Three’s a crowd

“I can’t think of too many teams who’ve had better goaltending than Mathieu’s given us. We’re going to manage it so the No. 1 gets 50 to 60 games and the other guys will pick up the remaining games.”

Pardon?

Correct me if I’m over-reacting here, but do you find this quote from Oilers coach Craig MacTavish in today’s Journal as jarring as I do? Mathieu Garon could play as few as 50 games as MacTavish’s starter this season? Fifty?

After two straight seasons out of the playoffs, how many potential points is MacTavish leaving on the table—how many can he afford to leave on the table—if he means what he says?

So Garon, who is 3–0 and has a .941 saves percentage as the Oilers face Chicago tonight, could be manning the gate or sitting in the press box for as many as 32 games while either Dwayne Roloson, who’ll probably start against the Blackhawks, or Jeff Drouin-Deslauriers work the crease?

That doesn’t make a lot of sense to me—NONE, actually—unless you don’t see the same drop-off from Garon to Roloson or Drouin-Deslauriers as I do. I’ve never seen a situation with three goaltenders work. I’ve never liked it. And I like it even less today if MacTavish means what he says.

Doesn’t add up

The bottom line for me is that Garon gives the Oilers the best chance to win. It’s as simple as that. He’s MacTavish’s best goaltender, and by a fair margin—unless I’m a sucker for statistics.

Garon, 30, played 47 games for the Oilers last season and would have played a minimum of 55 had he not missed 11 games with an ankle sprain. He went 26-18-1 with a 2.66 goals-against average and a saves-percentage of .913. He was 10–0 in shootouts.

Roloson, 39, did a fine job filling in at the end of the season when Garon was hurt and finished with decent numbers: he played in 43 games and went 15-17-5 with a 3.05 GAA and .901 saves percentage. Like I said, decent numbers, but not Garon’s numbers.

Drouin-Deslauriers, 24, has exactly one NHL start on his resume—a 4–3 win over the Calgary Flames last Friday. He’s the stopper of the future. At least the Oilers hope he is.

Gimme ten

I get it that until the Oilers can find a way to jettison Roloson and his contract, they want to reward him for being a good pro and keeping his mouth shut while Garon carries the mail.

I get it that if Drouin-Deslauriers is going to be get a crack at being number one down the road, he’s got to play some this season. He can’t sit on the bench or in the press box every night.

The way I see it, though, is that playing Garon in anything less than 60 games is not only under-utilizing him, but leaving points on the table. I think he could and should, if he’s healthy, play as many as 70.

Garon’s NHL high for appearances is 63, with Los Angeles in 2005–06, but I have no doubt whatsoever, given that he’s one of the fittest players on Edmonton’s roster, that he could play 70 games if asked to. Somewhere around 65 sounds about right.

As it stands, I like the projections MacTavish made today for games played even less than I like having three goaltenders around.

—Listen to Robin Brownlee every Thursday from 4 to 6pm on Just A Game with Jason Gregor on Team 1260.

  • RobinB

    Anthony: I don't think Garon was giving me a safe answer, as players often do, because the conversation took place in the first month of last season before he'd even taken the starting job from Roloson. We were basically just shooting the breeze — it wasn't an interview.

    I'm just taking MacTavish at face value for what he said and what he said was 50-60 games. I see 50 as too low. I think it should be based on how Garon handles the workload and performs. Ride him as long as he's sharp and isn't showing signs of wearing down. You don't have to take Garon's word for it — his performance will dictate.

    If the Oilers had lots of margin to work with in the sense that they could maybe give up some points because they saw it in their long-term interest to get Drouin-Deslauriers as many games as possible as soon as possible, I might feel differently. But they aren't a 105-point team with that luxury.

  • DJ Spyn Cycle

    Fiveandagame: There are better ways to get your point across than acting like a jack-hole and resorting to petty cheap shots to a guy you don't even know. Stow that shit or I'll delete all your subsequent comments.

    It's fairly telling that all the other commenters engaged in real debate, and you just acted the fool. Pull your head out of your ass.

    And this goes for everyone: we don't take kindly to trolls around here. You're welcome to disagree 'til your head explodes but keep it constructive or don't bother coming back.

  • Rick

    Is it possible that MacT was picturing his team as being comfortably in the top 8 all year when he was thinking through his plan?

    If you look at it from that perspective then having Garon only play 50-60 games heading into the playoffs is a decent plan.

    You look at guys like Kipper that get rode hard down the stretch and then look burnt out when the post season starts.

    Obviously the perspective changes if the Oilers are trying to climb their way into the playoffs down the stretch like they normally find themselves but it isn't like MacT hasn't shown the willingness to change strategy's part way through if he feels it will give him a better chance. Rollie giving way to Garon as the #1 last year being a decent example.

  • RobinB

    Rick: Good points.

