Anton Khudobin is having a good season, much to the delight of the Boston Bruins. They are loving the blunder made by the Carolina Hurricanes in trading him three years ago. He was a good goaltender then, and he has developed into an even better goaltender now.
The Details of Kicking Out Khudobin
During the late days of June 2015, Chris Peters of CBSSports.com reported that the Hurricanes traded Khudobin to the Anaheim Ducks for veteran defenseman, James Wisniewski. It seemed like a favorable deal to both teams, as Wisniewski never seemed to find a place to fit in the Ducks scheme, and Cam Ward was the clear starter in goal for the Hurricanes.
Also, the ‘Canes had gotten Eddie Lack from the Vancouver Canucks to serve as Ward’s backup earlier in the day prior to trading Khudobin, Peters wrote at that time, “The Ducks meanwhile get a cheap veteran backup goalie that they may be able to flip later.” After all of the heart and soul and effort that Khudobin had left on the ice during his time with the Hurricanes, it’s painful to read of him being reduced in characterization to being a “cheap veteran backup.” Sadly, however, that’s what he was and the future did not look very bright for the goaltender nicknamed “Dobey” by his former Hurricanes teammates.
This was one of general manager, Ron Francis’ first transactions, and it looked good on paper even though I always felt that Khudobin was better than his time in Raleigh with the Hurricanes seemed to indicate. In fact, in October 2014, Khudobin was putting up a legitimate challenge to Cam Ward for the starting goalie job. the 2015-16 season started with great anticipation for the “Caniacs,” the persistent fans of the Hurricanes.
Not all on Khudobin
The process of ousting Khudobin from the Hurricanes was basically centered around an evaluation of his play. I vividly remember at that time seeing Khudobin play very well, only to have his team not give him the support needed to put wins onto the scoreboard. I wrote this in January 2015 after a hard-fought win for the Hurricanes against the Colorado Avalanche:
“The win marked Khudobin’s third in a row. In a season where he has struggled to put games in the “win” column, it was a great result for the team and Dobey. He had a really strong season last year, and has been hit by a combination of a lack of offensive support from his teammates, and the lack of rhythm that comes from being the backup goalie. The evidence is in the numbers. Carolina has scored only 17 goals in Khudobin’s 12 starts, having been shut out twice. They scored one or fewer goals eight times. Ouch! No goalie in the NHL would stand a realistic chance at sporting a winning record with that absence of offensive support.”
This was the problem with Khudobin, and in my opinion what led to his being traded. The scoreboard lacking wins, in a situation that was not at all entirely his fault. He kept his team in games, but they did not support his efforts with the necessary goals to win.
Khudobin Back to Boston
After playing for the Ducks for one season, Khudobin re-signed with Bruins in July 2016. He started his career in with the Minnesota Wild, who drafted him in the seventh round of the 2004 NHL Entry Draft. Khudobin played two years for the Wild and was traded to the Bruins, where he also played for two years.
After two years with the Hurricanes and one with the Ducks, he was back in Bruins gear, serving as the backup to starting goaltender, Tuukka Rask. His first year back almost saw him exit unceremoniously, as the Bruins put him on waivers. Surprisingly, he cleared waivers even at a time when he possibly could have been used by another team, and has ended up staying with the Bruins.
Now, he is having possibly his best year, sporting a record of 10-2-4 in 16 games started. He has a 2.38 goals against average, and a .924 save percentage. Whatever the reason, Khudobin has become a valuable part of a Bruins team that is second in the Atlantic Division with 62 points. They are also second in the Eastern Conference overall.
So, while Rask is still the affirmed starting goaltender in Boston, the Bruins have the luxury of having a backup that they can be confident in to do an exceptional job. This makes the decision by Francis to let Khudobin go look at the least like a huge win for the Bruins, and possibly a blunder for the Hurricanes.
When factored in with the disaster that was the signing of Lack, and the ongoing “close to disaster but I want to be nice to Scott Darling” debacle, Francis’ goaltender moves have not been his best. Certainly, Khudobin was not putting the numbers up when he was with the Hurricanes. But, the lack of regular playing time – which every backup goaltender has to contend with – and the lack offensive support by his teammates, pretty much destined him to be traded by the Hurricanes.
— Boston Bruins (@NHLBruins) January 19, 2018
The Bruins can make a deep playoff run this season with Rask and Khudobin guarding the net. The Hurricanes might see their playoff hopes derailed because of their goaltender situation. Ward has come back like the veteran he is and done a phenomenal job. Darling seems to be still trying to figure out the starting role. The problem is that by the time he figures it out, it may be too late for the Hurricanes to make the playoffs again. Meanwhile, the Bruins are loving that the Hurricanes let Khudobin go. He may be the answer they’ve needed for a long time.
Mark lives in the Raleigh, NC area and covers the Carolina Hurricanes.