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.
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.
BRODEUR IS A FRAUD!
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.
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.
ADDED DEFENSIVE HELP
- 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.
WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN?
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.
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.