• A Loser Move for a Loser Franchise

    by  • July 1, 2009 • Uncategorized • 29 Comments

    Khabi

    For obvious reasons, I want good things to happen to Nikolai Khabibulin. With that said, the contrast between Alberta’s two hockey franchises has rarely been sharper than it is today. While Calgary is having a press conference to announce that they’ve added yet another elite player in the prime of his career, the Oilers are in the process of signing a 36 year old goalie to a four year contract. Why do I hate this contract so much?

    1. Outside of 42 games in 2008-09, Khabibulin has not been a great goalie since 2001-02. Since then, he’s finished 18th, 27th, 43rd, 30th, 25th and 6th in save percentage. I am amazed at the number of people who are focused exclusively on the “6th” in 2008-09 with no thought whatsoever about the last five seasons and six years of his career. I was listening to Ryan Rishaug on Gregor’s show going on about how Khabibulin’s GAA is always below 3.00 which is a fine example of how setting the bar low enough will ensure that everyone passes.

    2. Goalies don’t do keep playing very far beyond the age of 36, which was Khabibulin’s age by hockey-reference.com’s calculation. 28 goalies in NHL history have played at least 35 games at the age of 36. 18 goalies in NHL history have played at least 35 games at the age of 37. 10 goalies in NHL history have played at least 35 games at the age of 38. 8 goalies in NHL history have played at least 35 games at the age of 39. 4 goalies in NHL history have played at least 35 games at the age of 40. There is a tremendous rate of attrition just in terms of games played and that’s before you even get anywhere close to asking questions about the level of play which, for Khabibulin, has been exceedingly high once in the past six years.

    3. The cap hits of players over the age of 35 are like herpes. You can’t get rid of them. If they retire, you’re stuck with the cap hit. If you send them to the minors, you’re stuck with the cap hit, less $100K. All the Oilers can do if Khabibulin doesn’t pan out is give someone else something to take his cap hit, like the Devils did with Vladimir Malakhov in 2006. That, of course, assumes that Khabibulin has the graciousness to retire if he starts to suck.

    4. While decisions made in the past shouldn’t affect your decision making now, the Oilers went an awfully long way for JDD last year. They hurt their chances of winning and making the playoffs both by giving him games – JDD had a terrible save percentage – and (arguably) by not giving him games and running Roloson out there night after night. JDD can’t be sent down, we were told, because he was such a hot prospect that someone would grab him off waivers. They’ve either decided that JDD’s future starts in 2013-14, that he’s actually not that good or they intend to eat a chunk of Khabibulin’s contract. I’m no longer sure what the point of running without a backup goalie who was trusted by the coach was. An investment in developing the backup goalie of the future?

    5. You cannot win a Stanley Cup if you’re paying market value for everyone. I’ve said this a million different times but the Oilers need to find some value contracts. It’s hard to see how this can possibly end up being a value contract for the Oilers. There aren’t a lot of value contracts on the roster at the moment.

    6. The goalie market is completely oversaturated. It’s not a good year to be a goalie in search of a job. Even if the Oilers couldn’t handle the thought of someone like Craig Anderson, that meant that Khabibulin and Biron were fighting for the last starting job left in the NHL. How did the Oilers not just play them off against one another and let them stew about this for a while? Is there a game later tonight that they need a starting goaltender for?

    7. Contrary to what Ryan Rishaug was saying on the radio, Khabibulin is not a particularly healthy fellow. He seems to miss 10-20 games a year with back/groin/knee problems. I’m no gerontologist but that doesn’t sound to me like something that gets better as people get older.

    In short, the Oilers look to me like a team without a plan, the ability to read the market, evaluate the options available or any understanding of how to assemble a winning team in the modern NHL. This contract will be an anchor within a year or two, if it’s not an anchor next year. It’s going to be virtually impossible to get out from under. This move, signing a famous guy, is the kind of move that loser franchises make. Given everything that the Oilers have done since 2006, it’s increasingly hard to argue that they aren’t a poorly run loser franchise.

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    29 Responses to A Loser Move for a Loser Franchise

    1. July 1, 2009 at

      But he has a cool nickname! And he’s won a cup! And… um… Oh crap.

    2. RiversQ
      July 1, 2009 at

      Unbelievable.

      The one area where the Oilers had the market by the balls and they go this route.

      Unbelievable.

