In Canada, the goalie has special status. I have a few friends who play goal in men’s leagues, and they haven’t paid for one damn thing hockey related in forever. Now, the phone rings day and night, their significant others have a love-hate relationship with the game, but you’d have to dig deep to find anyone who wasn’t working hard to stay on their good side. Without a goalie, you’re screwed. Every October in recent memory, the Oilers have been screwed.
NO ONE IS WILD ABOUT CAM….
In his first two starts as an Oilers goalie, Cam Talbot posted .933 and .923 save percentages. After that, he fell victim to the annual October nightmare that is playing goal for the Oilers. Consider recent October records by Edmonton’s minders.
- Devan Dubnyk October 2013: 9GP, 4.01 .878
- Ben Scrivens October 2014: 9GP, 3.01 .896
- Cam Talbot October 2015: 10GP, 2.88 .897
All three of these goalies had been successful in their previous seasons but their October’s look eerily similar. They have other things in common:
- Observers often mention the goalies are trying to do too much
- Media avails with goalies are heartfelt, difficult and frankly almost impossible to watch. These men are under great stress.
- Poor Octobers are followed most often by ghastly Novembers:
- Devan Dubnyk November 2014: 11GP, 2.69 .904
- Ben Scrivens November 2014: 8GP, 3.84 .878
- Cam Talbot November 2014: 2GP, 4.10 .857
THE PROBLEM IS…..
You develop a past. The Edmonton Oilers have given up a tremendous amount in assets to acquire Scrivens and then Talbot, and frankly it’s an area that is bleeding badly for this organization. Consider the cost for just Scrivens and Talbot:
- Scrivens was acquired for a third-round pick (Dominic Turgeon)
- Talbot (and the pick that turned into Ziyat Paigin) were acquired for a second-round pick (Jonas Siegenthaler), a third (Sergey Zborovskiy) and a seventh (Adam Huska)
It’ll be years before any of these men impact the NHL, and for me trading second and third rounders is an ideal way to acquire NHL-calibre talent that is ready to go. However, a smart organization figures out a way to acquire bona fide talent, and I think it’s fair to argue that all three of these men are at least able to play in the league (whether they are capable of starting is up in the air for two of the three men).
Peter Chiarelli has four choices this morning:
- Task Todd McLellan with starting Anders Nilsson while also getting Cam Talbot back on the beam. That’s a tough sell for fans, and could mean further losses that can be directly attributed to the goaltending.
- Callup Laurent Brossoit. This seems almost cruel—Brossoit could be badly damaged by an experience similar to Talbot’s so far this year.
- Trade for another unproven option with bona fide resume. This would be in the Scrivens-Talbot arena.
- Go big game hunting and acquire and expensive veteran, paying more in assets and cap.
What should he do? At this point, with the season 18 games old and injuries piling up, I don’t think big game hunting is a good idea (and there’s not a big group of good goalies available). Brossot’s recall seems imminent based on his splendid performances, but it could be a quick look-see if things go bad.
I know this isn’t a popular idea, but running with Anders Nilsson as the starter and getting Talbot back into a good mindset is probably a good call. If the Oilers are going to make a trade, let it be for an experienced defenseman, the one Craig MacTavish thought he was getting on the day he traded for the rights to Nikita Nikitin.
As bad as these goalies have played in October, not one of them was given a mature, capable group of six NHL defensemen. That’s something we’d do well to remember in these coming days.