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Is Ilya Bryzgalov the Answer?

Ilya Bryzgalov may be the answer but not if the question is "Can he help the Oilers win?"

A scene that Oilers fans can get used to seeing
A scene that Oilers fans can get used to seeing
Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

After three seasons of posting a league average or better save percentages, Oilers management decided that Devan Dubnyk was not NHL material due to a shaky 0.876 start to the season. Of course as has been the norm with this team the media has run with the "Another weak goal by Dubnyk" story and the fans eat it up because of our favourite logical fallacy "Confirmation Bias". Thanks to this illusion of bad goaltending, on November 8, 2013, the Oilers signed Ilya Bryzgalov to a one year contract in the hopes that he would solve their goaltending issues.

In Phoenix, Ilya Bryzgalov seemed to be a number one goalie posting a 0.917 SV% and a 2.54 GAA over his time there. After his time with the the Phoenix Coyotes, Bryzgalov signed in Philadelphia and quickly became the joke of the NHL. Besides his large contract and off ice antics, Bryzgalov's save percentage dropped to 0.905 SV% and his goals against average jumped to 2.60 GAA in 1 1/2 seasons with the Flyers.

Ilya Bryzgalov is now 33 years old and is in the declining years of his career, while Devan Dubnyk is only 27 years old and entering the prime of his career. A lot of people will argue that Bryzgalov is a veteran and the Oilers really need a veteran presence in net to calm this team down. I argue that the Oilers have had the veteran presence already and the issue isn't so much goaltending as it is defence but that's an argument for another post.

Anyway after the Oilers signed Bryzgalov I thought an in-depth comparison was required to illustrate that he isn't really an upgrade and may actually cost the Oilers more goal against than Devan Dubnyk.

First lets take a look at the Oilers' starting goaltenders and their records starting from the 2007-08 season.

Season Name Age GP GA SA SV TOI SV%
2007-08 Mathieu Garon 30 47 118 1359 1241 2658 0.913
2008-09 Dwayne Roloson 39 63 166 1953 1787 3597 0.915
2009-10 Jeff Deslauriers 25 48 152 1529 1377 2798 0.901
2010-11 Nikolai Khabibulin 38 47 153 1389 1236 2701 0.890
2011-12 Devan Dubnyk 25 47 118 1380 1262 2653 0.914
2012-13 Devan Dubnyk 26 38 90 1132 1042 2101 0.920

Now lets take a look at Ilya Bryzgalov's stats during that same time period. Bryzgalov played 9 games with Anaheim before being picked up by Phoenix on waivers. For the purposes of this exercise I will not be including those games but I will mention that he was average at best with a 0.909 SV%.

Season Age GP GA SA SV TOI SV%
2007-08 27 55 128 1621 1493 3167 0.921
2008-09 28 65 187 1994 1807 3760 0.906
2009-10 29 69 156 1961 1805 4084 0.920
2010-11 30 68 168 2125 1957 4060 0.921
2011-12 31 59 141 1554 1413 3415 0.909
2012-13 32 40 107 1066 959 2298 0.900

Now to put those seasons into context. If Bryzgalov was the Oilers number one during those years what would those season figures look like?

Season GP SA SV% GA Bryzgalov SV% Projected GA Difference
2007-08 47 1359 0.913 118 0.921 107 -11
2008-09 63 1953 0.915 166 0.906 183 +17
2009-10 48 1529 0.901 152 0.920 122 -30
2010-11 47 1389 0.890 153 0.921 110 -43
2011-12 47 1380 0.914 118 0.909 125 +7
2012-13 38 1132 0.920 90 0.900 114 +24
Totals 290 8742 0.909 797 0.914 761 -36

Before everyone goes after me about injuries or platooning of goaltenders I am going to say this is hypothetical based off the numbers available. We cannot say one way or another how many games a player would have played so I have to go off of the numbers. Anyway... Over the course of 6 years the difference in goals against based off of Bryzgalov's save percentages would have been 6 less goals per season. Also of note is that in Bryzgalov's last 2 seasons Devan Dubnyk has been the more superior goaltender than him. The final thing to note is that if the Oilers got the goaltending of Bryzgalov rather than Deslaurier or Khabibulin in their respective craptastic seasons neither Taylor Hall nor Ryan Nugent-Hopkins would be Oilers.

If the Oilers think they are getting the same Bryzgalov between the ages of 27 and 30 Bryzgalov they are nuts. Bryzgalov is the same goaltender as Dubnyk only one year behind and has played on better teams. By 27 Dubnyk has posted 0.916 SV% in 35GP (24), 0.914 SV% in 47GP (25) and 0.920 in 38GP (26) all on a team that included defensive stalwarts such as Ryan Whitney, Cam Barker, Theo Peckham, Kurtis Foster, Jason Strudwick and Mark Fistric. By 27 Bryzgalov had posted 0.910 SV% in 31GP (25) and 0.907 SV% in 27GP (26) on a team that included Francois Beauchemin, Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer.

If you think the Oilers are getting a goalie that will challenge Dubnyk for the number one role you may be sadly mistaken. It's more likely that the Oilers are getting Khabibulin 2.0 based on Bryzgalov's declining numbers. With that being said look what a drunk Russian backup goaltender did for Dubnyk's performance, maybe a crazy Russian backup will push him to greatness.