To take next step, Oilers must find true number one goaltender
This team has the likes of Taylor Hall (currently out with an injury), Jordan Eberle, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Ales Hemsky, David Perron, and Nail Yakupov. With these guys, the Oilers' offense should be in good hands for many years to come.
With that said, if you're an Oilers's fan, you probably already knew that. Sure, the team is in last place in the Western Conference but goal scoring has not been the problem.
Rather, the team's problem has been their goaltending. This is not to say that the tandem of Devan Dubnyk and Jason LaBarbera should be blamed for having the team in last place when it comes to goals allowed because the team's defense has also been weak this year.
For now, however, let's focus on the team's goaltending. Simply put, it is not good enough.
When teams face the Oilers, neither Dubnyk or LaBarbera strike fear in their opponent. Rather, a team's strategy when facing them is to throw as many pucks on net as possible, be there to knock in rebounds and create havoc because these two guys do not scare anyone when they are between the pipes.
Not only do they not make other teams think before shooting, but their statistics are probably a reason why they throw everything at them. As of this writing, Dubnyk is 2-5-1 with a 4.02 goals against average and a .878 save percentage.
LaBarbera, the team's back-up, has not been much better. In three games, LaBarbera is is 1-2 with a 3.22 goals against average and a .871 save percentage.
Dubnyk and LaBarbera cannot be blamed for everything but looking at how they have played so far, they are not getting the job done. This is a young Oilers hockey club that makes a lot of mistakes in all three zones and when this happens, their opponents end up capitalizing and putting the puck in the net.
A true number one goaltender would not allow this happen. Instead, this kind of goaltender would be there to make the save when his team needed it the most and also would not give any games away by allowing a bad goal.
A true number one goaltender would also win hockey games. Yes, it certainly matters that the goaltender gets support from the team in front of him but when you have a team that is in the middle of the pack when it comes to goals scored this season, the goaltender should be able to win or steal a bunch of games.
Neither Dubnyk or LaBarbera have been able to do that this season. When the Oilers were fighting for a playoff spot last season, Dubnyk stole a bunch of games for this team and did everything he could to keep games competitive enough so that they could win a hockey game.
That has not been the case this season and it is hurting them in the standings. Yes, the loss of Hall to an injury really hurts but believe it or not, good enough goaltending can pick teams up when they are struggling with injuries.
The only way this team is going to make any kind of progress is by getting a true number one goaltender. This number one goaltender will be able to play a lot of games, stay healthy, and be able to stop a lot of shots game in and game out.
This team needs an elite goaltender and they need one fast. With that said, however, the team may have to play with what they have for now and wait till the trade deadline or the off-season to acquire a true number one goaltender.