    3. godot10
      July 1, 2009 at

      Quinn is out of touch with who is playing in the NHL these days. He hasn’t the foggiest clue who Craig Anderson is. He wants a goaltender he’s heard of….hence Khabibulin.

      The price of getting this coach.

    4. July 1, 2009 at

      Renney’s certainly heard of Khabibulin, and if Quinn would override him on something like that, the Oilers are wasting money on more than just a goalie, they should have saved their breath with an associate coach (and a GM) too.

      I don’t think it’s fair to put this on Quinn.

    5. July 1, 2009 at

      Er, Renney’s certainly heard of *more than just* Khabs.

    6. John K
      July 1, 2009 at

      1) True enough, but on the plus side, at the upper limits of his abilities he’s clearly a legit NHL starter.

      2) Can’t argue there. Of course there are people saying, hey, we could have signed roli for two years at 2.5 per. The oilers had a pretty good experience with an aged goalie over his three seasons (which correspond with Khabi’s age actually). Secondly, I’m also wondering what the distribution of older goalies playing in the NHL is more in the recent decades perhaps?

      3) A Russian goalie with a fair amount of mileage, there is at least the possibility of retirement if supreme suckage reigns.

      4) If JDD shines, are we really worse off then Chicago last year? I don’t think so. In terms of just next season, and probably the one after this isn’t a particularly risky bid. And even if he sucks next year, he could still pull off a solid season to follow it up.

      5) I can’t disagree here. You need steals, either entry level, rapid development, or ‘i-love-the-team’ discounts. That said however, this is the UFA market. The range is almost market value and higher. I will acknowledge that the number probably should have been a bit smaller, but I think you would be dreaming to see a sub 3M number for khabi even @ age 36.

      6) Anderson was gone. It would be pure speculation on your part to say the Oilers didn’t ask after him. In terms of an ‘oversaturated market’, really?

      This is what we were looking at minus anderson and khabi:

      Biron, Martin 3,500,000 30W
      Gerber, Martin 1,850,000 30W
      Legace, Manny 2,500,000 27W
      Garon, Mathieu 1,000,000 26W
      Kolzig, Olaf 1,500,000 25W
      Labarbera, Jason 850,000 17W
      Niittymaki, Antero 1,375,000 12W

      I don’t know about you, but I prefer Khabi to everyone on that list, even if they are 1/3rd the cost. Harding? Well who knows what minnesota was asking. I think that might have been the best option (or perhaps Halak) but all we can do is speculate that the asking price was too high (at least according to the oilers braintrust).

      7) According to TSN (which I’m not saying is some kind of impeccable source) he missed 66 games over the last 5 seasons. 13.2 Games per season is not great, obviously, but not Kari Lehtonen ridiculous.

      And finally, for all of your sensationalist words at the end of the blog, I don’t think this is a guaranteed failure. Could it be? Absolutely.

      But at the end of the day, who else really is there? Which other goalie would you target? Biron? Shitting on the current plan is absolutely useless unless you can suggest a better plan. This is the primary problem I have with this read on the situation: you offer no alternatives, and frankly I can see very few that are obviously better then Khabibulin at this point.

      Would I want the term lower – absolutely, and in that sense I don’t think this is a winner by any stretch. But guaranteed failure? If you are a pessimist sure, but I prefer to take a more even keel approach. Worse case scenario, we have a 3.75M backup for a couple years. Ideal? Obviously not, but also not ‘holy shit the sky is falling’ either.

    7. mc79hockey
      July 1, 2009 at

      I don’t know about you, but I prefer Khabi to everyone on that list, even if they are 1/3rd the cost.

      I don’t and certainly not for four years.

      But at the end of the day, who else really is there? Which other goalie would you target? Biron? Shitting on the current plan is absolutely useless unless you can suggest a better plan. This is the primary problem I have with this read on the situation: you offer no alternatives, and frankly I can see very few that are obviously better then Khabibulin at this point.

      I think Roloson was a better alternative and would have taken him before Khabi. I wouldn’t have been in a huge rush to sign him – I would have made him wait and talked to some of the other guys and see if the price came down. Where else was he going to go?

      Worse case scenario, we have a 3.75M backup for a couple years.

      No, the worst case scenario is a sub-replacement level backup or one who retires, while the Oil are stuck carrying his cap hit or trading it to someone else with a pick. There were other moves out there – Biron – with far less risk of that downside and equivalent upside. If the Oilers waited, they probably could have forced some movement on price.

