Barons Goaltenders: Pontificating Protection

I think that David LeNeveu is a great guy. Cornell trained, Hobey Baker tested, and unmercifully bounced around various leagues. He’s a married man who celebrates his wedding anniversary through Facebook announcements and that’s incredibly sincere and rare in today’s society. Canadian, with a 6′ 1″ smallish frame, catching left, and snatching a first round draft card within the top 50 in 2002. I’ve not met him, and I’ve not seen him play, but for all practical purposes, I like David LeNeveu. Nothing official has been made by the team, but all roads point to LeNeveu residing in Bricktown next season. Taking a look at his stats both professionally and while in school, the unsymmetrical nature of his goaltending game still has me slightly disconcerted, but I understand this move.

After Martin Gerber and Jeff Deslauriers were sent packing following the 2011-12 season, the Barons were in need of guys between the pipes. When Yann Danis was signed on the 4th of July to a one year contract, it became clear that perhaps the Oilers/Barons were going to take the veteran/developer approach to goaltending that had occurred the season before. I surmised that Olivier Roy would have filled that “developer” role in the tandem, but he’s just SO young that the gap of potential seasoning needed to be nurtured a tad more. Thus comes the perplexing signing of David LeNeveu.

He’s only a year older than Jeff Deslauriers, yet has a vast array of collegiate, international, and professional play. I’d say that their career numbers are somewhat similar, but Deslauriers has the NHL games in hand by nearly double. I compare the two, not to prove any statistical trends or forthcoming potential, but simply to wrap my mind around why this is the backup goaltender assigned to Oklahoma City

LeNeveu, with his 34 games in Austria (for the sausage I’m sure) sandwiched by two AHL seasons, has had less than sparkly minor league seasons of late. In 88 total games his save percentage is under .900, goals against is dangerously close to 3.00, and a record of 36-40-8. Not terrible for a minor league goaltender, but unpromising numbers for an AHL affilated organization with continued question marks in net.

Dubnyk and Khabibulan remain the guys on top, with the starter being whoever looks less worse in camp (see what I did there). Ultimately that’s the Oilers 1-2 (sucker) punch. We now realize that Danis and LeNeveu will be 3-4 respectively, and most likely Olivier Roy at 5 in the ECHL. As the seasons soldier on at three levels of hockey, one injury can jarr the a cog loose in the entire rotation. And this is where things get sticky.

Neither Danis nor LeNeveu are the next big thing in goaltending, and, quite frankly, they realize that. I admire them for it. Because this is about passion and less about paycheck. Nonetheless, these two signings have more to do with protecting Olivier Roy who has the most gleaming amount of potential at the minor league level. Read what the good-hearted individuals at Copper & Blue had to say about him. Roy is on the rise within the organization, and he’ll be treated with kid gloves over the next year or so. By signing not one, but two seasoned veterans above him in the rotation he a) gets the development he needs by toiling in the ECHL and b) he doesn’t have to fill a starting role when/if any of the four above him enter the IR. To me, this is an intelligent move to intentionally clog up the pipeline so that Roy grows at his own pace.

This began as an article with me stumbling through goaltending stats, and being bogged down by having two non-prospecty goalies for an entire season on the farm. However, the more I dove into the salt mines of general managing teams at all levels – it made sense. This is simply a case of pontificating protection of both an organizations deep assets, as well as prohibiting disaster at the top. And while the Barons can enjoy seasoned vets in net that nearly guarantees a steady on-off-on-off rotation of its tenders, this will remain an issue far greater than just this season, and potentially more gratifying.

Photo courtesy of Bridget over on Flickr