Comparing the Worst: MGLI, Depth, and the 2008-09 New York Islanders - Part I

2009-10 Edmonton Oilers: 27-47-8, 214 GF/284 GA, 62 PTS
2008-09 New York Islanders: 26-47-9, 201 GF/279 GA, 61 PTS
All year I've been keeping track of Man-Games Lost to Injury and commenting on how they can represent the depth of a team. Thin teams, like the 2008-09 Isles or our favourite bunch of losers, are ravaged by high MGLI numbers. Others, like the 2008-09 Blues or Flyers, manage to shore up the holes and put together decent seasons without the injured players.

The comparison between last year's Islanders and this year's Oilers go a bit deeper...


Rick DiPietro played a pitiful 5 games in 2008-09. Nikolai Khabibulin played 18 this season. Although DiPietro's relationship with his Organization is much different than Khabibulin's, Ricky and Nikky both sport injury-prone histories and noose-like contracts. They were both relied upon to be the cornerstone of the team and they were both sidelined by hardly-surprising injuries (knee and back respectively; both problem areas prior to the seasons).
NYI spent the rest of 08-09 splitting time between Joey MacDonald and Yann Danis, while the JDDD combo replaced the Oilers' 09-10 starter. The similarities are startling when you dig into the goalies' careers.

Joey MacDonald played 17 NHL games prior to the 08-09 season and Danis: only 6 GP. The tenders played a combined 350 games in the AHL and 276 in Junior and NCAA respectively. While much older than the Oilers' tandem, NYI's solution in net was near identical in experience.

ADD was the only Oiler backup with NHL GP, a paltry 10 games at that. In the A, the two put up a combined 236 GP with 342 GP in Junior. So, totaled, each tandem's experience looks like this:

MacDonald/Danis: 23 NHL GP, 350 AHL GP, 276 Jr./NCAA GP
Deslauriers/Dubnyk: 10 NHL GP, 236 AHL GP, 342 Jr. GP

Ugly, isn't it? To drive the point home, let's have a gander at NYI's goaltending situation this season. DiPietro played 8 games (surprise, surprise), but Garth Snow had had the foresight to let Mac and Danis walk, instead signing Dwayne Roloson and Martin Biron in the offseason. The duo's combined 895 NHL GP assuredly contributed to the Isles' progression from a -78 Goal Differential in 08-09 to a -36 Goal Diff. in 09-10. Both tenders posting vastly better boxcars than their predecessors with very little change to the roster in front of them.

So, with the GM's postseason State of the Union, it's clear the Oilers are considering goaltending alternatives. While the Ruskie seems to have wormed his way into Tambellini's good graces (a good look from J-Dub), he's also vowed the Org won't keep its three-headed dog on the chain.

With Khabby in the mix, everyone but Steve is bracing for a shared starter position. Dubnyk should spend the year in OKC rehabilitating his confidence and being the rock in net he's proved himself to be at the AHL level. He'll have buckets more scoring with some high-level prospects entering the system, which should do wonders for Rob Daum and the new farm team. Meanwhile, Nik's backup should be a UFA pick-up with plenty of NHL experience... Martin Biron, maybe? And maybe his backup will be the next Monster.

If Garth. Snow. can recognize an injury-prone franchise goaltender (albeit 3 years after that ridiculous contract) and address the problem of an inexperienced backup tandem, then a similar solution has to be rattling around in TambLowe's near-vacant hivemind. I'm all for Adam Larsson, but letting a blue-chipper like Dubnyk get shelled over and over again is not an appropriate path for a rebuilding team. How the Org treats the goaltending this year will be very telling of how this club will fare in 2010-11.
I'll keep on this comparison over the next couple weeks, addressing the D and the forwards with a focus on team depth and impact of injuries. Stay tuned, true believers.

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