The Edmonton Oilers have put themselves into an odd spot at the goaltending position for the 2012-13 season. At the top of the depth chart stands the recently-signed Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk has delivered average performance so far in his career in a pretty reasonable sample (.920 EV Sv% on 2,461 shots). He has also improved his EV Sv% number in each of the last three seasons (.902 followed by .921 followed by .927), so the trajectory is moving in a solid direction. At this stage, Dubnyk is a reasonable bet at the starting goaltender position.
Of course, there's still a wide range of outcomes possible, which is why the club bought out goaltender Nikolai Khabibulin to bring in a reliab-- nope. No sir. Instead, the team decided to stick with Nikolai Khabibulin for the last year of his contract. If Dubnyk falters, the job, it seems, will be Khabibulin's once again. So what's the plan if Khabibulin stinks?
The plan is Yann. Now, I quite like Yann Danis. He was the AHL's best goaltender a year ago and helped to keep the Barons competitive when they were really struggling to control play at the beginning of the year. As the team improved, Danis continued to play well, and I thought that he may get some interest as a back-up for an NHL team. At 31 years of age, he's certainly not a young player, but he's also not so old that you'd expect him to be in steep decline. For the Oilers he's an excellent option as the third goaltender.
The presence of Danis as the third goaltender will also help the Oilers to bring their young goalies along slowly. Danis is definitely slotted in as the starter, and I would guess that after his strong performance in the ECHL Olivier Roy has the inside track on the back-up position. That would leave Tyler Bunz to start his professional career in Stockton, much like Dubnyk and Roy before him. At the minor league level, the team looks solid.
Which is maybe the most frustrating part. If the Oilers had a strong back-up or second young goalie with promise sharing the net with Dubnyk, goaltending would be very much on track. But as it stands, the Oilers are leaving themselves open to disaster. It will take some time for Nikolai Khabibulin to play himself out of the position if Dubnyk falters and by that time, any hope that the Oilers have of competing for the playoffs will likely be very small in the rear-view mirror.
At the very least, it's pleasing to know that Khabibulin's contract is up after this season and Dubnyk's level of play will be more fully established. Basically, if Dubnyk is very good, things could work out this year at all levels of the organization, and if he's not very good, it should only torpedo the organization for a single season. And that, my friends, is the brightest outlook the Oilers have had between the pipes to begin a season since 2008.