Monday, January 14, 2008
Oiler Goalies to Get Swede-r?
Posted by Guy Flaming
Someone is going to read this (hopefully) and when he or she is done they'll say out loud "WTF is Flaming talking about now?" but I assure you, I'm not Eklund nor a guy who talks about trade rumours or signings very often so believe me that this is not just something I've pulled out of my, er... hat.
Many Oiler fans out there would like to see GM Kevin Lowe shed goaltender Dwayne Roloson, his hefty contract and that cheery disposition to any of the teams that, on the outside, look like they need someone. I'm here to tell you that if they can, they will, and that in itself shouldn't be news to anyone.
The question then becomes, who backs up Mathieu Garon for the rest of this season and then 2008-09 too?
Jeff Deslauriers (he's basically dropped the Drouin- these days) is the only guy available in the system who could step in and be the bench warmer as Garon shoulders the vast majority of the workload. Deslauriers has terrific numbers in the AHL this year and on some nights he's played better than even those stats would suggest.
Dubnyk has only been good and behind him, Glenn Fisher in Stockton has fizzled after a hot start. So looking ahead to 2008-09, who would be the guy to play behind Garon with the Oilers or in Springfield to split time with Dubnyk, especially if Fisher's struggles continue?
Enter Bjorn Bjurling.
Unless you're a prospect junkie like most readers of Hockey's Future or its subsection message boards, you probably have never heard of Bjorn Bjurling (see picture). Well in brief: Edmonton drafted him as a 24-year-old that was playing in the Swedish Elite League in 2004. At the time the Oilers had Ty Conklin and Jussi Markkanen, weren't 100% sold on either of them at the time and needed someone with some experience in case... well, just in case.
The farm was in shambles (no AHL affiliate) so having a mid-20-year-old goalie playing pro in Europe was a smart move. Unfortunately Bjurling lost his SEL job and had to move to Austria and then Norway to find work, which are not the most respected pro leagues out there. However, this year he's back in Sweden and turning a lot of heads with his play for Södertälje.
Bjurling started the year as the veteran back up/tutor to Buffalo draft pck Jhonas Enroth but I'm told, began to play more and more and eventually took over the starting job. Enroth left to play in the WJC and now Bjurling's stats line is an attractive 19 GP, 2.33 GAA (3rd best in SEL) and .934 save% (Best in SEL).
Now, two things to keep in mind here is that he's still only played half the games and that Enroth's stats are pretty much the same as Bjurling's so there might be more at play here than just solid goaltending (IE: team defensive play).
Still, sources tell me that Bjurling is in the mix and getting consideration by the Oilers to compete in camp for the back up NHL job next fall and if he lost it to Deslauriers, could play the same role in Springfield for Dubnyk as he is currently in Södertälje for Enroth.
For Lowe and the Oilers, at least it would mean not having to go shopping for a free agent goalie and instead using that money elsewhere.
Something to consider.
Photo courtesy of http://eliteprospects.com/index.php