Roster Change Priority: Find A Goalie


The number one job for Peter Chiarelli with regards to his roster, now that he’s taken
over Hockey Ops in a historic coup, is going to be finding a new goaltender.
That job is ahead of finding “Heavy” players. It’s ahead of fixing the giant
mess on defense left behind by MacTavish. As bad as the defense is/was, the
goaltending was that much worse and is by far Hockey’s most important position.
If you don’t believe me then ask the Minnesota Wild or the Montreal Canadiens
their thoughts on the matter.

Edmonton, as we all know by now (or should), finished the
league dead last in 5v5 save percentage and 27th in 4v5 shorthanded save
percentage. In overall save percentage Ben Scrivens and Viktor Fasth were 46th
and 47th out of 47 goalies who played at least 1250 minutes this
year. It was a complete failure at the team’s most critical position. The
goaltending coach was fired. The head coach was fired. The team changed systems
(slight tweaks really but still different). The results were the same.

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It’s still a contentious issue but I don’t believe that the
defense can make such an impact on a goaltender that he can go from .915+ down
to .890 or thereabouts. The evidence doesn’t support such claims. I’m not going
to try to change anybody’s mind on that right now but perhaps we can at least
agree that if the Oilers hire McLellan or someone of his caliber that we can
count on the Oilers being better defensively than they were before.

I think that’s a fair compromise for everyone on either side
of that argument. If Todd McLellan or, McDavid willing, Mike Babcock can’t get
the Oilers playing a better brand of hockey, then who can?

Last year the Oilers allowed 2008 shots at 5v5 which was 24th
in the NHL for shots against at even strength (wedged between the Blackhawks
and the Senators). They “earned” the 30th ranked save percentage at
.9019 and gave up a total of 197 goals against. Side note: the 29th
ranked team in 5v5 goals against gave up just 174 goals against 5v5.

So to reiterate, that’s:

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2008 SA – .9019 SV% – 197 GA

Had the team received the 16th ranked save
percentage of .9237 then the Oilers would have allowed just 153 goals against.
We’re not talking about having Carey Price or Devan Dubnyk numbers, just middle
of the road. If they got even that much the team could have cut down on 44
goals against when the skaters were even.

Last year the Oilers spent the sixth LEAST amount
of time on the 4v5 shorthanded with almost 360 minutes played. They allowed the
ninth MOST amount of goals with 47. They allowed only 307 shots
against them, tenth least in NHL, and yet the goaltenders had the 27th
ranked 4v5 save percentage (.8469). The penalty killers were doing a pretty
good job of limiting shots and chances but the goaltender wasn’t making the

So to reiterate that’s:

307 SA – .8649 – 47 GA

Again, had the team received just the 16th ranked
save percentage performance from its netminders then they would have been at
.8765 and have allowed nine fewer goals against shorthanded with 38 goals against.

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In total the Oilers could have cut out 53 goals against them
in just two game states by getting just less than median NHL goaltending. We’re
talking about more than half a goal per game against already by being average.

If Chiarelli can do better than find an average starting
goaltender then the Oilers are set up to cut even more out of their game.

I know there’s this nonsensical idea that the Oilers are
still years away from winning (because…reasons), but finding the right starter will help bypass
that notion. How many “years away from winning” were the Flames before the
season started? The NHL is a league of parity and the Oilers have been three years
away from winning for six years now.


A key acquisition between the pipes can completely change
the outlook of the team.

One of the players that has been rumoured to be on Edmonton’s
wishlist is Cam Talbot. He’s played 57 games over the last two years, which is
more than Scrivens played in the three years prior to Edmonton picking him up and more than LA backup Martin Jones has played in the last 2 years. The
mental snag to get over is that the Rangers have been a good team over that
period of time and nobody feels comfortable poaching a good but unproven goalie
from a good team after being burned by Scrivens.

Still, over the last two years (his entire NHL career) he has
posted a .9343 save percentage playing 5v5 and an unbelievable .9286 save
percentage playing 4v5 shorthanded. Both numbers are higher than Henrik Lundqvist
albeit in fewer total minutes played.

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Both sets of numbers are significantly higher than the
Median numbers referred to earlier in the article.

Using the shots against by the Oilers and his save
percentages over his entire NHL career we’re talking about a massive upgrade over what the team was getting this year. Those numbers over the course of say 55-65 games (that we would expect a 1G to start) represent a massive cut to the number of goals against.

