Great Expectations: Nikolai Khabibulin

Despite assurances by legal counsel regarding the strength of my appeals case, I have decided to withdraw my appeal and proceed with sentencing.  Once completed, I eagerly anticipate a timely return to Edmonton for training camp, where I will strive to be the best player, teammate and citizen possible.

-Edmonton Oilers goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin

Khabibulin claims he waved his appeal in order to get this entire issue behind him.  This way, he’ll be able to come to training camp to compete for the number one spot.  Sure.

Yeah, about all of that…

Khabibulin - Photo courtesy cbc.ca

We’re going to wear the rose coloured glasses for this one. I spend almost .890% of my time thinking about what a great day it would be if Khabibulin was picked up on waivers, or if he was shipped to the Jets for a seventh round pick and a bunch of OV Splits.

Rather, we’re going to see what he can do for this club.  You know, guarded optimism.  If you’ve read any of my other pieces on Nikolai Khabibulin, you’ll know that I’m not his biggest fan by a lot.  Today, we’re going to look at some realistic expectations for the beleaguered vet.

NUMBERS

First, let’s start with the SV% of .890 in 2010-11.  There’s always a chance that this number gets worse, but I’m going to hedge my bets and say it gets a little better.  I might even go so far as to say that there’s a fair chance it improves to over .900.

Why?

.890 is a terrible SV%.  It is also, the lowest in Khabibulin’s career.  And as much as I’m pretty sure that Khabibulin isn’t getting any quicker at age 39, even I have a hard time saying that his SV% is likely to get any worse this year.  Even a stopped clock is right twice a day.  His 2010-11 GAA of 3.40 was only .01 shy of his 94-95 season (3.41) with the Winnipeg Jets version 1.0.

PLAYING TIME

Look, does anyone out there want to keep Khabibulin as the number one overall?  If you do, skip the rest of this article and head down to the comments section.  State name, occupation, amount of prescription (or recreational) drugs you’re taking at this time, and list every reason why you think he should be number one. It should be a short list, so I’ll wait.

While I think Khabubulin’s ‘best’ years are behind him, I’m not totally opposed to the guy being a number two.  That’s right, a near $4M a year player as a number two goalie.  Why?  Because even though his SV% will likely improve a touch, I don’t think his body can shoulder sixty games a year.  Playing Khabibulin for two games in a row already churns my gut into a vortex.

But what about 25 games?  He’s going to be making the money regardless if he plays two or two hundred games.  If Khabibulin can steal twelve games out of those 25-30, that won’t be a terrible loss.  Be choosy in the games that he plays in (I know that’s asking a lot of a team that’s had consecutive last place finishes).  If there’s any way that this guy can become marketable to a team near the trade deadline, it’s imperative that he look like he’s succeeding in some measure.  Say through whatever deity you believe in Khabibublin is something like 10-7-3 when trade deadline rolls around.  Those numbers look a lot more appetizing than 10-32-4 or whatever God forsaken mess happened last year.

Perhaps his Stanley Cup pedigree will help a marginal team take a shot on him late in the season.  Maybe it won’t.  If Khabibulin can staple a 10-7-3 record for the Oilers (give or take), we’ll all go home happy. Also of importance is that if Khabibulin can keep a .500 record, it won’t directly contribute to the Oilers flunking out of the playoff race in November.

This on top of Dubnyk being pencilled in for 35 wins.  Yeah, that’s the ticket.

What are your realistic expectations for Nikolai Khabibulin in 2011-12?

Follow our Twitter feed @OilOnWhyte

Become a fan on our Facebook page too!

Click Here to visit our NHL main page “Too Many Men” – Fansided’s Hockey Home on the Internets

Want more from Oil On Whyte?  
Subscribe to FanSided Daily for your morning fix. Enter your email and stay in the know.