The itch is scratched

Goalie Dwayne Roloson, acquired yesterday from Minnesota, will be counted on to get the Edmonton...

Goalie Dwayne Roloson, acquired yesterday from Minnesota, will be counted on to get the Edmonton Oilers into the playoffs. (Edmonton Sun/Darryl Dyck)

ROBERT TYCHKOWSKI -- Edmonton Sun

, Last Updated: 8:43 AM ET

SAN JOSE -- No more excuses.

Almost from the moment they dropped the first puck of the season, the Edmonton Oilers and their fans have been aching for a new goaltender.

The fans did it publicly, jeering suspect goals, cheering easy saves and tormenting their existing keepers into nervous, shaky wrecks.

The Oilers were more subtle in their criticism, dropping hints about that one key save they didn't get, about being good enough to win at every position on the ice, if only they could break even in net.

Now they've got their goalie. Minnesota's backup is now Edmonton's starter.

After weeks of baseless rumours and pointless speculation, we're about to finally learn the truth.

We're about to find out if one more key save a game is really all that stands between the Oilers and a mad dash up the standings and through the playoffs, or if goaltending was a scapegoat that Edmonton and the Oilers used to deflect attention away from some of the team's other offensive and defensive shortcomings.

And we'll find out for certain whether 36-year-old Dwayne Roloson is something else, or just somebody else.

"We felt we needed to make the move on the position and we've always liked him," said Oilers head coach Craig MacTavish, who's been practically begging for a new starter the last few weeks.

"Ty (Conklin) really gave us the opportunity to be patient the way he played, he gave us his best three games of the year the last three and it couldn't have come at a better time.

WAS A DEBATABLE ISSUE

"But prior to that it was a debatable issue almost each and every game who we were going to start. This alleviates that issue right now.

"He took Minnesota to the conference finals a couple of years ago, so we really feel like we got the goalie we wanted."

Roloson's numbers in Minnesota haven't been great this year. He's 6-17-2 and his average is worse than Conklin's or Morrison's.

His save percentage is slightly better, but they always are on teams that give up a lot of shots from the outside, as Minnesota does. He was very good two years ago, but then again so was Conklin,

And why would Doug Risebrough, who knows Roloson better than anyone, hand him over, for a draft pick, to a team seven points ahead of them for the final playoff spot?A lot of those questions might answer themselves in time, but for now, the Oilers are just glad to see somebody else in net.

"It's a void that everybody thought we had and if this is us addressing it, which we all believe it is, maybe it'll give us a bit of a boost," said Michael Peca, who played with Roloson when he backed up Buffalo during their 1999 trip to the final. "He came up big for us in a couple of games in the conference final. He's a guy who wants the opportunity and thrives on the opportunity."

PROVING TIME

He definitely has one in Edmonton. With 20 games left in the season and a three-point cushion over eighth place, the onus is on Roloson and the players to prove that goaltending was all that ever ailed the Oilers.

"We've got a great opportunity to do good things," said captain Jason Smith, who knows there are no more excuses. "For sure. The expectations have gone up."

Proclaiming this a good trade or a bad trade is a waste of breath and ink.

There's no knowing for sure until it's too late, a week or two after the deadline when Roloson and the Oilers have both had a chance to prove themselves.

Can Roloson be the man? Who knows? But he isn't Conklin and that seems to be good enough for now.

"They felt like they needed another goalie, they found it and hopefully it's going to be a good fit," said Jussi Markkanen, who doesn't think Edmonton was as desperate for a goaltending upgrade as the city made them out to be. "I don't know how bad they needed it, but I hope it will settle things down."


Videos

Photos