I’m doing a daily review of each Chicago Blackhawks player and giving out grades based on performance during the 2013-14 season thus far. Today, we examine Nikolai Khabibulin.
It’s been a very short season for Khabibulin, as he only managed to play in four games before going down with a long-term injury. After surgery on a torn rotator cuff in early January, the earliest possible return for the veteran goaltender would be sometime in May, but the Blackhawks will surely be content to leave him on injured reserve due to the emergence of Antti Raanta.
Of the four games that Khabibulin did participate in, he only completed two of them. He did not compile a save percentage above 90 in any of the four, and his goals against average was an eye-popping 5.00. Needless to say, Khabibulin’s performance was about as dreadful as his season was short.
Despite what has transpired, Stan Bowman‘s decision to ink Khabibulin to a one-year deal last offseason was sensible. There was no guarantee that Raanta would adjust to the North American pro game as quickly as he has. In light of Chicago’s championship aspirations, it would have been unnecessarily risky to go into the 2013-14 season with only one known commodity in net with Corey Crawford. It was a low-risk move that addressed a glaring potential weakness.
As for what the future holds for Khabibulin, it seems almost assured that he will retire following the conclusion of the season.
Final Verdict: F. Minimal sample size, certainly, but we can only judge using what we have, and what we have is not good.