Talbot’s save percentages are very good so we might assume that his numbers will come down a bit.
That’s still a massive swing by changing out just a single position and not
taking into account any other upgrades to the defense or playing style due to
the actions of the new GM and new coach (whomever that may be).

There’s no guarantee of anything though. The Oilers could take a gamble on a guy like Talbot or Martin Jones who has good (better than what Scrivens provided, worse than what Talbot provided) numbers but limited games and it could all come up snake eyes again. 

Alternatively the team could settle for a more established player like Antti Niemi who has been around long enough that he’s established himself as a legitimate starter but a very average one. He has a career .916 save percentage but has only ever had two seasons at .920 or higher. He’s a relatively consistent performer although his last two years have been far from his best. 

Looking at just these last two seasons his 5v5 save percentage has been .9199 over 125 games and his 4v5 shorthanded save percentage had been .8622, which are both below average compared to his peers. Nonetheless, they would be an upgrade in Edmonton’s net.

Personally, I don’t mind a relatively unproven player like Talbot. He has played more minutes than Jones at the NHL level and performed well. He’s not particularly old, and it’s reasonable to assume that the Oilers could acquire him without having to give up anything overly significant. Let’s say, the 16th pick in the upcoming draft at the high end. Fortune favours the Bold, as they say, and I think trying to find a good starter is preferable to settling for someone like Niemi just because he’s an established “starter”. In all likelihood the team will regret an Antti Niemi 3 year contract for about 2.5 years. 

The team can address the one thing that cost them the most wins by finding a single player. A competent starter and an average season from Ben Scrivens can cut out 50+ goals against alone. The team seems incredibly far away from winning but it’s hard to ignore how quickly things can turn around if they find a goaltender. It has to be the primary item on Peter Chiarelli’s to-do list with this roster.

All numbers via

  • T.J.F.M.

    Patrick Roy or Martin Brodeur, in their prime, could not supply the kind of goaltending required to make up for the entire D-corp we have. An overhaul of the Defense is needed, along with a capable starter goaltender, for us to improve this year.

      • STR8 SHOOTER

        It’s contended to illustrate that goaltending might not be the problem. Brodeur in his prime wouldn’t get you better results behind these pylons than Scrivens in his prime is. The problem is the defence and the quality of shot that the Oilers tend to give up. Fix that, then determine whether or not you need an upgrade in net. Chierelli could go out and trade for Carey Price and we’d all have a great summer, but then the season would start just like last season and the season before and we’d get pundits on Oilersnation talking about how we need to improve the goaltending. It’s ridiculous.

          • ubermiguel

            That’s a false dilemma. Your entire article seems to be premised on the idea that save % is an individual goalie stat but some people (such as J and myself) disagree. The real question is how much of save % is effected by the goalie and how much by the team defence.

            Edit: My ultimate concern is over-paying for another average goalie with minimal return because the defence is still lousy.

          • freelancer

            IT’s a very tough question, and one that there really isn’t an exact science to solving. At the end of the day the goalie needs to stop the puck. If you look at Shots allowed per game, Montreal, Chicago, Ottawa all allowed more shots per game (Buffalo, Columbus, Colorado, Toronto, New Jersey and Philly are in there as well).

            So playoff calibre teams were allowing more shots, yet allowed fewer goals. Now of course, quality of shot will definitely play a part as well but the bottom line is our goalies haven’t been good enough.

            I agree however that we don’t need to break the bank and acquire a top 5 goalie in the league. Our D desperately needs to be upgraded and a true top pairing found. But at the end of the day Scrivens would have a lower SV% behind Weber than Rinne.

          • Johnnydapunk

            While that is over simplifying it, I do think goaltending is much less valuable than it used to be. All goalies play a simile style now. Get in the proper position, butterfly, and take up most of the net. Play the percentages. So I think there are plenty of goalies who will put up a .920 save percentage behind the proper defense. Dubnyk is a perfect example. Therefore, Dmen are more important.

          • Ready to Win

            Actually, in a lot of circumstances yes. A defence that gives up 2 on 1s and 2 on 0s all game neutralises any advantage that their goalie brings to the table. That D also erodes the mental state of that goalie and he starts games off in a hole mentally. Foster an environment where a goalie can succeed (Minny seems to have a different starter every season and they’re always effective)and then judge the guy on the blue ice.

          • Problem with that argument is that it doesn’t relate to the oilers. According to WOI the oilers gave up similar amounts of high quality scoring chances/game as Chicago and MTL. Ie shots from the slot, 2 on 1s, 3 on 1s, breakaways, shots from in tight near the crease etc… A great goalie will make a massive difference, even if the D remain terrible.

