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

  • Craig1981

    I worry about giving up too much for a goalie that is a back-up and was undrafted or a late pick.

    I know people will always reference Lindquist, or Rinnie as why you don’t take goalies high, but look at Price, Schneider, Dub, Quick, Rask, Luongo and so on as goalies taken in the early rounds. The argument for draft position not mattering for goalies could also be made for forwards by referencing Benn, Gaudreau, or St. Louis.

    Sure you can ‘hit’ with a Scrivens or a Fasth, but your odds of failing go way up later in rounds. So if the 33rd or even the 16th goes, I want someone with pedigree (Subban, Gibons, Vasilevski)

  • CMG30

    Defense is the problem when you look at a goal and say, “Well, he had no chance on that one.”

    The Goalie is the problem when you look at a goal and say, “Wow, I bet he’d like to have that one back.”

    Even without the defenses ‘help’ there’s been far to many suspect goal in Oil country over the past few years.

    • I agree with you 100%.
      We can blame the D all we want (and they deserve lots), but at the end of the day the goalies job is to stop pucks plain and simple. They absolutely need to be able to do that.
      In the playoffs so far look no further than Hiller, Price, Hammond, Anderson etc… They all stop pucks.
      The D has a responsibility to limit the quality and number of shots taken but shots will get through. When they do the goalie needs to be able to do his job and the Oils goalies are not that top quality consistently dependable duo we can rely on.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    One would have to think that an upgrade to a avg goaltending duo + McDavid would start to show improvement in the standings. The problem would still remain ” can we get better d men to take the puck away from the other team and into our FWDs capable hands”. Let’s assume Nurse makes the squad. Better overall DMan than most current oilers, but inexperienced at this level and will make mistakes. Probably not CURRENTLY an upgrade over say Petry last year. ( different types yes, nurse will be better later. ). Klefbom is coming along and is a better option than whoever the hell started the season last year before he came up, (Davidson, Aulie, etc) Marincin I feel is still a better defensive option than Shultz and Nikitan. Fayne and Ferrence are what they need to be, as long as u don’t need them to be more. I truly believe that nurse, Klefbom, Marincin, Fayne, Ferrence and Schultz are a better top 6 than anything we had last year in 1 game, but it’s still too bottom heavy. If we were to add one ligit top end guy to play with Klefbom or nurse, the other with Fayne, easy minute guys are Marincin and Ferrence. And sign any FA or bring up a guy from the AHL to that 7 spot. Get rid of Shultz and Niki. Then we start to look like a NHL D, but still very inexperienced. I would rather young guys learn from their mistakes, than learn the mistakes that the vets are habitually making. F**KING MCDAVID!!!!!!!

  • R U Kidding Me!

    We may have the 3 best players in the CHL right now in McDavid, Nurse, and Draisaitl.

    The future looks bright. (I can’t believe I’m saying that again) lol!

    • Dwayne Roloson 35

      The things is that last time we had good prospects, we also had no resemblance of an NHL team and had to throw our young guys to the wolves.

      This time we have an NHL team full of stars/potential stars. Bring in in the best prospect we’ve seen in the last 30 years and we have the potential to be a firing squad.

      Obviously there’s glaring holes on defence and the goalie position but Peter’s on it.

  • Strange Tamer

    It is funny that Dubnyk would be the best option as he has the best track record and you don’t have to give up anything. With MacT pushed out he might actually pick up the phone and not laugh hysterically.

    A 16th overall in a deep draft is too much for an unproven goalie. Schnieder was only worth a 10th and he was a proven top ten goalie. Bold moves doesn’t equate to poor asset management.

    At least it seems we are off the Jones train with the new management. With all the MSM floating the idea that giving up a 16th overall pick for the second coming of Scrivens and annointing him our new saviour was going to blow up in our faces.

  • Karth

    Goaltending makes a huge difference.You only need to watch the Flames game to find out. A good goalie can give defensemen and forwards that incremental confidence to pinch a little more or stay in the O-zone for that extra few seconds. That incremental % results in more scoring chances over 82 games. While a below average goalie causes that % to go the other way.

    Goaltenders make coaches. If a coach has won a jack adams lately its been because of goaltending.

    Mammond single handedly got the Sens into the post season with no change on D or systems.

  • Craig1981

    I was really pro Anderson, anti Niemi (hehe get it?). But I looked at the 3x 4.2 for a 34 year old Anderson that we’ll have to surrender assets for and I don’t like it. A similar contract for a 32 year old Niemi that we don’t have to surrender assets for might be better.

    The best case scenario is that we acquire Talbot (or whoever) and he turns out to be a great player for us.

