The 2009 preseason roundtable rolls on, this time with a look at the backup goalie, AKA the bullpen catcher, at least when it comes to the Oilers. Part V of the series asks for a prediction on the man behind the mask at the end of the bench to end the season.
Our lineup includes: the erudite Shepso, author of some of the most intellectual hockey writings - he plies his trade at Bringing Back The Glory; The venerable HBomb, frequent on-point commentor at Lowetide's place; the incisive Dawgbone, a frequent commentor all over the Oilers' 'sphere, who writes too infrequently at After The Green Light; the pragmatic Doogie2k, an excellent foil and a thought-provoking writer at Still No Name; and the hilarious Lord Bob, whose rapier wit is rarely matched in the 'sphere.
6. Who will end the year as the Oilers backup goalie? Khabibulin, Deslauriers, Dubnyk or Other?
Shepso: This is a tricky question as so much depends on the Wall’s health. If he’s healthy the whole year, JDD is our backup. If not, it’s going to be a Labarbera type should ‘Bulin be back for the playoffs, JDD if he’s not… Dubnyk will play a few games as an Oiler this year no matter what.
Hbomb: I'll admit to knowing very little about goalies. Predicting their development curve is witchcraft. That being said, since I don't think the Oilers are exactly what one would call "contenders" this season, I'll say JDD is the guy through until game 82. If they're in a playoff race and he's not cutting the mustard, there will be an acquisition of a veteran backup by the deadline, without question. Those guys are a) cheap and b) plentiful.
Dawgbone: Deslauriers... the Oilers have invested too much time in him and they have always been slow to make goaltending adjustments. Even if he's awful, they'll ride him. For some reason this team has always been reluctant to cut their losses with players who don't make much of a difference.
Doogie2k: Well, first off, the only way Khabibulin finishes the year as the backup is if he rips up his knee in November and one of the kids establishes themselves beyond reasonable doubt in the interim. I've said it before, but I think he'll be fine.
As for the other two, as I indicated above, I think Dubnyk needs another year in the AHL, though I imagine he'll see some big-league action due to injuries at some point in the season. But really, unless Deslauriers does something spectacular to lose it, I think the backup job is his from start to finish. While "Other" is certainly an interesting idea, I can't imagine the Oilers are going to make a deal for a goaltender at this point: they're going to ride what they've got, one way or the other.
Lord Bob: Jeff Deslauriers. It's the boring answer but also probably the correct one. The brass likes the lanky occasional puckstopper, for some reason, even if he sees less rubber than the road to Mike Comrie's agent's house. Moreover, the team has been reluctant to fill the holes in its lineup even with cheap free agents, which bodes ill relatively minor positions like the backup goaltender. Barring injury or a sub-.800 save percentage, you can bet that Deslauriers will be squeezing his Frankensteinian frame into the end of the bench all year.
Bruce: The answer depends on the health of the protagonists. The working plan is obviously a pairing of Nikolai Khabibulin and Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers, who between them have enough letters to stop a lot of pucks. NK has a history of injury, however, and may be particularly prone given the anticipated workload of a clearcut #1. Such an event would lead to the promotion of Dubnyk and might quickly be followed by the acquisition of an NHL journeyman who would have a fighting chance to stick around when/if the #1 guy returned.
In other words, I haven't a clue.
Derek: Other. There's no way that this management team will go into the the final leg of another season with Deslauriers backing up an overworked starter again. They will make a trade to bring in a veteran and sneak him into the second game of some back-to-backs. They have to make that move in order to have a chance at the playoffs. They have to make that move. They have to. Right?
Jonathan: Jeff Deslauriers. It's no secret that I'm not nearly as high on Deslauriers as the Oilers organization, but I think that he'll do just well enough not to need replacing - and honestly, all he needs to do for that purpose is put up a save percentage a little over .900. Even if Khabibulin goes down for ten games or so, I don't think the Oilers will bring in someone else.