The big news earlier today was Connor McDavid signing his entry level deal. It was a very easy negotiation. He gets the max deal, like every other #1 pick. As good as McDavid is going to be, he won’t be the lead catalyst in their quest for better team defence. He, like all forwards, will play a part, but the Oilers defensive deficiencies need to be improved by the defencemen and, most importantly, the goalies.
Meet Cam Talbot. He’ll arrive in Edmonton in late August and prepare for a battle with Ben Scrivens to win the starting job. He is excited about the opportunity.
I spoke with Talbot earlier this week. He is ready for the challenge of becoming a starter and is confident he can help the Oilers become competitive again.
Gregor: At what point in your career
did you think about being an NHL goalie?
Talbot: Ah jeeze, honestly, probably
not until maybe my last couple of weeks of college at Alabama. I didn’t even have
an agent or an advisor so probably in my last three weeks. I got a call from
maybe four or five guys within a stretch of a couple of days and I had to pick
one pretty quickly and then as soon as my season ended in my junior year I
ended up signing the next day with the Rangers. So I was… it was a hard road
but it was definitely rewarding.
Gregor: Well it definitely has been rewarding
for you. Have you gone back to school to finish your degree yet?
Talbot: I haven’t yet, I’ve got three
classes left. I’ve done one since I’ve left school, but I’ve pretty much just
been focusing on training and trying to get better and focusing on my career
Gregor: I noticed in one of your tweets, you thanked [Benoit] Allaire your goalie coach. What were the key
things he taught you?
Talbot: I think more or less to play within
yourself; don’t try to do too much, let the puck come to you. He’s a big fan of
not over challenging, not over playing the shooter and I think that really
helped to calm down my game. In college and stuff like that I played a little
bit more aggressively and I was susceptible to rebounds and stuff like that. He
just kind of made me play a little bit more within myself and let the game come
Gregor: When a goaltender coach tells you what to do, I
can see in theory you want to do it, but how hard is it to convince
yourself to not be aggressive as a goaltender?
Talbot: It was extremely hard. I had to
kind of find a happy medium between where I had played and where he wanted me
to play. It took a good year, year and a half in the American League to find
that balance and I think that that is where you saw my numbers start to improve
a little bit more. Like you said, every year I just became more and more
comfortable with the style of play that he wanted us to play and it became
easier and more comfortable without even thinking about it, it just became
Gregor: Were you caught off guard at all or
were you expecting a trade?
Talbot: I was pretty much expecting a
trade. I was told in my exit meeting with New York that there was a good chance
that they would try to keep me as best they could, but I think that once a few
teams started calling that there would be a good chance I would be traded. I
pretty much expected it for a good week, week and a half leading up to it and
then Saturday morning when it finally happened I was extremely excited.
Learning from Lundqvist
Gregor: You also had the opportunity to
spend some time as Henrik Lundqvist’s backup for the last few seasons. What did
you learn from him, what did he teach you?
Talbot: Pretty much just preparation, just
a winning mentality. I mean you look at him and everything that he’s done, his
game prep, his practice prep, kind of carries over. You can tell, even in
practice that he hates getting scored on in practice just as much as in games
and I think that you can see that competitiveness come out in games and you
kind of see the kind of mentality it takes to really be one of the best. So I
think that’s the biggest thing to take from him is just the game prep and the
hard work mentality.
Gregor: Are you a guy now who hates getting
scored on in practice?
Talbot: I was always that guy, but maybe a
little bit more so now [laughs].
Gregor: What about your fashion sense?
Lundqvist is a sharp dressed guy, did he help you in that department?
Talbot: (laughs) Not so much no, I’m still
just a guy from a small town. I’m not so much into fashion just yet but I guess
I had to try to keep up a little bit when I was in New York.
Gregor: Many will suggest your numbers in
New York, especially behind that defence, were inflated and coming to Edmonton it will be hard to match
them. You talked earlier about just staying within yourself. I know you don’t
want to change as a goalie, but are you expecting to see more high quality
shots in Edmonton, and will that alter your game?
Talbot: Um, honestly, I don’t know about
that. I mean the way that management and coaching staff has changed I think
that we’re going to have a different system. I know that they are trying to
bring in some more veteran guys I think, and with the trades that they’ve
already made and the core group of guys that we have there I think that we’re
going to be a very competitive group this season and definitely moving forward.
It’s going to be a great opportunity for myself and for this group.
Gregor: You are 27 years young, but in
Edmonton you will be one of the older guys on this team. Some goaltenders can
be leaders, some are vocal, and some are not. How would you describe your
persona in the room?
Talbot: In the room I’m quieter. On the ice
I speak up quite a bit, but I’m not one of those guys that’s really going to
take charge in the room. I think I’m a hard worker off of the ice and I’m more
of a lead by example, but I’m not as vocal as most guys would be in the room.
Gregor: Regardless of who it is, you will
have a new goalie coach in Edmonton. How will that change things for you?
Talbot: I think it might change a little
bit, I mean every goaltending coach has their own style but I think that at
this point most goalie coaches won’t try to change you, they’ll just try to
make tweaks here and there. I think once you get to this point there’s not a
whole lot let to learn, it’s just more or less watching video of different
situations in games where you can maybe do something a little bit different
that can cut down the angle, or cut down a scoring chance. I think for the most
part it should be relatively easy to move from goalie coach to goalie coach so
I’m looking forward to working with whoever they’ve got there when the time
BECOMING A STARTER…
Gregor: Backup goalie has to be one of the
toughest jobs because you can sit for a month, especially when you have
Lundqvist, and you won’t play. This year due to his injury you became the starter for two months. What did you learn about yourself during those two
months that maybe you didn’t know about what it took to be a starting
goaltender in the NHL?