    While Garon played just 47 games last season, he could've easily hit the 60-game mark for the second time in three years. Based on performance, he deserved more games in the first half of the season, but MacT gave Roloson every chance — too many, in my opinion — to hold on to the No. 1 job even though Garon was clearly better. Then, Garon was knocked out of commission by the ankle sprain in the last 11 games.

    I'm not saying Garon is 70-plus game guy, because that's a rare bird, but he's darn sure more than a 50-game guy. Again, let performance dictate.

  • swany

    If they keep his work load down, but he still has great results could this keep his upcomming contract down? 50 game guy= 3.5-4 mil as compared to 70 game guy 5.5-6 mil a year

  • Performance in the regular season doesn't indicate "burnouts" in the playoffs. Happens every year. Not playing enough doesn't prove that you'll be ready, either.

    Roloson rarely played and he was great in 2005-06. Same with Cam Ward. Tommy Salo played a heckload of games with amazing stats for a mid-range team from 99-02 but that translated into little or no playoff success.

    Perforance dicates whether a goalie should play, yes, because he would have earned it. I also think Garon could play 60 games or more, and it would be great for me since he's in my pool. 😀

    But the thing is, if MacT has decided it's better for the team to get Garon 50-60 games instead of 60+ there must be a valid reason, as suggested:

    a) involving the other 2 goalies (and considerations regarding whether Roloson is being eyeballed by other teams' scouts)
    b) involving Garon's workload and ability or inability to handle it (and the implications on whether this translates to playoff success or lack thereof)

    Again, Tommy Salo did play 73 of 82 games in 2000-01. Should he have? Garon can play 60+ games in 2008-09, but she he do it?

  • Mark-Ryan

    Mountain out of a molehill. If MacTavish gets capable goaltending from Delauriers and/or Roloson, he'll likely give them games. I see no problem with it if it benefits the team.

    If he doesn't, he'll ride Garon. He's the type to go with the hot hand.

  • RobinB

    Mark-Ryan: Mountain out of a molehill my eye.
    If MacT wanted to go with the hot hand tonight against Chicago, I'd think 3-0 with a .941 saves-percentage would qualify.
    I'm not sure Garon wins that game, either, given the Oilers feeble effort offensively, but this "need" to play Roloson or Drouin-Deslauriers, particularly this early in the season when fatigue isn't a factor, doesn't wash with me.

  • jdrevenge

    Robin: The flip side of that is hes posturing for later in the year. Preventative measures so that Garon isn't tired.

    I really don't think the Oilers will be able to afford to only play Garon 50 games this year and we'll see that down the stretch. Mac's been afforded the luxury that the club won the first four so he can say whatever he wants. Now that we've lost one with Roli in nets maybe his tune changes. You're right, Garon is the goalie and he should get hte majority of games. No feeling out process this year.

    The Gm meetings are this weekend right? Maybe they'll flip Roli back to Minny for Gabs……please?!

  • Ender the Dragon

    outKast Says:
    October 21st, 2008 at 9:44 pm
    ST PAUL, MN – Marian Gaborik’s days as a member of the Minnesota Wild could be ending sooner rather than later.

    An unnamed NHL team executive told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune this week that Wild general manager Doug Risebrough has been actively shopping the star forward around the league and offered Gaborik to his team in a trade over the weekend.

    According to the paper, the executive said he was not interested. “When you have guys like Erik Cole and Dustin Penner, you really don’t have a need for a 40 goal speedster anymore.”

    Gaborik, who has a history of abdominal and leg injuries, has missed the past two games because of a lower body injury. The executive responded, “Oh, we have a lot of experience with injuries. But yeah, stop asking. We’re not interested. We have Penner.”

    The young forward, who makes $7.5 million this season, could be tough to move this early in the campaign. “I mean, if they really insist, perhaps we could trade them Penner, Roloson, Schremp, Chorney, 1st round pick, but i i’m just throwing it out there. We’re still completely uninterested.”

    Minneapolis Star-Tribune

    Ender the Dragon Says:
    outKast, don't be a screw-up. If you're going to quote a legitimate news story, then quote it; don't stick in your own comments and make it look like it's something that it's not.

    If you want to add additional comments afterward, please feel free to do so, but have the decency to identify your own thoughts.

  • Fiveandagame

    Robin-

    I apologize if my comment in any way was viewed as anything more than playful poking (as it was intended)

    A troll I am not and nor do I condone troll like activities.

    In future I will leave the sarcasm and tomfoolery for Wayne's posts.

    back to the topic of your blog.

    The three goalie situation is not good. But each goalie has to get some games. If a goalie is to be moved either to the minors or to another team they'll need games.

    I think you'll see a larger portion of games divided between JDD and Roli early in the year so that Lowe and company can make a decision sooner rather than later as to the fates of both Roli, JDD and even Garon who is in a contract year.