record in major junior, and with a 5.30 gaa.

      I think you’re right about DD, though; he’s not a #1 on a contender. Luckily for him, though, there’s really only about 5-6 true contenders in any given seasons, so that leaves him with potentially up to 25 positions to work towards, if he finds his game.

      I would be surprised if Fasth is not the #1 goalie by the end of the season.

  • Serious Gord

    Hey guys, Hockey DB has the stats to support the only thing that matters, wins and losses. as a goalie he has only played in the playoffs twice. once with the blazers and once with the stockton thunder. the other teams he has played on have been non-playoff teams. one guy doesn’t have that bad of luck. he did not earn his shot with the oilers, should have never been chosen over Deslaurier and when he was traded to Nashville it only took them 3 games to realize what a terrible mistake they made. he was then traded to Montreal and was a third stringer on the hamilton bulldogs. When Carey price went down in the playoffs you’d think that they would want as seasoned a vet as they could get between the pipes right? no, they went with a rookie??? what does it add up to you say??? it adds up to Dubnyk got where he is by being big. his athleticism is almost as non-existent as his competitivness and when you watch him you wonder if he is wearing a blocker… there are also a ton of situational stats thrown out there that are in his favor but when you have to break a 60 min game down into a period of time that may or may not occur during a game you are WAY overthinking it. you can come up with a new stat everytime you want to push an opinion. Bottom line here ishe did not get the job done. ever, junior, minors or pros(minor pros and the show) And without some major changes to his game he will not play in the NHL for any length of time.
    Please don’t get me wrong he is an incredible athlete, person and goalie, he just doesn’t have what you need to be a #1 goalie in the NHL.

  • I am not so sure Dubnyk will return to form. The thing to remember is that there was a goaltending equipment change before last year. Dubnyk admitted in an interview that the shortened paddle on the goalie stick had a huge impact on his stance in net with him being such a tall goaltender.

    It is entirely possible last year is not an anomaly but more of a symptom.

    As far as MacTavish being enamored with Dubnyk… you don’t attempt to make a trade for both Schneider and Bernier in the same off season if you are satisfied in net.

  • TS

    In the contrarian goaltender article, he mentions that the preds, who are excellent with goaltender development, might be able to turn DD around. Only, once he got there, I recall them shipping him out in short order to Mtl, with remarks about some “really bad habits”. Lost cause. The fact that Scrivens was developed outside of the Oilers’ org is probably a real positive. Maybe it’s chabot we should be turfing