From infancy we are all taught things that resonate with us, and one of those things is that you never blame the goaltender. We throw out clichés like the following: “You win as a team, you lose as a team”; or “It had to go through five guys before the goalie”; or “the goalie is the last line of defence”. All true, but sometimes you have to face the elephant in the room. You have to admit that the guy you have in the net just isn’t the goaltender to take you to the Promised Land. For the Edmonton Oilers the Promised Land is the playoffs.
We all remember last season when Dubnyk posted a .920 save percentage, and it seemed like he was that goalie, the goalie of the future. Despite this, Mactavish was never quite confident about Dubnyk. He said the jury was still out on Dubnyk. Why? Even while posting a decent save percentage, Dubnyk had a tendency to lose focus, lose his net and let in bad goals. I mentioned this on Twitter on various occasions and I, too, expressed doubts about him being that number 1 goaltender. Yes, all goalies let in bad goals but my concern was the frequency.
I am no Nostradamus, and don’t throw any bouquet of roses in my direction. There was no way of predicting that Dubnyk would go from a few question marks to downright awful. Saturday night against the Toronto Maple Leafs, he fought the puck, looked totally bewildered and looked like a goalie that has absolutely no confidence. This has gone beyond a goalie letting in a bad goal to an honest to goodness goalie crisis.
Bob Mackenzie, a TSN NHL insider, posted on Twitter that Mactavish is not panicking. That he’ll wait 10-15 games before making a decision. But does he have that luxury? This is a team that has missed the playoffs 7 years in a row. The fans are understandingly anxious. This teams needs to make the playoffs – or at least battle right to the end. In reality Mactavish needs to act quickly, but there is no easy solution.
Yes, Bryzalgov is out there, a goaltender with a wacky personality who has been relegated to finding work in the ECHL. This same goaltender compared Edmonton to some kind of Siberian outpost, without any prodding. Although any goalie might be better over the very short term, is anyone out there really convinced Bryzalgov is going to be the answer?
Ryan Miller is an unrestricted free agent at the end of the year. This is an option that the Oilers might want to explore in the short term, depending on the price, while they explore a long term solution.
But let’s face facts. No GM is going to do Craig Mactavish a favour. The price for any goaltender is going to he high. They will try to take advantage of a team that is desperate.
So, in reality the Oilers are going to have to deal with the combination of Dubnyk/Labarbera and hope either Dubnyk recovers quickly, or that Labarbera can be a capable number 1 goalie in the short term.