SUN Hockey Pool

Dubnyk rates more Oiler starts

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 6:26 PM ET

Double D should get double duty.

If you took a poll and asked Edmonton Oiler fans to name the one thing they don’t understand about the way Tom Renney is coaching their hockey team, it’s the way he’s gone with his goalies.

Renney is unquestionably doing a terrific job developing the young players on this team.

He’s also excelled at keeping the mood and attitude exceptional under the circumstances.

But what in the world has he been doing with his netminders?

And the big question going into the final 33 games of the season after the All-Star break is, does he intend to keep doing it?

Despite the fact there is now no way for the Oilers to make the playoffs — mathematical elimination is only days away — the fact that Dubnyk continues in second-string status in these circumstances remains a major mystery.

We’re now in February.

In the month of January, starter Nikolai Khabibulin, currently on a 10-game losing streak, went 0-8-0.

He had a 3.69 goals against average for the month.

His January save percentage was .868.

Khabibulin has started 32 games and is 8-22-2 and is ranked 42nd in the league with an .891 save percentage.

Dubnyk played only five games in January.

His record was 3-1-1.

His goals against average was 2.37.

His save percentage was .920.

Dubnyk has started 15 games this season. His record is 5-4-6. And he ranks 26th in the league with a .916 save percentage.

No contest.

Your correspondent suggested to Renney at a post-practice press conference as the team returned to resume the season with Wednesday’s game against the Los Angeles Kings, what I believe a fan poll on the subject might reveal.

“I think that’s fair,” said Renney.

“I don’t draw conclusions by what the fans think but I respect their opinions. They pay good money to watch their team play.

“All I can say is that there’s 33 games to go. Devan is going to play a good number of those.

“He’s going to be that much closer to a starter next fall. If he is, so be it. I’m going to put him in the best position I can to continue to grow him and elevate him to the point where he can contend.

“I’ve got two very good goaltenders, two very good men. They’ll get their share of the work, both of them.”

At this point, doesn’t it make sense to give Dubnyk more than his “share” of the work, which so far this year has been 999.51 minutes to Khabibulin’s 1,844.20?

Sure, it might not look great on management to be in the second year of paying the 38-year-old Khabibulin $15 million over four years to be a back-up, but when everything about this hockey club is about the future, why doesn’t that apply to the big guy in goal?

Despite being only 14 games into his career, rookie defenceman Jeff Petry is averaging 21:19 minutes a game, third highest among all NHL rookies.

When it comes to rookie forwards, Taylor Hall and Jordan Eberle are first and second in ice time in the entire league, averaging 18:21 and 18:11 minutes respectively.

Swedes Magnus Paajarvi and Linus Omark are averaging a healthy 14:48 and 14:43 respectively.

They’re all earning that ice time.

But hasn’t Dubnyk, the six-foot-six first-round draft pick in 2004 who had his development delayed by the Oilers not having had a farm club at one point and having twice been in three-goaltender situations, earned similar ice time and opportunity, too?

In his first 31 NHL decisions with the Oilers these past two years, Dubnyk is 9-14-8 with a .902 save percentage. The Oilers as a team are 42-73-16 as a team over the same stretch. He’s provided points for the standings more often than not. Who else in the entire Oilers lineup can say the same?

The bottom line is that if you project an Oiler Stanley Cup-winning team picture that Renney envisions by 2016, Nikolai Khabibulin isn’t in it and Devan Dubnyk might be in the middle of the front row.

He should be playing two thirds of the remaining games, not the one third he’s played to this point.

Follow me on Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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