Your Reputation Precedes You

rep2

Matt O’Connor passed on the Oilers today to sign with the Ottawa
Senators. As Edmonton was one of the finalists it’s obvious that their
situation in net appealed to O’Connor, but ultimately he chose development over
opportunity.

That choice is, from my perspective, entirely misguided even
if it is understandable. The Oilers are going to take a beating if prospective
goaltenders are looking for “development”. The team has gained a reputation
over the last few years for being a goalie graveyard.

Memory is a funny thing because it’s incredibly susceptible
to narrative. If we describe something a particular way over and over again that’s
the way the event will be remembered. Once a team’s reputation goes in the tank
it’s doubly hard to change it because it both reflects what a team has done and
affects what it can do in the future.

Of course we can’t talk about a player choosing another club
for better development opportunities without addressing what we’re really
talking about. Edmonton’s reputation with goaltenders went right in the tank
during the MacTavish administration. This is the result of a series of disasters
that began with the handling of Devan Dubnyk.

Ironically, one thing that Edmonton will get no credit for
is the way they developed Devan Dubnyk. They took a big risk taking a goalie in
the 1st Round. This would be a move most Oiler bloggers would revile
if done today. However, they did indeed spend the 14th Overall pick
in 2004 on Dubnyk and then let him develop 2 more years in the WHL, then 1
season in the ECHL, 2 years in the AHL, and eventually graduated him to the
NHL.

In terms of development they let him move up incrementally,
gaining confidence at every level before he finally took over as the starter.

If the story ended there it would make the Oilers look like
the Detroit Red Wings. It was a success story. It was a story of patience and
the rewards that can bring.

Then the team hired Craig MacTavish as their GM and he
immediately undermined Dubnyk. Asked about the goalie he inherited, MacT
famously said “If you have to ask the question…” MacTavish would also push hard
to get Schneider from the Canucks but ultimately fail.

If goaltending is 90% mental then screwing around with your
starting goaltender’s head is probably a road you don’t want to go down.
However, MacT did mess with Dubnyk’s head and confidence and the following year
almost completely ruined Devan’s career.

Now that’s not ALL on MacT. Dubnyk has to carry a fair
amount of blame for the way HE played. He failed out of Edmonton. He failed out
of Nashville. He failed out of Montreal. He failed out of 3 organizations in
one season, but that started in Edmonton so the Oilers take the black mark on
their development record.

Making things worse, with regards to Dubnyk, is the fact
that he bounced back so well that he was named a finalist for the Vezina trophy.
Edmonton gets no credit for the base of development that they gave to Dubnyk,
but they do get tagged with “ruining” him. And when he rose from the ashes it
looked like all he needed to do was leave Edmonton to get better. All you need
to do in order to believe that is to conveniently forget about his time in
Nashville and Montreal’s organization.

So Edmonton’s best developmental success story in net over
the last 20 years is also the biggest black mark on their reputation for
developing goalies.

Beyond Dubnyk, it’s true that Edmonton’s ability to identify
and develop goaltenders is troublesome. They haven’t drafted any on their own
that look like they have futures and even the professionals they’ve acquired
have floundered.

Khabibulin, Deslauriers, Garon, LaBarbera, Bryzgalov, Fasth,
and Scrivens have all been given shots to establish themselves in Edmonton and
all of them have failed to get the job done. Mix in drafted prospects curiously
hitting the skids like Roy and most notably Bunz and you are quickly on your
way to gaining the reputation of not being able to develop goalies.

Is it fair?

Maybe. Perhaps if Brossoit continues to track into a NHL
player the team will earn back some cred but it’s hard to argue they have been
good at finding, developing, and keeping good goalies.

Should it matter that much?

No.

