Oilers may have backstop strategy

TERRY JONES, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 12:34 AM ET

EDMONTON - Do the Edmonton Oilers have a strategy with goaltenders at the NHL entry draft?

For 30 years, since Barry Fraser drafted Andy Moog 132nd overall in 1980 and Grant Fuhr eighth overall

in 1981, the answer has been an emphatic no.

Going into Friday night’s NHL Entry Draft in St. Paul, Minn., the answer now seems to be maybe.

If they draft another goalie, the answer may have to be upgraded to a lowercase yes.

With the selection of Oliver Roy 133rd overall two years ago and Tyler Bunz 121st overall last year, there is now at least the suspicion that, perhaps, possibly, maybe one might indeed exist.

One long-time hockey scout who got it when it came to goalies once suggested every organization should have a rule that they select one goaltender at the draft every season. Do that with any degree of expertise in the middle rounds and the cupboard won’t be bare.

With all that in mind it’ll be interesting to see if the Oilers pick one Saturday on the second day of business at the draft.

The Oilers didn’t in 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2008. Six years in one decade they didn’t draft anybody who played the most important position in the game.

It’s the only record worse than the Oilers drafting skaters after the glory gang was assembled has been their record drafting goaltenders.

After Fuhr and Moog (1,581 combined NHL games), in the following 30 years, the players picked between the pipes have to this point played the grand combined total of 451 NHL games.

Only Jussi Markkanen (128) has played more than 100.

Jeff Deslauriers (58) and Devan Dubnyk (54) are fourth and fifth. That’s in all of Oilers history.

In all only nine Oilers goalie draft picks since Moog and Fuhr made it to the show played an NHL game.

And for two of those it was one NHL game and, for another, two tilts under the big top.

There’s a confidence, which hasn’t existed for a long time, in the community that the Oilers will do the right things at the draft, and much of that is because of the job Stu MacGregor has done as head scout.

“I’m really impressed with the work of Stu,” said GM Steve Tambelini. “Just the depth and detail, looking and digging …

“The book that’s coming to me now is a different way of approaching scouting. I think he’s brought the amateur scouting staff to a new level.”

But one move that Tambellini made which not too many people have paid much notice to has been the hiring of Fred Chabot as goaltender coach, director of development and goaltending scout.

That move, said Tambellini, telegraphed the idea that the Oilers intend to have a goaltending strategy from one season to the next.

“The most important thing is to have an experienced goaltending assessment guy,” he said.

If most hockey scouts, coaches, general managers, etc., were honest with themselves, he said, they don’t know a great deal about goaltending.

“Just stop the #$%&*@! puck,” is about the extent of it with some coaches.

You can have a goaltending coach, but Tambellini said you need somebody who also is a specialized part of the pro scouting and amateur scouting process.

“That’s why Fred Chabot is so important.

“On the pro scouting side last year, he convinced us to get Martin Gerber and said ‘Don’t worry.’”

He’ll have to come up with another Gerber out of the hat because the greatest immediate goaltending need for the organization going into next season is likely going to be a No. 3 behind Nikolai Khabibulin and Devan Dubnyk.

With the expectation that this draft will be all about making the Oilers strong down the middle with centre Ryan Nugent-Hopkins No. 1 and likely large defencemen with the 19th and 31st picks, it ought to be remembered that goaltending is “down the middle,” too.

“I know Freddie likes a couple in this year’s draft,” said Tambellini.

You’ll know if the Oilers are serious about growing their own in goal, as well combined as at the other positions, if the Oilers draft another goalie. That would be three years in a row. That might make the statement.

Twitter.com/sunterryjones

terry.jones@sunmedia.ca


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