    We really need some defense if we want whoever the new net-minder to succeed. I deffer to Chiarelli.

    • Ever the Optimist

      I like the anderson side if you consider moving purcell for him. Moving that contact would allow for some forwards that are better 2 way players to be signed at UFA time.

      • BillHK

        That wouldn’t be enough for me. Purcell would save us this year, but I’m not worried about Anderson this year. I’m worried about the cap hit next year, and really worried about it in 2017/18. Ottawa is also looking to dump salary right now, so they wouldn’t take Purcell anyway.

        We’ll see what Chiarelli can do this summer. Purcell and Nikitin are not restrictive despite their ridiculous numbers. I hope to see them gone, but they need to be replaced by other veterans, not prospects. If we have to keep them this year, I don’t think it will have much impact on the team.

  • Ar_C

    I’m glad the KLowe/MacT era of aquiring an unproven GM,then unproven coach then goalies etc etc is done.If uncle Bob hadn’t stepped in it would have continued on

  • Keg on Legs

    Any goaler’s save % will go up, as long as his rebounds don’t end up right on the opponents sticks, like I saw this year. Because with that you also have Jultz standing watching the guy shoot the puck in. Scrivens also had alot of trouble with some extra “holes”,like under his arms etc., he also didn’t seem to fight through screens to see the pucks very hard later in the season, almost like he had given up. He made himself look smaller in the process.

  • mithaman


    Totally agree, even average goaltending would make a quantum leap in our competitiveness and goals against. Just look what Halak and Hiller have done for Calgary and NYI. Obviously defense is a huge part of it too but you can’t win when you are getting terrible goaltending.

    I couldn’t disagree more though with your thoughts on trading for Talbot. He’s no different than the Scrivens signing. Unproven goalie, with a limited sample size playing behind an elite defense. Maybe he is a starter, but the key word is maybe.

    We can’t afford to drop the ball on unproven goaltending again. We need a proven starter or a stud. We shouldn’t settle for anything less.

  • SKOilFan

    I agree that we need to leave no stone unturned in the search for a new goalie, however one has to wonder if Scrivens can pull a Devon Dubnik and turn his career around over the summer.

    I think Scrivens can be an excellent back-up to a proven number one. I’d like him to be kept around in that position if for no other reason than Mrs. Scrivens is wonderful and a welcome addition to the city.

  • Johnnydapunk

    I’ve been harping about this a bit much perhaps, but the Oil should sign Sean Burke as their goaltending coach as he seems too have a bit of a touch with goalies.

    While the Oil definitely need a goalie, the priority should be defencemen still. Getting the D men sorted would make the goaltending a lot less of a priority in ways.

    I may also be in the minority here, but I was really impressed with Bachman when he came in near the end of the season, I thought he let in the shots that were expected but saved the ones that were expected(there was the odd exception of course) . Scrivens concerns me as he seems to be all over the map and he just looks out of position all the time and seems to flop around a lot, I guess like Ranford did and he was his goalie coach in LA so maybe it’s not a surprise.

    It still annoys me that the Oil let Hiller pass when they could have had him for free.

    Not sure what the “timeline” is but if it was 2 seasons to success for example, I would sort the defencemen out and perhaps suffering a rain of trashes, roll with Bachman and Scrivens but only if the D is sorted, if they do that then I think they can be a bit patient and see what can be had for a number one goalie. I am not sold on the UFAs currently despite my finnish roots wanting Niemi or to give Tuohimaa a shot just to see if he sinks (Bunz) or swims (Hammond)

    All in all its nice to be excited for the Oil for a change.

    • BillHK

      I like Scrivens as next year’s backup, but he’s a tire fire outside of the crease.

      Goaltending us 90% mental, and they all lose confidence behind crappy D.

      • Johnnydapunk

        I could totally be wrong in this, but I thought Bachman was fine and I’m not a fan of a 2 million dollar backup. If they could trade Scrivens and sign Bachman at a million or even a bit less as I’m sure he would take a pretty small amount for another proper kick at the NHL can, I would do that happily.

        It’s a vicious cycle because it goes back to if the Oil have solid D and a goalie coach that can get the best out of the goalies, I wouldn’t be too stressed about who the Oil have in net, but currently the whole defensive unit including the goalies are a car crash.

        I had a look at the shots against and the Oil were on par with the Habs but the goals against was a difference of one. Actually most of the GAA of teams with similar shots against were around 0.750 to 1 less than the Oil. So they can go one of the 2 routes, one being shore up the defence and have a coach that can create a defensive system that can work making less of a priority on the goalie, or find a lights out keeper and just tinker with the defence. Not sure which path is easier.