Talbot: I think just preparation. I mean when
you are playing every other game as opposed to every three weeks I think that
your game prep has to be a little bit better, it takes you a little bit more
time to find out your regiment on and off of the ice to stay in that peak
performance. It is a challenge mentally to be able to go on the ice every day,
work out after every game when you know that you’re not going
to play for an extended period. They are different challenges to each position.
But I think
that you have to find the happy median, and I think I learned that during
those twenty three games, with the workload that I had, I would be able to at
some point handle an NHL starters workload so I think that I was able to prove that
to myself as well.
Gregor: I noticed in the first four
games as a starter, and numbers are only one thing I didn’t watch all of the games, but
your save percentage was low and goals against was high. Then it looked like you got
more comfortable. Was that the case? Did you have some nerves or was it just
some bad games by the overall team and then things settled down?
Talbot: No, I think what you said was
right. I think it just took me a couple of games to settle in. I was putting a
little too much pressure on myself knowing the situation with Hank and knowing
who I was filling in for. Then there was one point where Benny (Allaire) took
me aside and said ‘don’t try to do anything that you wouldn’t usually do. Just keep
playing your game, play within yourself.’ He kept telling me and that settled
me down. Then once I had one good game after that it kind of snowballed from
there and I was able to settle myself.
Gregor: How much did that do for your
confidence and after starting for those two months did you think about being
traded because you could go elsewhere and become a starter’?
Talbot: Yeah, I think just proving it to
myself that I would be able to handle that kind of workload knowing that I had
done it in the past in the American League was important. It gave me a lot of
confidence moving forward whether New York moved me or not. I mean, I signed a
one year contract to continue to work there and I loved the situation there. But
once I found, or once I got the opportunity, and proved to myself and maybe the
team that I was ready to make that transition I did think about it a bit. I thank New York for giving me that
opportunity and Edmonton for obviously wanting to hopefully give me that
opportunity as well.
Gregor: Were you following the draft? And
what are your thoughts on having Connor McDavid as a teammate?
Talbot: It’s hard not to follow the draft
and follow all of the hype around Connor, but I’m excited to get to Edmonton
and to work with them. Facing a guy like that in practice can only make you better,
make your teammates better, so like I said before with the core group of guys
that they have already and the guys that they brought in, it’s going to be an
exciting time in Edmonton coming up.
Gregor: This training camp will be the best
opportunity you’ve had to not only win the job, but hold the starting job right
at the start of the season. What are the areas, what small tweaks will you work
on in your game this summer?
Talbot: One of the biggest is rebound
control. Obviously you can always work on rebound control, you never want to
give the other team secondary opportunities. Also, on lateral movement and
stuff like that, a little bit more power in the legs and that’s done in the gym
and on the ice. There are a few areas I can probably work a little bit more on
that can probably improve my game a lot.
Gregor: How do you improve rebound control
in the summer?
Talbot: I think that just in certain
situations I work with my goalie coach in the summer here in Hamilton, on
specific drills. We’ll tell the guys to shoot low blocker, low pad, have it
come off and just have a guy on the backdoor, and prevent him from banging it
in. It’s just a lot of movement in tight and in close and just really trying to
watch the puck in and try to get your timing down.
Gregor: Are you a guy who puts a lot of
thought into his goaltender mask? Will you be coming out with a cool mask this
year in Edmonton?
Talbot: Honestly I’m not the most creative
guy. I think that Dave Gunnarsson is the guy who changed my mask. He’s the
mastermind behind the whole Ghostbusters theme so we’ve already kind of talked
about maybe sticking with that. I’m not sure what he’s going to come up with,
but I think that it’s going to be another pretty cool design.
Gregor: Where did the Ghostbusters idea
Talbot: It was one of my favourite movies
growing up and like I say it was Dave’s idea when I got to New York. He said
that it really ties it into New York City and stuff like that so it made sense.
He was really excited to do it because it was one of his favourite movies as
well, and he was always excited to do a design like that. I told him that I
wasn’t too creative so just go with whatever it was he wanted to do. It turned
Gregor: Are you a superstitious goaltender?
Talbot: No, not really. I know a lot of
goalies have their quirks and stuff like that. I don’t see myself as one of
them. I have maybe one or two little rituals that I will do before games, but
Gregor: So you will talk on game day?
Talbot: Yes, I will talk on game day.
That’s one of the things that most guys know about me. They never know if I’m
playing or not playing because I kind of act the same either way.
Gregor: That is good to know. I was
looking up your statistics, and noticed your point production in the
NHL hasn’t matched what you were doing in College and in Junior; you had a lot more apples.
Are you going to work on your puck handling skills now in Edmonton?
Talbot: [Laughs] I was working on it in New
York, I just couldn’t seem to find a way to get any points, but I’ll definitely
be trying to work the puck up the ice to the guys and hopefully they can bury
a couple for me.
Gregor: Thanks for your time, and welcome to Edmonton.
Talbot: Thank you. I look forward to it.
Talbot has paid his dues. He wasn’t drafted, spent three years in the AHL and two as a back up in New York. When the opportunity to be a starter presented itself, due to Lundqvist’s injury, Talbot flourished. He went 16-4-3 with a .931sv% and a 2.04 GAA.
His numbers look great, but we won’t know if he can handle being a 50+ game starter until he shows it, however, like most players he just wants a chance to prove he can.
I look forward to seeing how he plays, because his numbers suggest he is ready to be a starting goalie in the NHL.
Recently by Jason Gregor:
- How much better is the defence?
- Oilers sign Sekera and Letestu
- Oilers trade Boyd Gordon
- Free agents who could help the Oilers
- Oilers draft recap
- Oilers trade Marincin, acquire Gryba
- Trade talk, goalies and Chiarelli