Injury Alert: Khabibulin on the shelf, Sutton may never play again

Jonathan Willis
October 27 2012 09:27AM

Even when there’s a lockout, it seems like injury news is an unavoidable part of the Edmonton Oilers experience. This holds true even for the players not playing elsewhere. As the Edmonton Journal’s Joanne Ireland reports, veterans Andy Sutton and Nikolai Khabibulin are both currently on the injured list, and the news isn’t good.

Ireland’s piece is here (h/t Lowetide). We’ll start with the more surprising and more disappointing news.

Sutton: “I may have played my last game “

Sutton, who talks in the piece about how he had planned to retire last year but stuck with it because he enjoyed himself so much in Edmonton, had surgery a little over three weeks ago to correct a knee problem that came up over the summer. Now he’s looking at a second surgery, and Ireland quotes him as displaying something other than confidence:

I was going to retire after last season. I’d had a good long career, especially for a guy who was never drafted, but I enjoyed myself so much in Edmonton I decided to sign on for another year. I am usually a pretty quick healer, but I have a pretty long road ahead. I had trained so hard and was in such good shape. But this is another thing I have to deal with. I may have played my last game last year and not even known it. This injury has really beat me up. I had trained so hard and was in such good shape, probably the best shape of my life. I had never felt better. You think of your farewell and how you’re going to do it ... and now all that has changed for me.

It will be unfortunate if this latest injury, as seems likely, forces Sutton into retirement. The Oilers had the option to move Sutton at the trade deadline last year, but chose not to – not only was Sutton playing quite well, but reportedly the Oilers also highly valued his off-ice presence on the young team.

As I understand it, because Sutton signed just a one-year deal, the Oilers don’t need to worry about his cap hit sticking if he’s unable to play when NHL hockey resumes. A side effect of a serious injury would be to create space on the Oilers’ crowded back end, and buy some time for both Corey Potter and Theo Peckham to show that they have an Oilers future.

Nikolai Khabibulin injured once again

There’s less detail on Nikolai Khabibulin’s injury; Ireland describes it as “lingering hip/groin issues” from last season. Presumably these are the same lingering hip/groin issues that plagued Khabibulin before he even signed his current four-year contract with the Oilers.

Will he retire? The Oilers would be in decent shape if he did – Yann Danis should be able to provide comparable (if not superior) goaltending, while Tyler Bunz and Olivier Roy would seem to be a serviceable AHL tandem. The Oilers, with a pair of good prospects between the pipes and the lessons of years past fresh in mind, seem to have learned that depth between the pipes is something well worth cultivating.

But there’s no reason to expect retirement from Khabibulin based on the description of his injury. More likely, he’ll just provide more of what has been the norm the last few years: lots of time missed, and below-average performances when he does play.

Elsewhere...

Meanwhile, among those guys currently playing, AHL forward Josh Green is on the shelf with a rib injury and is currently probably best described as week-to-week. More concerning for Oilers fans will be the fact that Ryan Nugent-Hopkins left last night's game early in the second period after taking a stick to the face and did not return. From the sounds of it, he may not play Sunday, but so far it's only been reported as a dental injury, which is painful and unfortunate for him but shouldn't have any lasting ramifications to his health as a hockey player 

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Jonathan Willis is a freelance writer. He currently works for Oilers Nation, Sportsnet and Bleacher Report. He's co-written three books and worked for myriad websites, including the Edmonton Journal, Grantland, ESPN, The Score, and Hockey Prospectus. He was previously the founder and managing editor of Copper & Blue.