EDMONTON - If Nikolai Khabibulin doesnít have an awfully big rebound from last season, and last summer, Devan Dubnyk might have the starting job given to him.
Then again, if this yearís Devan Dubnyk is noticeably better than last yearís Devan Dubnyk, who was pretty good already, he might just reach out and take it.
Or, maybe itís none of the above, and the position heís been waiting all his life for will have to wait another year.
Who knows? But of the many questions surrounding the Oilers this season, there are none bigger than starting netminder because if your goaltending isnít good, nothing is.
Is Khabby too old? Is Dubie too green?
Whoís it going to be on opening night? And, more importantly, who will it be two or three months into the season?
ďIím going to keep an open mind,Ē said head coach Ton Renney, who watched Dubnyk give up one goal on 19 shots in 31 minutes of work Thursday against Vancouver. ďI have to continue to try and grow people here and at the same time we need to win.Ē
Itís an awkward position for Renney ó heís got a untradable starting goalie with two years left on his $3.75-million contract and a 25-year-old with enormous potential. Both of them need and deserve a chance to prove they can lead this team.
ďDubie is one of those guys who haas a bright future, I certainly donít want to get in the way of that,Ē he said. ďThat being said, Iím going to give Khabby a chance to show very clearly that he can have a bounce-back year, but itís not going to be at the expense of Dubie. Itíll be a good balance between them.Ē
To a large degree, theyíll make the decision themselves. Whoever plays better will surely play more.
Dubnyk, who had very good numbers on a very bad team last year (12-13-8 with a 2.71 GAA and .916 save percentge), likes the idea of controlling his own fate.
ďAbsolutely,Ē he said. ďThatís great for me, Iím happy with that. Youíll feel good about your starts because you know youíve earned them. Youíre in the best league in the world and nothing is ever going to be handed to you. To become a starting goaltender you have to earn every bit of it.
ďIt would be great to play half the games. Anything more than that is going to be a bonus and itís going to be entirely up to me.Ē
By his own personal schedule, Dubnyk is reaching a point where heís ready and willing to be a teamís No.1 guy.
ďI think itís about that age, 25 to 27 is usually when guys start coming in,Ē he said. ďI feel comfortable physically and mentally to come in and play and like I said, itís going to be up to me. Iím excited to have the opportunity to play some games this year and Iím looking forward to it.Ē
Heís well aware that thereís a big difference in pressure and responsibility and required level of consistency between backups and starters. Itís an area he wants to address this year.
ďItís not one out of five games that can be bad, or one out of 10, it has to be one out of 15 or 20 that youíre not right on top of it. You canít have two or three good games and then let off or nobodyís going to have you as their starting goaltender.Ē