April brings to us the conclusion of the National Hockey League’s regular season schedule. For one more than 50% of the NHL teams, it’s on to the playoffs.
For us, we get to talk about other sundry things – the draft, shoring up the defence, the penalty kill, or what would really go good in this key lime pie… you get the idea. Instead of whining about how I wish the Kings would’ve laid down so that the Oilers could’ve beat them on Rod Phillips’ last game at the mic, we’ll take a detour between the pipes.
Today, let’s talk about the two we know best.
NIKOLAI KHABIBULIN – 2010-11
3.33 GAA, .891 SV% and 2 SO
Contract – $3,750,000 for two more years (through July 1, 2013)
Good Lord, where do I begin?
2010-11 was, for all intents and purposes, a bad year for the Oilers. Again. When I think that this year’s Oilers could actually finish worse than last year’s Oilers, I sometimes have a small electrical storm in my cerebral cortex. 2009-10’s Oilers saw 62 points at the end of the season, while this year’s squad sits at 57 points with five games to go.
Nikolai Khabibulin is 38 years of age. Out of respect, I don’t want to say the man’s skill set is ‘declining’, but he’s not getting any faster with age. I’ve often said that the Oilers should buy him out so that Dubnyk could be given the reins and we can move on, but I’m not too sure if management is going to own up and admit that they may have signed a guy to a 35+ deal who’s won a combined 17 games over two years.
This offseason will again be filled with question marks for Khabibulin. Will he have to go through with his 30 day sentence in Arizona stemming from his drunk driving conviction? Is Khabibulin’s back a concern? When talking about Nikolai Khabibulin, can we have a serious conversation about him winning 20 games in a season ever again?
Khabibulin’s quality of play has gone down since winning his Stanley Cup in 2004. This is to be expected with guys in their 30s, I understand. And it’s not without mentioning that the Oilers haven’t really been playoff calibre over the past…five seasons, we all understand. But, look at the simple stats. You don’t need to be a pinball wizard to realize that a .891 SV% over the course of 45 games isn’t very good. In fact, it’s quite bad. It’s damn near criminally vulgar. There are netminders out there that make around 25% of what Khabibulin is pulling in with better numbers on marginally better teams than the Oilers. Mathieu Garon (remember him?) is at .901 for Columbus. That’s hardly a number to sit up and bark about, but remember also that Garon is pulling in $1.2M as opposed to Khabibulin’s $3.75M. And, Garon is a UFA next season at age 33. Garon would probably take something similar to get in in Oiler colours again next year, as he’s not getting any younger. Would a Dubnyk-Garon tandem really be any worse than a Khabibulin-Dubnyk tandem?
And don’t think that I’m saying that bringing in Mathieu Garon would save the day, as it would most likely not be a dramatic upgrade. But he’s got as many wins as Khabibulin does in twelve less games, and again, there’s that whole money thing. Are the Blue Jackets really that much better than the Oilers? Same thing for Florida’s Scott Clemmensen. He’s 33, but has a .915 SV% clunking around in FLORIDA.
I don’t think the team is ever going to (read: they should) buy him out Khabibulin and move on. Can we at least make him the backup? Look at Giguere making 6M on the Leafs. They’ve got a kid in James Reimer right now who’s riding his chance. It’s okay, Tambo. Put him on the bench. I won’t think any less of you for doing so.
Almost takes the sting out of paying Sheldon Souray money to play in the minors
Keep calm and carry on.
On the next page, we’ll look at Devan Dubnyk.