What should we expect from the Oilers' goalies this season?
As I continue my look at the season ahead I thought that it might be time to actually take a look at the Oilers roster. And because I think goalies are the hockey equivalent of voodoo I'll start with them just so that they're out of the way early.
What's changed since this time last season?
In a word: everything. Last season the plan was to go with a tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera. To say the least, that didn't work out as planned. LaBarbera posted a 0.870 save percentage (that is not a typo) before being traded to the Blackhawks. Dubnyk looked better by comparison but the results were still terrible; an 0.896 save percentage in 32 games before being traded to the Predators. With the season already lost, Ilya Bryzgalov returned to the NHL from Russia to help stop the bleeding but was only slightly better than the other options posting a 0.908 save percentage in the 20 games he played with the Oilers before being dealt to the Minnesota Wild.
In the end, the Oilers finished the season with Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth, who were acquired via trade from the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, respectively. In limited action - 21 games for Scrivens, 7 for Fasth - both posted good, not great numbers for the Oilers. But given what preceded them in net for the Oilers last season the difference was night and day different. It's these two men who the Oilers will be depending on to keep the puck out of the net this season.
So things will be better this time around?
Yes and no. For multiple months last season the Oilers got goaltending that would be best described as replacement level in the AHL, that's just not going to happen again (fingers and toes crossed). But what we saw from Dubnyk and LaBarbera wasn't a fair representation of their abilities. Things looked to be trending in the right direction for Dubnyk and LaBarbera had a history of posting slightly below average numbers, which isn't terrible for a backup. Expecting league average goaltending from that duo - assuming both stayed healthy - wasn't have been unreasonable.
This season with Scrivens and Fasth expecting league average is once again completely reasonable. Hopefully Scrivens can do better than average, but with only 72 games on his resume I'm not ready to say that it's guaranteed to happen. So, yes, the goaltending will be better, it almost has to be. But I go into this season expecting exactly what I expected last year and hoping for that to actually happen. I'd be thrilled with average goaltending actually.
What if one of these two gets hurt?
It's probably best not to think about that. Since you're fixated on the negative though, I might as well take a shot at providing an answer. One of Laurent Brossoit or Richard Bachman will get the call. Seriously, that's still not good enough. Fine, Bachman will be the guy boarding a plane destined for Edmonton in the event of an injury to Scrivens or Fasth.
Bachman played in three games with the Oilers last season and is likely still the go to guy for the Oklahoma City Barons, for my money that makes him the front runner to be an injury fill in. As Neal Livingston noted on his site, Tend the Farm, Brossoit is looking for more starts this season and all signs point to the Oilers thinking that he's the real deal, but until he shows that he can handle the AHL he probably won't be making his return to Rexall Place. With a strong year this year he could become the "recall guy" in 2015.
Is the goaltending going to be a problem this season?
Hopefully not. The combination of Scrivens and Fasth isn't a sure thing but going into the season with the two of them isn't the worst bet the Oilers are likely to make this season. And it's a risk that has a reasonable chance of paying off. I like it. Even if I don't like goalies.
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