        Again just a suggestion, maybe the Oil can go b*lls to the wall and see if Pittsburgh would be willing to offload Fleury as he is at a fairly cap friendly 5.75 million, signed to 2019 and I think the Pens have some cap issues they have to deal with. Their early exit from the playoffs could mean some big changes for them and I think he isn’t terribly popular there right now.

    • Craig1981

      Sean Burke has helped goalies in Arizona but he is the assistant GM there as well. Also being considered for other GM jobs as well (toronto). I doubt he wants to give that up to become our goalie coach.

      • Johnnydapunk

        Who knows as I’m sure money can play a part and titles can be as meaningful and meaningless as you want them to be so if it takes him being named and Assistant GM and his own office and parking right at the door, I would have no issue with that.

        I just think that a good goalie coach is important and seems to be an afterthought. The Oil seem to be making big moves to be a contender and this should be something they should do as well.

  • Randaman

    the Oilers need to upgrade their goaltending. I think the free agent route is the direction to go. There are a few free agents available, hopefully PC is putting together his list. (and sign for 2 years) Remember Hiller was being pushed out by Anaheim.

    The Oilers must look for the best available Dman at #15, or 16 pick this draft. The cupboards are still bare, and this is a deep draft.

    Defence – we need to continue to draft and develop, especially with the future cap implications.

    PC will be checking the free agent list for possible short term Dmen upgrades. Teams do nto trade their #1D, so let’s draft and develop our own.

  • Keg on Legs

    Talbot for our PITT pick this year would be a massive mistake, Talbot has 1 year left (next season) and then he’s a UFA, not worth throwing a middle of the pack 1st rounder away for a goalie who may only be here for 1 year, especially when this 1 year isn’t going to be a cup run, so its even more important not to waste that pick in a trade like that.

    Now, having said all that, NYR is in some SERIOUS cap issues next year, and have a mountain full of Defence…Girardi/Staal, McDonagh/Yandle, Boyle/Klein… Considering the 1st and Duclair for Yandle, and McDonagh/Staal extensions, you’d think that Boyle/Klein are available first and foremost, but maybe 16th overall and 33rd overall in this draft would be a great starting point to swing Girardi and Talbot out of NYR which opens up $6m in cap space for NYR and fills 2 holes in our weak back end

  • SKOilFan

    Any of the 3 tenders in Ottawa would be an upgrade, and you’ve got to think one of them shakes loose. Would be great if we could pair whoever that is with Cowen, Wiercioch or Borowiecki, all of whom fit the Heavy profile. They could also use some skill on the wings…

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    Mr.Chiarelli here is what you need to think about right now. Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender,Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Defense, Goaltender, Draft McDavid Nuff Said!

  • Positive Ray of Sunshine

    I like Brossoit just fine but he needs to be Plan C going into next season. If he shocks us all in camp, bonus. That’s a nice problem to have.

  • A-Mc

    Put me in the camp that thinks landing a solid couple defensemen is the #1 priority and GOalie comes #2.

    I find it funny that in the article we’re asked to look at the minisota wild to see how goaltending is going for them. yea, you mean the goaltender that the Oilers had? who we ran out of town for nothing? oh yea, it would be so nice to have him.

    WHen your goalie is left out to dry game after game, its a freaking miracle if they can get anywhere close to a .900 avg. Duby somehow did it w/ decent save %’s when he was an Oiler.

    Defense first, Goalie second.

  • BillHK

    Or maybe the Oil should bid for Dubnyk, Petty, and trade for Gilbert. I hear one is in the Vezna conversation, and the other two play regularly on one of the league’s best defenses… Aaarrrgggg

  • Tikkanese

    @Arch I disagree somewhat.

    The only common denominator since ’06 is terrible defense. The Oilers have had some good goaltending performances since ’06 but were still nowhere near the playoffs. They’ve always had a bunch of #4’s-8’s D playing higher up the lineup than they should be.

    It’s close, but I believe the need for a defense upgrade slightly trumps the goaltending need for an upgrade. Although with only Scrivens signed, there is an imminent goaltending change coming anyways.

  • Rebuilding the Rebuild

    I think the goaltending and defense situations are equally dire. I have trouble trying to identify one or the other as the priority. They need to both be the priority otherwise only half the problem is addressed.

    We have league worst goaltending behind a league wost defensive corps.

    Chia help us.

    Have a McDavid day all!

  • Keg on Legs

    I remember the days when Khabby and Dubs were playing over therir heads and we were in the playoff hunt early in the season…………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………thoses were the days, siiiiiiiiiiigh

  • 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.