      • T.J.F.M.

        I agreed that we need a competent goaltender. But we can bring in the best goaltender in the world and it wont solve all of our problems this season. Without upgrading the defense, the goaltender will digress no matter his reputation or previous statistics. You think Niemi can come into this team and take us to the playoffs?

        Its not the amount of shots that we worry about, its the quality of shots, and our D sucks at keeping the shots to the outside. And until they bring in the right mix that can sustain other teams top talent, we will continue to struggle.

        Im not sure why you debate that.

        A goaltender is important, but a true top pairing NHL calibre defense is far more important.

        Ever notice how a solid D can make an adequate goaltender look good?

          • T.J.F.M.

            There will always be exceptions to the rule.

            But we can use a similar argument for our team (although I do not agree, its merely an example to make a point), that the Oilers have pretty much had consistently terrible Defence for years, and we bring in goaltenders that have succeeded from other organizations and they fall apart once they come here. Khabby, Bryz, Scrivens, Fasth… they were all pretty good. Were they the right ones for this team, NO.

            We need goaltending, I am not arguing that. But I bet a goaltender like Scrivens could surely play a lot better if he had a stable D corp in front of him.

            Its not an exact science. But our pathetic season does not solely rest on the shoulders of Scrivens.

            But then again, maybe im wrong.

        • According to WOI the oilers give up similar amounts of high quality shots/game as CHI and MTL.
          The D is bad, but the goalie is the bigger problem.

          to quote frjohnk:
          If you’re ranking defences simply by how often they give up high quality chances against
          then Chicago’s team defence is just a smidgeon better than the Oilers’ (when they had Petry) as Edmonton’s team defence is ranked 22nd. (To think that there are 8 worse teams than Edmonton when it comes to tire fire defense is hilarious, buts its true.)

          Because of crappy goaltending, Oilers are at the bottom when it comes to GAA.

  • Ready to Win

    Rights to schultz and the Pittsburgh pick to Chicago for Crawford and sign one of Mike green or Paul Martin. I think that would be a great way to go.

  • CaliforniaOil

    Okay how about this for a plan of action,

    Scrivens plus a third( maybe the montreal pick) to NYR for Talbot plus a 4th

    Then July first sign Niemi or Neuvirth, preferably Niemi but who ever takes the money truck Sneaky Pete, good nickname?, pulls up to their house

    Go after Mike Green and Paul Martin, while trading Jultz somewhere for a mid range prospect

    • That trade will be laughed out in New York minute. Maybe you should start writing along side Haggerty. No way NY lets talbot go for less than our # 16 pick. And to me he is a gamble. Unproven as a starter but at this point I would take the risk.

      • CaliforniaOil

        How is that trade unrealistic and laughable?

        Scrivens has proven a stellar backup option in his LA days but we now know that he struggles under the starter load. Talbot is also unproven, as you said, but we can see that he has starter potential, so there is an issue they have King Henrik who isn’t going anywhere soon so they have time to continue developing Skapsi and who ever else they have in their system. A 3rd round pick plus Scriven makes sense for Sather, who needs to refill his prospect pool.

        Talbot is a safe bet to make when you have the potential signing of a Niemi,or a Neuvirth, plus the option of wrangling in a Matt O’Connor.

        I can see it a long shot but don’t slander a dreamer to the level of Haggerty, like come on its not THAT bad

        • The Ever Disappointed Oil Faithful

          I agree that the Haggerty comment was a little harsh. Apologies. However Talbot has a tremendous upside. Scrivens, while a capable back up has pretty much shown exactly what he is, a mediocre starting goalie in the NHL. I find it very hard to believe that Slats would part with Talbot for anything approaching what you suggested, but it is hockey and strange things happen. I am of the belief that all this talk of a goalie being the our most pressing hole to fill is bollocks. We need an actual NHL calibre defence and until that happens Edmonton is a goalie graveyard. I personally believe PC will trade Hall for a top flight Dman. It’s a shame too if it happens cause could you imagine Hall and McDavid together on a line? It would be pretty special.

  • Let’s assume we get an adequate starter on a 2,3,4 yr contract. I’m not convinced Scrivens deserves to even play backup, considering the last year’s performance. Just pay him to wash puck scuffs off of the new guy’s pads.

    Is there harm in culturing Brossoit right here as backup considering his great play at year end? Does he really need to get ‘ready’ facing non-premium opposition in the AHL?? Why not leap frog his development ahead, and have him apprentice under a premium starter for a few years, so we’re ready when our new/old goalie is ready to pack it in?

