Edmonton's Goaltenders and Why They Suck


Goaltenders are like pitchers in baseball: they're complete mysteries.

You can say with a fair degree of confidence that Roberto Luongo will have a great year and Jeff Deslauriers won't, but beyond that if you ever think you have goalies figured out, they will break you in half like a dry twig. Organizations like the former Montreal Canadiens that once sent goalies to the Hall of Fame now send them in a first-class carriage to obscurity. On the other end of the spectrum, the Pittsburgh Penguins' goaltending history consisted of a few beer league guys and Tom Barrasso before they snared Marc-André Fleury, whose own career bobbed up and down in his first few years, and then capped off the act by inexplicably rejuvenating Ty Conklin.

But this preamble is just meant to give context to the fact that the Edmonton Oilers have not developed a decent goaltender in two decades, and they don't seem like they're going to start now.

There are have been solid goaltenders in Edmonton since 1990, of course. Curtis Joseph was the best goaltender in the NHL for two seasons in copper and blue. Tommy Salo had a couple superb seasons, and men like Bob Essensa and Dwayne Roloson were admirable journeymen. But none of them were developed in Edmonton: Joseph came up through St. Louis, Salo got his start with the New York Islanders, we remember Roloson's chequered history and Essensa, of course, played for every team on the planet at some point.

The last goaltender of any note the Oilers can be said to have developed was Bill Ranford back in the 1980s, and his career was more forgettable than most Oiler fans realize.

Right now, the Oilers have an armada of goaltending prospects in their system. Devan Dubnyk went in the first round, Jeff Deslauriers was a very early second-rounder, and Olivier Roy probably should have gone in the first thirty. Dubnyk and Deslauriers were both highly-touted juniors and Roy is following that route so far. The Oilers have also brought in Bryan Pitton and Andrew Perugini, two kids both still in the organization.

For Deslauriers and Dubnyk, it's all gone pear-shaped. Both received World Junior consideration for Canada and Dubnyk actually made a team. Deslauriers was acclaimed as one of the three best goaltenders in the QMJHL and earned a following in Chicoutimi to this day for his playoff heroics for the constantly overmatched Saguenéens. Dubnyk played for a Kamloops team that was consistently bad but he was always drawing rave reviews. Pitton and Perugini have also been disappointments: though Pitton was never any damned good, Perugini had the junior pedigree to get observers (including yours truly) excited. But neither has proven anything in the ECHL, to say nothing of a higher level.

It's become fashionable to blame the Oilers' now-departed goaltender coach, Pete Peeters. A former NHL journeyman himself, Peeters was given the rap for everything from Dwayne Roloson's knee to swine flu. It will be interesting to see what Peeters's departure means for the youngsters, particularly Dubnyk and Roy. But, as Joaquin Gage and Peter Ing could tell you at length, the problem extends long before Peeters's reign.

The truth is, figuring out a goaltending prospect below the level of a Luongo or a Fleury amounts to reading tea leaves. Deslauriers was hurt during his junior career, and though his injuries haven't had any long-term impact the games he missed may have hurt his development. Dubnyk played too many games in junior, which also may have hurt his development. Perugini languished on a mediocre junior team without a professional chance for too long. Pitton... well, Pitton stank from day one.

But nobody's ever been able to deny that the kids coming through here are fundamentally talented. Deslauriers proved in flashes last year that he can stop pucks. And that's another part of the reason goaltenders are such mysteries. Nine times out of ten, when a goalie stinks he stinks. One time out of ten, he's Ty Conklin.

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