After a season that saw him almost fall right off the hockey map, former Edmonton Oiler Devan Dubnyk made his return to Rexall Place on Sunday by backstopping the Arizona Coyotes to a 2-1 win over his old team with a 33-save performance.
Dubnyk, who toiled with the Oilers for five seasons and appeared in 117 games after being drafted 14th in 2004, improved his record to 4-0-1 and his save percentage to .925 with Arizona. This, after a 2013-14 season in which he damn near played himself out of the NHL with a .894 save percentage in Edmonton and a hideous .850 mark with Nashville.
Early results in the desert have some pundits praising Coyotes’ goaltending coach Sean Burke for resurrecting Dubnyk’s career (even though Mike Smith is struggling mightily). Dubnyk’s performance against the Oilers had others pointing a finger at goaltending coach Fredric Chabot, who is in his sixth season overseeing Edmonton’s masked men.
Specifically, critics want to know why Edmonton’s goaltending has been so bad during Chabot’s watch. What makes Chabot, an NHL journeyman who played 32 NHL games with Montreal, Los Angeles and Philadelphia (he was 4-8-4 with a 2.95 goals-against average and .894 save percentage) the right man to oversee the crease here?
Has Chabot improved any of the veteran goaltenders he’s handled? Has Chabot developed any crease prospects these past six years? Why does it seem like Edmonton has become a place where goaltenders come to die? How did he survive the purge of coaches that saw Steve Smith and Kelly Buchberger moved along this off-season?
Fair questions, one and all.
A TOUGH GIG
Having missed the playoffs for eight straight seasons going on nine, it goes without saying the Oilers have been an absolutely abysmal team during Chabot’s tenure. The defensive corps has too often been overmatched — a mistake-prone collection of marginal veterans, unproven kids pushed into too many minutes and AHL players who shouldn’t be here.
The Oilers give up too many shots. They allow too many quality chances. They make too many mistakes in coverage and cough up the puck far too often. One could argue the blue liners the Oilers have employed and inept team defense in general has been as big a problem as the goaltenders.
Some might argue, even allowing for the porous blue line, the Oilers simply haven’t had enough quality goaltenders since Dwayne Roloson willed the Oilers to the 2006 Stanley Cup final. It could be said Chabot hasn’t had much to work with, although that argument, given eight years of frustration, isn’t one many people are willing to listen to right now.
Dubnyk, Ben Scrivens, Viktor Fasth, Ilya Bryzgalov and Nikolai Khabibulin have been Edmonton’s main stoppers under Chabot, although Yann Danis, Jason LaBarbera and Richard Bachman have had cups of coffee.
I took a look at the first five, using save percentage as the marker for games with the Oilers, games with other teams and for their overall NHL careers.
BY THE NUMBERS
Edmonton – 171 games, .910
Nashville – two games, .850
Phoenix – six games, .925
Career — .909
Edmonton – 35 games, .911 (.899 this season)
Los Angeles – 19 games, .931
Toronto – 32 games, .910
Career — .914
Edmonton – 13 games, .902 (.885 this season)
Anaheim – 30 games, .915
Career — .911
Edmonton – 20 games, .908
Minnesota – 12 games, .911
Philadelphia – 99 games, .905
Phoenix – 257 games, .917
Anaheim – 69 games, .909
Career — .913
Edmonton – 117 games, .903
Chicago – 206 games, .902
Phoenix/Winnipeg – 284 games, .908
Tampa Bay – 192 games, .914
Career — .907
WHAT TO MAKE OF IT?
The above stats certainly aren’t comprehensive. I haven’t broken the save percentage down into situational numbers – even-strength vs. shorthanded and I haven’t used goals-against average, wins, losses and shutouts.
I haven’t factored in the relative strengths of the teams these goaltenders played on or where each player was at in his particular career in terms of development or, in the case of Khabibulin and Bryzgalov, decline.
In terms of save percentage, only Dubnyk was better, marginally, with the Oilers than in his overall career. That, of course, has as much to do with him only playing eight games outside Edmonton and one horrid season in 2013-14 as anything. The others — Scrivens, Fasth, Bryzgalov and Khabibulin — have slipped under their career percentage while tending goal here.
Is that the product of a bad goaltending coach or a bad team? Both?
Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.