    Please comment, I’m all ears!

    • freelancer

      Remember when Scrivens had that record breaking gaem against the Sharks last season (I think it was 59 saves or something like that). You CANNOT judge a goaltender by small sample sizes. Brossoit played one game. One. He’s 22. He had a great season with the Baron’s. Let’s maybe let him have at least another season in the AHL where he can play 55+ games instead of rushing him to play maybe 25 as an NHL backup.

      • Agree completely, you can’t judge Broissoit on one game – that’s a given. But you can observe that he didn’t look uncomfortable.

        I’m contending that playing 25 (maybe) games as NHL Backup (read: not starter) is better development than a full starter season in the AHL. Hence, when he’s 25’ish we can promote him to starter.

        What’s the measurement of AHL goalie readiness?

        • freelancer

          I understand your point, just disagree with it. The AHL is still a very good league, one of the biggest differences I would say is become the players aren’t as experienced they play with more open ice. The defencemen you see aren’t able to close lanes the same way they can in the NHL, resulting in higher quality of shots getting through.

          Bottom line. As a young goalie, you want to get as many starts as you can. Management will talk to Brossoit, his coach will get him to work on things that he would need at the NHL level. Look at Darnell Nurse, he was obviously frustrated with not being able to make the jump to the NHl but since then has praised his coach for being tough on him and teaching him the skills he will need at the NHL level.

          Brossoit isn’t going to come in at 23 and be a miracle worker, how many goalies have done that?

      • mithaman

        What if Brossoit wins The AHL Calder cup this spring with the Barons?? Then will your thoughts change knowing he is a WHL Champion, AHL Champion and very much wanting to Be a NHL CHAMPION?? 🙂

        • freelancer

          Nope. He’s still a 22 year old goaltender who should be allowed to develop before getting his shot at the NHL. Let’s focus on acquiring a veteran goaltender instead of hoping a kid can do it.

  • CaliforniaOil

    I like Talbot, especially because the Rangers are cap crunched. But the team did just extend him and 1.450 cap hit is not going to save them enough to give big raises to Haglin and Stepan. As such, I think that would require something of the block buster variety. But even a trade involving Hall and the Pens 1st for like McDounagh and Talbot, that actually does nothing cap wise for that team.

    That is why I think it’s weird Crawford’s name was not mentioned. Both Darling and Raanta have shown they could probably get it done. Darling is dirt cheap for the next 3 years as is Raanta. Crawford will have a hit of 6 until 2019. It’s a pretty big cap hit to take on a goalie, and for a good amount of time. But that’s why I think it would be attractive to Chicago to trade him. They need relief in a bad way, and have Oduya, Roszival, Timonen, Carcirillo, and Richards hitting UFA, with Saad and Rundblad in line for big raises, plus the twin 11 mill pillars kicking in all next year. That is a crazy shopping list. That GM will need all the money he can get.

    What does anyone or everyone think about Crawford? I think he could be had for picks and prospects simply because they need to shed cap. Also, Chirelli knows a thing or two about deals where they need to shed cap. His cap hit is pretty pricey, so there wouldn’t be tons of money left over for defence. However, I think there are a few defenders who devalued themselves a bit this year, like Franson and Erhoff.

  • 916oiler

    All of the following should be explored by Chia as starters

    Brian Elliot
    Jimmy Howard
    Craig Anderson

    Laurent Broissoit should be our “Back Up” next year

    Scribbles and Matt O’Connor in the AHL

  • Craig1981

    I’m not sold on Scrivens but I don’t think he’s as bad as he appears visually and on the stat sheet, though he did look like a fish out of water that last game.

    I think an upgrade of attitude, team defense, defensemen and the heavy stick thing will all equate to at least an average save percentage.

    Perron and Scrivens want to win. They were willing to work to do it. I think the Jultzing and satisfaction of mediocrity (if you can call it that) throughout the team tends to drag these types of players down.

    There will be an improvement on save percentage next season whether or not Scrivens is our starter.

  • Serious Gord

    I think the goalie issue and how to approach it really reveals what a mess Mact/Klowe have made.

    What does a average to above average solid starting goalie with a proven track record cost? 5mill? 6 mill? For three or more years?

    That money and term have to fit under the cap. So the oil either have to have the room to add one or they have to trade assets that cost about the same.

    And that’s when it becomes obvious that he oil are paying far too much for 3/4 line players. They simply haven’t the cap space. Scotty bowman said that that is where teams have to find the bargains and thus cap room to buy or maintain first/second line players.

