Nikolai Khabibulin

Can Nikolai Khabibulin get his career back together?

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If you’re not the patient type, you might think that the Edmonton Oilers are at a crossroads. At some point, Oilers fans will likely grow tired of the word “potential.” Sure, they might be delighted by the bevy of high draft picks still in their teens or early 20’s right now, but at some point earning the top pick of the draft will be more shameful than hopeful. Sooner or later, this team needs to start winning games.

If you’re a realist, it’s pretty tough to envision that time being the 2011-12 season. That being said, a Hollywood scriptwriter might see an obvious redemption story revolving around the Oilers and their wayward goalie Nikolai Khabibulin.

“The Bulin Wall” falls apart

The 38-year-old goalie has seen plenty of ups and downs in his career – from contract squabbles in Phoenix to a Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay to a mixed bag in Chicago and finally that ludicrous four-year, $15 million deal with Edmonton – but things have been decidedly “down” since he became an Oiler. His worst moment came last summer, when he received an extreme DUI and reckless driving charge. Khabibulin was able to appeal and postpone jail time in order to play hockey last season, but will face the music for 30 days (half in prison, half with an “electric monitoring device”) this summer after dropping his appeal.

Things haven’t been much better on the ice, either

This story would probably gain more attention if Khabibulin found the hockey rink as a sanctuary, but if his on-ice results are any indication, it hasn’t provided him much comfort. During two seasons with the Oilers, Khabibulin went 17-41-6 in 63 games played with mediocre (.909 save percentage and 3.03 GAA in 09-10) to awful (.890 save percentage and 3.40 GAA in 10-11) individual numbers.

The Edmonton Journal is polling its audience to see if the goalie deserves a second chance, but since Khabibulin’s contract is a 35+ deal, the Oilers are forced to keep him around unless some foolish team decides to trade for him. Head coach Tom Renney indicated that the starting job is Khabibulin’s to lose, but it wouldn’t be shocking if he had a short leash this season.

Edmonton’s troubling options in net

The team will probably lean on over-sized prospect goalie Devan Dubnyk more either way, especially since he nearly went .500 (12-13-8) and put up an above average .916 save percentage and 2.71 GAA. If their 2011-12 seasons resemble 10-11, it won’t be long before Khabibulin ends up parked on the bench.

It’s a grim situation though, with one goalie who seems done (Khabibulin) and one goalie who might not be ready yet (Dubnyk). Yann Danis ranks as the “break glass in case of an emergency” goalie, but if it comes to that, the Oilers very well might be in draft lottery talk land again.

Really, the only bummer is that Khabibulin isn’t in a contract year. He won a Cup right before his contract expired in Tampa Bay and mysteriously played his best year of hockey with the Blackhawks in a similar situation.

Perhaps the possibility of a 2012-13 turnaround is something Oilers fans can look forward to, because the next season could be another bleak one.

Max Talbot signs in KHL

Calgary Flames v Boston Bruins
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Earlier this week, we passed along word that veteran NHLer Max Talbot was contemplating a move to Europe.

On Friday, that move was made official.

KHL club Lokomotiv Yaroslavl announced that Talbot has agreed to a one-year contract. The deal comes after the 32-year-old split last season between Boston and its AHL affiliate in Providence, scoring seven points in 38 games at the NHL level.

Over the course of his 10-year NHL career, Talbot appeared in over 700 games and established himself as a gritty, hardworking forward with decent touch around the net.

He scored double-digit goals four times — including a career-high 19 in ’11-12 — and will always be remembered in Pittsburgh for scoring both goals in a 2-1 Game 7 win over Detroit at the 2009 Stanley Cup Final.

 

 

Jets assistant Vincent named AHL Manitoba head coach

DENVER, CO - APRIL 09:  (L-R) Assistant coach Pascal Vincent, head coach Paul Maurice and assistant coach Charlie Huddy and the Winnipeg Jets look from the bench against the Colorado Avalanche at Pepsi Center on April 9, 2015 in Denver, Colorado. The Avalanche defeated the Jets 1-0 in an overtime shootout.  (Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)
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Winnipeg didn’t have to look far to find Keith McCambridge’s replacement for its AHL affiliate in Manitoba.

Pascal Vincent, who’s served as an assistant coach with the Jets for the last five years, will become the eighth head coach in Moose history, the club announced on Friday.

