Friday, September 19, 2008

Season Preview: Nikolai Khabibulin

Okay, so that's a bit of a cheap shot, but still. Anyway, much of the season hinges on Khabby, or more to the point, what return Khabibulin brings. But first, it's best to look at what he actually is. Firstly, Khabby has never been an elite goalie. He may be paid like one, but the numbers simply don't state that. He's only had a save percentage over .920 once, and that's from a majority of a career spent in what will be called "The Dead Puck Era". His GAA has only been below 2.2 once. What Khabby has been is a goaltender who put together one great playoff, when the 'ning won the Cup, and Nik put up a .933 SV% and a 1.71 GAA. Nik could always be categorized as "above-average". The problem has been his paycheck has forced two coaches to try and treat him as elite. This has led to Nik being overplayed, and faltering under the workload. He has shown flashes of being very good, but these get avalanched when first Yawney, and then Savvy would try and ride him. And our playoff hopes would crash under an avalanche of soft backhanders from the slot or wrap arounds that sneak under his paddle.

Obviously, at some point, Nik will move on. No man in his right mind thinks it's a good idea to blow over 12 million on your goalie. Then again, we need more evidence that Tallon is in his right mind. By moving Lang, Tallon has left himself some slack to wait until another team's goalie get hurt or proves ineffective. But it's doubtful this will up the return too much. Nik is still old, overpaid, and overrated. He most likely will have to be packaged with a young player to get us the help we need up front.

The other problem is Nik will not go quietly into that good night. He has a history of being a malcontent when not playing as much as he likes. If Tallon waits too long, Khabby will make himself a distraction, and this team doesn't have enough room for error to deal with that. So let's keep fingers crossed it doesn't get to that. So long, Nik. Too much was expected of you, and you didn't deliver. We'll be corgil when we run into you, but we like our new companion, Cristobal, better.

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