    And Mact/Klowe bought old,declining players at far too high a price. Somehow these players – some of whom may be held in some positive regard by fans – have to be jettisoned for as little salary eating as possible.

    Chiarelli is going to have to make some unpopular moves to fix the bottom half of the Roster cost. It will be interesting to see how he is regarded when he acts.

  • freelancer

    Craig Anderson or Talbot. Stay away from Niemi. And it looks like O’Conner might be favoring Canucks, so any deals Chiarelli does with Boston, I hope Subban is included.

      • Mac07

        He has narrowed his list to Rangers, Senators, Oilers and Canucks. Except for Oilers, the other three have goaltending. And I don’t want a rookie and Scrivens here, so he starts in the minors no matter what. Unless Maybe a trade opens up a spot. the O’Conner starts as back up. But that won’t be Oilers.

  • freelancer

    Anderson from Ottawa or Howard from Detroit should be much more appealing to edmonton in comparison to overpaying Neimi or trading for another inexperienced goalie in Talbot.

  • ubermiguel

    What about Holtby? I believe he’s a UFA this summer – he posts above average numbers and he’s close to a local boy (Lloydminster).

    It would be nice to use the Pens pick on a dman trade rather than a goalie – if we can sign a ufa and it doesn’t cost us any assets.

  • 5 Cups

    Yet another great read from Henderson. Thanks.

    I personally think that letting go of Dubnyk after 1 terrible year is MacT’s biggest mistake for the long term outlook of this team. Bigger than Nikitin mistake and bigger than Eakins mistake.

    He was a 1st round pick, developed by the Oilers, had 3 really good years, but one bad year and he is cut lose.

    Dubnyk has shown this year that last year was a one off and now has 4 quality years as starter (over 0.916) out of 5.

    I sure hope that Chia can find a Dubnyk for next year. But I doubt a goalie of his caliber will be available.

  • Ever the Optimist

    I very much agree that cutting down goals against is the way to look at improving. In terms of goal I think it would be a good idea to start fresh with an established vet and then platoon with a kid that has a good shotat becoming the future number one

    1. Anderson has had alot of rumours around him and ottawa needs scoring from the wings. Andersons contract is good with 3 years on it and is setup up with regards to his age with a lower salary in year three .
    Scrivens with Purcell for Anderson

    2. Take the 2016 first with a prospect and shop for that talented kid like Talbot.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I personally believe first priority should be solving this pathetic defensive core in front of these poor goaltenders.

    Once the defense is at least NHL caliber then we can start evalutaing goaltending. I mean look what happened when Dubnyk went to a solid defensive team in Minny…

    It hard to read how good a goaltender is when you have Edmontons D in front of them.

  • freelancer

    Like you said we got burned by Scrivens. I would be very hesitant to sign Tabot as a starter. In a perfect world you bring Talbot in as a backup and a guy like Niemi as your starter. What are your thoughts on Anderson Henderson?

      • Great article, Arch.

        “It’s still a contentious issue but I don’t believe that the defense can make such an impact on a goaltender that he can go from .915+ down to .890 or thereabouts.”

        Isn’t that exactly what happened to Dubnyk? Defense/coaching. Every goalie under Eakins was horrible, and quickly dipped below their historical averages by a considerable margin.

        Took Dubnyk a couple of seasons to work himself out of it, be interesting to see what happens to Fasth and Scrivens if they both go. My guess is exactly the same thing.

  • CaliforniaOil

    I wouldn’t say that we got great goal-tending, or that every goalie is equal in terms of skill, but when every goalie that has come here in recent memory has seen a significant drop off in save percentage, and a good number have seen a boost after they leave, I think there’s more to it than strictly the goalie skill. Quality of chances plays a definite role, and that comes down to defense. Good chances go in far more often than shots from the perimeter, yet they all count the same on the score sheet.

    There is also a significant amount of hand waving surrounding goalies and their confidence. Look at Dubnyk, who’s shattered confidence almost cost him his career. A little more hand waving, and he is in the Vezina conversation. Confidence comes from making saves. Saves come on shots that can be seen and handled easily. Nothing ruins confidence more than giving up a lot of goals. When you are seeing 5 star chances instead of 2 or 3 star chances, you are going to give up more goals, and your confidence drops. It’s an extremely difficult cycle to break.

    Now, I’m not saying that the goal-tending that we have gotten in recent memory has been up to snuff, I’m saying that there’s more to it that just simply save percentage.