The reality is that there are just 60 jobs for NHL
goaltenders. Only 30 of those spots belong to starters. Opportunity is rare in
comparison to the other positions and Edmonton has opportunity to spare. They
have a vacancy for a Starter or at least a 1A netminder and a weak prospect
pool that effectively ends after Laurent Brossoit.

regret

Unlike your 6th Defenseman or 12th
forward, you can’t just play a goalie outside of your best 2 just shake things
up a bit and get a different mix onto the ice. NHL teams can’t really afford to
gamble with their most important position that way. For that reason, choosing a
team with a deep pool of talent to compete against for spots is a good way to
find yourself on the outside looking in.

A team like Edmonton that has just 1 goaltender in the system
after next season is basically flush with the one thing any pro athlete could
want: The chance to play and prove themselves.

Matt O’Connor didn’t pick Edmonton, but that just means the
opportunity is available to someone else. That opportunity will belong to
Talbot, Jones, or maybe even one of the Senators goaltenders who Ottawa will
likely part with soon to make room for their newly acquired free agent.

There’s every reason to believe that in a few years someone
will look back on this decision and feel its sting. It just remains to be seen
if that will be the Oilers regretting their unavoidable and mostly deserved
reputation for not developing goalies or O’Connor regretting his decision to
pass on such obvious opportunity.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    UFA D – Beauchemin, McQuaid, Meszaros, Oduya, Zidlicky, Sekera, Gonchar, Petry, Franson, Volchenkov, Martin, Ehrhoff , Michalek

    UFA G – Ramo, Enroth, Dubnyk, Neuvirth, Niemi,

    Teams with no first round pick and possible trade targets – Chicago with 3 respectable goalies, Nashville with too many high end Dmen, Islanders have nothing until the 3rd round but also not a great trading partner, Rangers and they have a respectable backup G, Pittsburg with Letang and Fleury, StLouis with good Defencemen

    Can PC make something happen here? I dont think we will see any of the home grown core talent traded prior to the start of the season.

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    No Goalie should choose to come to Edmonton until they clean up the unprofessional goalie coach situation created by McT. Good call O’Connor.

  • Dubnyk was a good goaltender ………the odd game here and there. He took too much criticism for the teams lack of defence.

    We all remember the days when Oilers goalies would steal games on their own…….it’s a different time and place and good defence first teams makes goalteners look good………not like the Oilers.

    If we get some puck-moving defenceman just maybe we can play in the offensive zone and make life easier for our goaltenders.

    Good for Dubby doing well……….he seems like a real good person!

  • The Real Scuba Steve

    Call me crazy but I think that Richard Bachman has it in him to do something here. He battles out there and never gives up, kind of reminds me a bit of Salo. Goalies are the most fickle bunch in the NHL, Dubnyk totally flaked out here and he found his way. Good on him, no goalie short of Jesus in pads will be able to stop the 20+ point blank chances given up by this d core a night.

  • I would use the UFA’s first before trading for a goalie….

    My choice would be Neuvirth but any combination Neuvirth, Talbot, or Niemi as UFA’s would be ok with me.

    Tambellini really screwed up by not giving that 2nd and Jones for Bishop……..Brutal.

  • Petrolero

    “A team like Edmonton that has just 1 goaltender in the system after next season is basically flush with the one thing any pro athlete could want: The chance to play and prove themselves. “

    Whereas this is a solid argument, it has sadly proven to lead to disaster for guys buying into it. O’Connor was faced with the same situation as another hot free agent a few years back: Justin Schultz. Justin went this way with his decision and there is an argument to be made that it has ruined his playing career so far.

    Perhaps O’Connor rather than looking into the Dubnyk story looked into Schultz’s, and maybe even DeKeyser’s (the Oilers were also in hot pursuit and were in the short list) and waged his career would have a better start with the senators.

    In any case it seems shortsighted since the people in charge back then are out now and proven executives are calling the shots now.

    All I know is I wouldn’t want to pass on the opportunity to be one day be teammate’s with someone who could be one of the best hockey players in history.

  • Oilfaninvan

    So, if Ottawa resigns the Hamburglar, who do they dangle as trade bait? I hope it’s Anderson, but Lehner isn’t exactly experienced. Would they really wanna risk not having an experienced goaltender on the organization?!

