Photo by Andy Devlin / Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club

Is the Bulin Wall Back?

What happened to Khabibulin? Last year he was just plain awful, there’s really no other way to describe it. Like many others I firmly believed that his play was going to continue to get worse, and after his first period in the preseason it sure looked like he was done. However, he has rebounded in spectacular fashion. Yes, you can argue that he let in a bad goal last night with less than 2 seconds left, but after all the other saves I put no blame for the loss on his shoulders. Really, who out there predicted that 3 games into the year Khabby would have a save % of 0.962, and a GAA of 0.95? Even those who thought he would rebound couldn’t have expected this. Yes it’s very early in the season, and things may change, but for now he’s doing his best to give the team a chance to win every game he plays. After the break I’ll share my opinion on the Oilers new found luck in goal.

This is wonderful, and for many reasons. First off he’s playing really good, and I think it’s wonderful whenever any Oiler plays really well. In addition this is exactly what was hoped for when he returned from injury last year. The hope was that he would provide the young Oilers with a chance to win every game, sheltering them to some extent. That didn’t happen, not until now anyway, and now the tables have turned with the Oilers unable to support him. Even with his stellar numbers his record is only 1-0-2. If the Oilers can start scoring a lot of goals like everyone expected, and Khabby’s play continues then the playoffs may not be completely out of reach (similar to Colorado two seasons ago).

No I’m not predicting that they will make the playoffs, I’m just saying that it’s possible, however unlikely. There’s too much to happen for them to make the playoffs. They have to start scoring goals, which I think will happen, but their defensive play needs to continue (which is suspect), they need to stay healthy (even more unlikely), and the goaltending needs to continue as it started. Will everything fall into place so they can end the streak of early tee times? Maybe. Will they end up with another lottery pick? More likely.

OK, back to Khabibulin. Another reason I’m excited about his play relates to his trade value. In order for the Oilers to trade him this last offseason we would have had to give up something else of great value. If his play can continue, then he may be a tradable asset, especially to a team having goaltending struggles. Columbus is one such team, recently having to call up Mathieu Corbeil from Saint John of the QMJHL on an emergency basis. There are bound to be others as the season progresses.

If we can trade Khabibulin this season for something remotely decent I’m all for it. Yes he’s playing great, and if it is just that he’s back and refocused now with his legal troubles behind him, then he may have a great season. Such a season could really benefit the young Oil. That said trading him when his value is high “ish” is still the best idea. The likelyhood of him stringing together 2 healthy, productive seasons is slim to none at best. I still believe it was a horrible signing, and even if he were to win the vezina this year it would only be upgraded to a poor signing. There is no long term future for him with this team. When the Oilers are good enough to compete for the cup he will likely be retired. Maybe Dubnyk is the answer long term, maybe it’s Tyler Bunz, but whatever the answer is, we should be trying to figure it out now.

Will Tambellini trade Khabby? I seriously doubt it, but I am one that hopes he does.

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Tags: Devan Dubnyk Nikolai Khabibulin

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