“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.”
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.
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.