  • Oilfaninvan

    So, if Ottawa resigns the Hamburglar, who do they dangle as trade bait? I hope it’s Anderson, but Lehner isn’t exactly experienced. Would they really wanna risk not having an experienced goaltender on the organization?!

  • Oilfaninvan

    I think o’connor made the best decision for his long-term development. Edmonton has been a wasteland for goalies because of our brutal defence. Look at Schulz. He chose the Oilers because he looked at our pathetic defence and saw a great opportunity to jump to the NHL quickly. He was right about that and quickly made the NHL roster. What he didn’t consider is that he would be put into a position to fail horribly. He was give too much responsibility and too many minutes too quickly and now he’s drowning in quick sand. Until the team learns how to develop prospects this will be repeated time and time again. The big hope of course is that PC recognizes this and addresses it appropriately. We need to ease players into roles and give them the tools to succeed. We can only hope that prospects in the future are treated better and with Schulz that his minutes and responsibilities are cut dramatically. Let’s not throw out another player whose confidence and game we have destroyed and watch as he thrives on another team.

  • Gordie Wayne

    I am really curious as to the answers to 2 questions:

    1. What is the price to acquire Talbot?
    – Would a 2nd round pick and prospect do it?

    2. What is the price to acquire Andersen?
    – Would a 2nd rounder this year and our 2nd rounder next year do it?

    Is that enough, or would it cost more for either trade?

    We do have 2 second round picks this year, so we can use them both if needed.

    If you could somehow acquire both, the goaltending problem would be solved. Andersen is probably enough to solve the problem, but why not grab both if possible?

    Give Andersen his 50 games (he does get injured a lot so better to limit his games to avoid injury), and have Talbot play 30 games.

    If Talbot outplays Andersen, you can always trade Andersen later in the year or at the deadline and likely recoup what it originally cost (i.e. 2 second rounders or a 2nd round pick and prospect).

    As for Scrivens, if there were anyway to trade him anywhere, I would do that in a heartbeat…he is not the answer. I don’t even want him as a backup.

  • Gordie Wayne

    And another goalie that I really like that doesn’t get mentioned enough in trades for the Oilers is Dustin Tokarski.

    Montreal can’t hold him back forever, maybe we can get him instead of Talbot if we somehow can’t pry Talbot loose from the Rangers.

  • Gordie Wayne

    There really are a lot of goalie options, but I think it is in our best interests to get a #1 that has experience (i.e. Andersen/Niemi) and ALSO get an up and coming backup that can potentially be a future starter (i.e. Talbot/Tokarski/Bernier/Raanta/Neuvirth/etc).

    There are so many options…they just have to go out and do it and I think Chiarelli will get it done.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Would the Coyotes want to fall into full rebuild mode (read: tank) so they can draft Austin Matthews?

    If so, would Oilers 2016 1st round pick net them Mike Smith?

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      actually Smith is a better goalie than what he showed in Arizona this year. i was thinking the same….despite his large-ish salary, and the fact he’s signed for 4 more years, would the Oilers be interested in this guy?

  • robc186

    Yes it took Dubnyk some time before he got his game back. But can you blame him? His confidence was shot to hell. Being blamed for every goal tends to do that to a person. Ottawa turns out starting goalies better than anywhere else in the NHL. Good decision on O’Connor’s part. Now the Oil just need sign or trade for an Ottawa goalie.

  • El Pindo

    Fortunately, unlike Mctavish, I think the Oilers now have a GM where identifying, drafting and developing goalie talent has been a real strength. Thomas (who saw that coming), Raask (one of the best currently playing, Subban (possible number one for a decade to come).

    Combine that with a tremendous amount of goalie talent both on the market, and very close to, and I think Edmonton finally sees it’s long standing goalie woes end this summer.

    I should also point out that in addition to destroying his confidence, Mac T and Tambillini, both made their defence much much worse than the group they inherited, which also goes a long way into making the goalies look horrible.