The Edmonton Oilers made a coaching change on Monday, but perhaps not the one that might have been expected. Goaltending coach Frederic Chabot was dismissed from his position, suffering the consequences of his charges collapsing in consecutive seasons.
The #Oilers have relieved goaltender coach Frederic Chabot of his duties. Dustin Schwartz will replace Chabot in the role.
— Edmonton Oilers (@EdmontonOilers) November 24, 2014
Paying the Price
Chabot, a journeyman goalie in his playing days who broke into coaching over in Europe, was originally hired by the Oilers in the summer of 2009. He’d had a brief coaching career but would have been familiar to then-general manager Steve Tambellini from his work with Hockey Canada as a goalie consultant.
Devan Dubnyk credited Chabot with helping him develop into an NHL goaltender, and Dubnyk made big strides as a prospect under Chabot’s watch. Ilya Bryzgalov was impressed with him in his early time with Edmonton after being signed as a free agent.
With that said, for two straight seasons now goalies with reasonably strong track records have imploded under Chabot’s watch. The 2013-14 tandem of Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera were not world-beaters, but both had a track record of success and both eventually fell to the AHL. Dubnyk struggled for the entirety of last season but has recovered nicely in Arizona this season.
In 2014-15 another untested tandem (with strong but brief track records), was tried and the results were the same. This time it was Ben Scrivens (brilliant in Los Angeles and after coming over to Edmonton in trade) and Viktor Fasth (who had previously come very close to supplanting Jonas Hiller in Anaheim) who saw their careers take a nosedive.
With four failures in the NHL level in a row, with top prospect Laurnet Brossoit struggling in the minors and with Dubnyk putting it all behind him with the Coyotes, Chabot’s track record made his firing entirely justifiable.
The New Guy
Dustin Schwartz comes to the Oilers from the affiliated Oil Kings of the WHL. The 35-year-old has been with the team since 2010 (according to Elite Prospects) and in that time has worked most notably with Brossoit and Pittsburgh Penguins’ prospect Tristan Jarry.
It’s extremely difficult to speak one way or the other as to Schwartz’s qualifications from this vantage point. The Oil Kings have certainly had respectable goaltending in his time with the team, so that’s a strong point on his resume.
It’s significant that he’s an in-house hire, which is both good and bad. It’s good in that the people who hired him know exactly what they’re getting and he’ll have some familiarity with the organization (and of course with Brossoit). It’s bad in that looking in-house often means that a thorough outside search for the best available candidate may not have been conducted.
On balance it’s hard to blame the Oilers for concluding that they needed to do something at this position. A year ago Craig MacTavish decided to go out and find different players given the struggles of Dubnyk and LaBarbera, but when four goaltenders in a row see their careers dip the longer they are with the Oilers it becomes increasingly difficult to put the blame on the men between the pipes.