    8. PDO
      July 1, 2009 at

      I think Roloson was a better alternative and would have taken him before Khabi. I wouldn’t have been in a huge rush to sign him – I would have made him wait and talked to some of the other guys and see if the price came down. Where else was he going to go?

      …to the Islanders?

      • Hema
        May 31, 2013 at

        Helliw. Long time no communicate! I hope you are all dandy and well. I see you’ve had some good shows on rlntceey, and some good uns coming up. I shall do my utmost to get down to one soon. I’m keen to play a date in Birmingham in May this year. As I’m no longer running Bohemian Jukebox events on a regular basis, could you consider me to play a support slot for any dates you have going in May?Hope so. Take it easy,Ben.

    9. mc79hockey
      July 1, 2009 at

      Who, Khabi? The Isles were going to take him too?

    10. July 1, 2009 at

      This is the primary problem I have with this read on the situation: you offer no alternatives, and frankly I can see very few that are obviously better then Khabibulin at this point.

      Pretty sure Tyler was the guy advocating getting Harding, and that he was doing so long before anyone else was. Interestingly, Tyler ended that post with the following statement:

      Why wouldn’t this be something that the Oilers do?

      And the answer was given with the very first comment: “Because the franchise is managed by idiots. There’s an answer for your question.”

      Seems pretty prescient today.

    11. July 1, 2009 at

      Tyler,

      I couldn’t agree more. I mentioned this on Contrarian Goaltender’s blog earlier in the day.

      A) Why not take a flier on Craig Anderson or Ty Conklin? They’ve shown equal ES SV% numbers to Khabi over recent years. The downside is that you’re dealing with much smaller sample sizes (i.e. – more risk), but the upside is that they’re younger (i.e. – could end up being better than Khabi in coming years) and MUCH, MUCH cheaper.

      B) You decide that gambling on goaltending ain’t for you. Ok, so why not just re-sign Roloson? I can’t see much skill difference there, and you save yourself like 1.25M per.

    12. PDO
      July 1, 2009 at

      Who, Khabi? The Isles were going to take him too?

      I’m still sober, and reading your original line I swear you’re saying where would Roloson have gone, hence the jerk comment.

    13. July 1, 2009 at

      You were Flames fan once, right?

      …might be time to switch allegiances again. Just sayin’.

    14. mc79hockey
      July 1, 2009 at

      My feelings for the Oilers are presently at the level of “Girlfriend who you really like despite various issues and wish would get her shit resolved so that everything’s cool.” For the Flames, it’s still “Ex-girlfriend who you loathe and who has a crazy family, although you’re impressed by how hot she’s looking these days and, if things didn’t work out with current girlfriend, you’d be thinking about her even though you know it’s a bad idea.”

      In short, god I hope the Oilers get things together.

    15. PDO
      July 1, 2009 at

      Tyler:

      Just remember, the sex was terrible.

      She only got you off once, and it was over 20 years ago. Hell, she’s only been pass first base once since then, so it’s not like she’s learned any new tricks anyway.

    16. mcmatterson
      July 1, 2009 at

      Yeah. And she looks like Todd Bertuzzi in the morning before the makeup comes on.

    17. Mike W
      July 1, 2009 at

      It should also be pointed out that needing a goaltender is not a new development that just popped up July 1.

      This team has had about three years to get a decent goalie and they’ve failed miserably.

    18. John K
      July 1, 2009 at

      @Andy:

      I mentioned Harding. All speculation on how available he is/was is just that: speculation. I would have preferred Harding and Halak over Khabibulin: cheaper, younger, potentially better. But, like the rest of the people posting here, I’m not the general manager of an NHL franchise, and I really have no clue why that was a no go, or even if they looked at those goaltenders at all.

      Khabi’s career Regular Season SvPct is .908 and his playoff SvPct is .919. An average Khabi season, on the whole, would give oilers average goaltending, something that Detroit has been getting by on for ages. I’m not saying we are detroit, I’m merely pointing out that if Khabi can deliver around .91, we can probably have a decent regular season, and then hope that SvPct trend continues into the playoffs.