Vincent, 44, was one of the original hires when the franchise moved to Winnipeg from Atlanta in 2011. He’s worked under two different head coaches — Claude Noel and Paul Maurice — and is held in high regard by the organization.

That said, he did face some critiques this year. Jets fans were displeased with the Vincent-led power play, which posted a league-worst 14.8 percent success rate, tying Ottawa for the fewest power play goals in the NHL (38).

With today’s reshuffling, there appears to be a spot now open on Maurice’s staff. The Winnipeg Sun reports that Jeff Daniels — former head coach of the AHL’s Charlotte Checkers — could be one to keep an eye on.

Daniels played for Maurice in Carolina, and the pair went to the Stanley Cup Final together in 2002.

Sweden gets Pittsburgh flair as Hagelin, Hornqvist make World Cup roster

PITTSBURGH, PA - MAY 22:  Patric Hornqvist #72 of the Pittsburgh Penguins celebrates with Sidney Crosby #87 and Carl Hagelin #62 after scoring a goal on Andrei Vasilevskiy #88 of the Tampa Bay Lightning during the second period in Game Five of the Eastern Conference Final during the 2016 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs at Consol Energy Center on May 22, 2016 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.  (Photo by Matt Kincaid/Getty Images)
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Pretty good 24 hours for Carl Hagelin and Patric Hornqvist.

Last night, the pair helped Pittsburgh advance to its first Stanley Cup Final in seven years.

This morning, both made Team Sweden’s roster for the 2016 World Cup of Hockey.

Hagelin and Hornqvist joined Buffalo’s Robin Lehner, Nashville’s Mattias Ekholm, Chicago’s Marcus Kruger, Anaheim’s Jakob Silfverberg and Colorado’s Carl Soderberg as the final seven players named to the Swedish roster on Friday.

The updated 23-man list, in full:

G Robin Lehner, Buffalo Sabres *
G Henrik Lundqvist, New York Rangers
G Jacob Markstrom, Vancouver Canucks

D Mattias Ekholm, Nashville Predators *
D Oliver Ekman-Larsson, Arizona Coyotes
D Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning
D Niklas Hjalmarsson, Chicago Blackhawks
D Erik Karlsson, Ottawa Senators
D Niklas Kronwall, Detroit Red Wings
D Anton Stralman, Tampa Bay Lightning

F Nicklas Backstrom, Washington Capitals
F Loui Eriksson, Boston Bruins
F Filip Forsberg, Nashville Predators
F Carl Hagelin, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Patric Hornqvist, Pittsburgh Penguins *
F Marcus Kruger, Chicago Blackhawks *
F Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado Avalanche
F Daniel Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Henrik Sedin, Vancouver Canucks
F Jakob Silfverberg, Anaheim Ducks *
F Carl Soderberg, Colorado Avalanche *
F Alexander Steen, St. Louis Blues
F Henrik Zetterberg, Detroit Red Wings

* named to roster today

As far as “snubs” go, the biggest is probably Dallas blueliner John Klingberg. Klingberg, second only to Karlsson among Swedish d-men scorers this year, was passed over in favor of Ekholm.

Other notable omissions include Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad, Detroit’s Gustav Nyquist, Washington’s Marcus Johansson, Carolina’s Victor Rask, Anaheim’s Rickard Rakell and Hampus Lindholm, Vancouver’s Alex Edler and Winnipeg’s Tobias Enstrom.

In goal, Lehner beat out a host of competitors for the No. 3 gig behind Lundqvist and Markstrom. Jonas Gustavsson, Anders Nilsson, Jhonas Enroth and Eddie Lack — who used to play with Markstrom in Vancouver — were likely challengers for the spot.

PHT Morning Skate: What superstition? Crosby, Malkin, Kunitz grab the Prince of Wales Trophy

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PHT’s Morning Skate takes a look around the world of hockey to see what’s happening and what we’ll be talking about around the NHL world and beyond.

Sidney Crosby decided to buck the trend and touch the Prince of Wales Trophy. (Top)

–Former NHLers look back at their Game 7 battles. (Sports Illustrated)

–A Q&A with the newest Panther Jared McCann. (NHL)

–Watch the highlights from last night’s game between the Penguins and Lightning:

Joe Pavelski went from not being able to skate and not being big enough to becoming a Conn Smythe Trophy favorite. (TSN)

Bryan Rust accomplished something pretty rare this postseason:

–Some teams still need to sign some of their prospects or risk losing them.