Nikolai Khabibulin simply doesn't get enough love in Chicago to survive an expected purge in the next few weeks.
So, Nik, apparently it's time to bid you good night and good luck. Unofficially, Khabibulin is out the door by all appearances and his countless detractors won't mind at all if it kicks him in the ass on the way. Even if that reaggravates the groin injury that led to his early exit from the Detroit series.
The free agent goaltender was losing roughly 67 to 33 per cent at last check in a Tribune poll asking if Blackhawks fans would settle for Cristobal Huet next season over Khabibulin, who is widely not expected to be re-signed. This is one Russian not faring well in a democracy.
Second City Hockey, a blog site, has started breaking down key performances for the season by leading off with an even-handed, but generally negative review of Khabibulin's overall output, highlighting what the blog considers a disappointing postseason for him even after helping the Hawks past Calgary and Vancouver to gain the conference finals.
With Blackhawks organizational meetings beginning today in Chicago, you suspect that the reviews for Khabibulin won't be markedly different from Second City Hockey. Today should be the beginning of the end of Khabibulin's generally underachieving time in Chicago.
That chill you feel off the lake isn't just a Canadian front moving down, it's Khabibulin getting the cold shoulder. Detroit's Daniel Cleary put a couple goals past Khabibulin in the conference finals that still have distraught Hawks fans reaching for a shot and a beer at the memories of a dream being stripped away.
"Mostly what were bad were the playoffs,'' the Second City Hockey review determined about Khabibulin this year. "Though Khabby deserved the nod when Game 1 against Calgary rolled around, only his first period in that game, Game 6 against the Flames and the second period in Game 1 against the Wings were anything to get excited about. Aside from that, he was only slightly better than ordinary."
At a 2008-09 salary of $6.75 million, the Hawks braintrust can't appear to justify bringing back Khabibulin for slightly better than ordinary and setting up a shared role in net with Huet. There has been some noises made about that as a possibility, but it seems a flawed idea with too much money focused on one position.
Second City Hockey spotlighted some goals-against average and save percentage statistics at even-strength that cast Khabibulin in a favorable way. Based on quality shots, Khabibulin fared well. But in the glass half full category, he came up empty in the critique.
"Khabby proved what we always thought he was, a goaltender who would flourish when not asked to shoulder a heavy load," the blog concluded.
The insinuation was made that Khabibulin even played as well as he did during a limited 42 games during the season because he was in a contract year. That's always an insult to any professional player worth his salt, even though it's also sometimes right on the mark.
Quite a few people seem to believe Khabibulin doesn't possess enough character or an inner flame that would allow him to be the goalie that helps the Hawks to the next level.
So the next time Hawks fans get a look at Khabibulin, he probably will be in the opposing net at the United Center. And he will probably be inspired to return some of those stones directed his way as he leaves town.
But many Hawks fans will risk losing a game to Khabibulin in the short term rather than letting the whole season slip from his grasp.