      Finally I think its a tough call as to who will have a better next two seasons, Khabi or Roli. It seems like there is this cliff that goalies fall off of eventually (Belfour, Cujo, Hasek all come to mind), where their reflexes start entering the sub-AHL caliber, and positioning and excellent reads no longer are enough.

    19. Mike W
      July 1, 2009 at

      But, like the rest of the people posting here, I’m not the general manager of an NHL franchise, and I really have no clue why that was a no go, or even if they looked at those goaltenders at all.

      Good GMs find ways of getting deals made.
      Simple as that.

      It makes no sense to throw years and starting goaltender money at a goalie that will almost certainly decline from what is already an average SVP. Plus, he won’t even be expected to play many games for a starter. Total waste of money.

    20. John K
      July 1, 2009 at

      @Mike W:

      Personally I think everyone is blowing this a bit out of proportion with statements like ‘Total waste of money.’

      If this was one or two years, I think there would be a lot less grumbling. So the problem is then the fact that regardless of performance, we have his cap hit for years 3 and 4. Fortunately there is the possibility that the cap goes up in 3 and 4 years from now, which would then make Khabi’s salary a smaller percentage of the whole pie and therefore a smaller burden.

      I’m not in love with the deal by any stretch (why 4 years?) – something I have stated that several times. But all the melodrama is a bit much. If we are overpaying a backup goaltender ~2M for two years, I think the team might just be able to survive.

      And I’m still waiting for that gleaming alternative. Conklin? I don’t know, lots of risk there that we wouldn’t have NHL caliber goaltending at all for the first part of the season.

    21. Lord Bob
      July 1, 2009 at

      Fortunately, there is the possibility that the cap goes up. Fortunately, there is also the possibility that Rob Schremp scores 97 goals next year and makes the goaltending irrelevant.

      “Fortunately, there is the possibility” is not a defense of a trade. And even if that does happen, wouldn’t it be awesome to have even more cap space?

    22. mc79hockey
      July 1, 2009 at

      An average Khabi season, on the whole, would give oilers average goaltending, something that Detroit has been getting by on for ages. I’m not saying we are detroit, I’m merely pointing out that if Khabi can deliver around .91, we can probably have a decent regular season, and then hope that SvPct trend continues into the playoffs.

      Roli posted a .915 last year and I don’t remember any playoff games for the Oilers. As I’ve posted above, Khabi’s track record is worse than .910 over the past four years.

      I can’t say for sure that the Oilers didn’t try other things but when you make a deal four hours into free agency, it sure doesn’t seem to me like you played things out.

    23. Mike W
      July 1, 2009 at

      But all the melodrama is a bit much.

      I don’t think it’s melodrama.

      It’s a legitimate reaction (ie. an exasperated “That’s a terrible signing!”) to the latest move in a pattern of mismanagement that’s three years running now. Just when one overpay contract finally expires, another is picked up.

      Meanwhile, the team isn’t very good and keeps missing the playoffs. Calling it a “loser move” is fair ball.

    24. John K
      July 1, 2009 at

      @Lord Bob:

      First, it’s not a trade. It’s a UFA signing. Second of all, I’m merely trying to run a thread contrary to all the gloom here. I like this blog (and lowetides et al.) but sometimes Oiler fans only seem to look at the negatives.

      I say this UFA signing can be above-average to downright awful based on Khabi’s performance. But, like the cap space, nothing is guaranteed.

    25. mc79hockey
      July 1, 2009 at

      John – I don’t disagree with you. Every contract has a range of possible outcomes when it’s signed. What irritates me about this is that I think there are a ton of guys out there with whom there is a better range of possible outcomes. Harding and Biron are the most obvious two, although Roloson is on the list as well.

    26. Oilman
      July 2, 2009 at

      Good GMs find ways of getting deals made.
      Simple as that.

      Ken Holland would have made Prongers wife stay – I guarantee it!

    27. David S
      July 2, 2009 at

      I’m not entirely unsure this deal wasn’t done entirely out of desperation. It looked like the other really juicy options were either locked up, or 9at least as likely) they simply didn’t want to come here.

      Never underestimate the power of “face” with this organization. We’ve made deals before that I’m sure were more motivated by wanting to be seen as doing something rather than nothing at all. Maybe in this case, not doing anything wasn’t an option the team was prepared to stomach. Thus Khabi. Losers.

    28. Pingback: The Oilers signing of Khabibulin and why there are no shortcuts in the NHL | Edmonton Journal

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