Don’t count Cam Talbot out

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Cam Talbot’s career with the Edmonton Oilers is off to a bad start. He has in general played poorly and of late has been surpassed by Anders Nilsson, whose impression of a league-average goaltender is the best netminding the Oilers have seen since the days of Devan Dubnyk.

Let’s not count him out just yet, though.

Precedent

Trial

Remember the horrid starts that Boston and Columbus had this year? Much of the blame for those starts must fall at the feet of those teams’ established NHL goalies. Let’s compare the first 13 games this season for Tuukka Rask and Sergei Bobrovsky with the 13 games that Talbot has played:

  • Rask: 5-7-1, 0.890 save percentage
  • Talbot: 3-8-1, 0.889 save percentage
  • Bobrovsky: 4-9-0, 0.882 save percentage

Rask and Bobrovsky both retained their starting positions, and both have seen their play improve. The reason for that is that the Bruins and Blue Jackets have seen enough strong play from both goalies that they’re willing to give them time to find their games. Talbot though is a first-year starter and doesn’t get the same consideration from the Oilers.

This also isn’t particularly out of line with what Talbot did last season. Henrik Lundqvist went down to injury on February 2, thrusting Talbot into the starting role. Talbot posted a 0.895 save percentage in his first nine games in the job, allowing three-or-more goals in seven of those contests and posting a 0.900 save percentage or lower in eight of them.

People don’t remember that, for two reasons. The first is that New York was able to out-score its problems; Talbot went 6-1-2 while he found his feet as a starting goalie. The second is that Talbot was great the rest of the way. He posted a shutout against the Flames in his next start and went 10-3-1 with a 0.950 save percentage in the next 14 games he played while Lundqvist healed.

Second Chances

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Edmonton needs to start winning games, and right now Nilsson is giving the team its best shot at doing that. He has a respectable if not overwhelming 0.911 save percentage on the season, and a reasonably good 5-6-1 record. With decent goaltending, the Oilers have been competitive and head coach Todd McLellan has to go with the goalie who gives him that.

However, it’s a long season, and Talbot is going to work his way into games here and there. He took a modest first step in an overtime loss to Detroit on Friday; he wasn’t great but it was his best game in a while and he helped the Oilers to a point. He’s going to keep getting those chances, playing in back-to-back situations or in other games where McLellan wants to rest his starter.

Talbot needs to make the most of those chances. This is a talented guy, a backup who managed to keep pace with Henrik Lundqvist in New York, a goalie with a career 0.924 save percentage over 70 major-league games. His resume entering the year was vastly superior to Nilsson’s, and if that’s really reflective of his true level of ability then it should show at some point during the year. It’s worth keeping in mind that Talbot’s history as a backup works in his favour; he knew how to make the most of his infrequent appearances in New York and now needs to do the same in Edmonton if he’s to get another crack at the starting job.

Right now, Nilsson has earned the starting job and will be given an opportunity to run with it, just as Talbot was to start the year. But Edmonton’s goaltending competition is a long way from over.

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • Señor Frijoles

    People are panicky because … Oilers – but I agree, Talbot should get another shot and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him make the most of it and become a solid number one for this team.

  • hagar

    I say we hire the the guy that helped Dubnyk regain his confidence with some style changes.

    Dubnyk could not stop a beach ball with the Oilers and became a goalie with Pheonix……..hire this guy allready PC, we need more coaches.

  • Petrolero

    I’ve watched every game this year. Visually, he looks better, since I don’t remember any softies that we grew to expect from Scrivens and Fasth. Unfortunately, Fasth was a .888 save%, while Talbot is a .889 save% this year.

    Bachman has only played one game, but he is a .904 save%.

    I won’t be too critical, but Talbot really needs to step it up.

  • MattyFranchise

    Who would of thought a 28 year old career back up goalie with less than 60 NHL games played might have a hard time being the starting goalie for the juggernaut team Edmonton Oilers?

    It’s shocking he’s not carrying this franchise!!

    Maybe he’ll turn it around, most likely he won’t. It’s been a failed acquisition so far. Hope and prey all you want, I’ll just call it how I see it.

  • MattyFranchise

    Seriously though, you guys got a semi proven goaltender in Talbot, a massive surprise in Nilsson and you got Brossoit in the pipeline.

    Edmonton is set for goaltending for probably the next 5 years at least.

    • MattyFranchise

      Simple reason for the trashing….there are some negative folks whom just can’t help themselves and not just ON posters. Wouldn’t put too much into it.

  • Jiff

    Back-to-back game or not, I think they should have had Talbot in net last night against the Pens. What better time to get the confidence ball rolling than the very next night.

  • Jiff

    The least of oilers concerns are goaltenders. In dire need of a couple defensive forwards and defenseman. The forwards don’t seem to understand the basic concepts of back checking ,dumping puck in . Taylor Hall is most overrated player in league tradehimfor a true number 1 d-man.

  • Speed Junky

    To be noted in that .911 sv pct. is the 6 goals vs. Washington,take that out and he is a much more respectable starter total of .919 still not Price-like but a top 10 total rather than slightly below league average

    • Andresito

      Take that game out?? It doesnt work that way. Take any goalies worst game out and their numbers go up. Stats are stats, you cant take a mulligan here or there lol.

  • Andresito

    For some reason Edmonton doesn’t like getting veteran goalies and always seems to pick up the guys with good but small sample sizes and hope for the best. Still think they should have went after Niemi but I’m not the GM.

    Talbot has the battle and determination to get better. He will but Nilson has proven he can make the saves NHL goalies need to make once in awhile to steal a game or two. Of course the D and team in general need to stop bleeding chances against as well

  • Serious Gord

    The goaltenders in Edmonton always seem to get in trouble handling the puck,my wish would be that they either spend more time practicing that skill or just stop the puck and let the defence do their job.

  • For Pete's Sake!

    I don’t know Jonathan. Sometimes I wonder about how you think??

    You wrote an article recently for the ‘Cult of Hockey’ where you seem to have “given up” on a young 21 year old defenseman named Griffin Reinhart, just because he’s not quite ready for the NHL and was sent down to the minors to help him learn some of finer points of the pro game.

    Then you tell us “not to give up” on Cam Talbot, a 27 year old perrenial backup goalie, who’s had horrendous start.

    Then you compare Talbot to two proven number one goalies in Rask and Bobrovsky who had a run of a few bad games and have come back strong. I think that’s a bad comparison because Talbot is nowhere near their level.

    The guy Talbot should be compared to is Anders Nilsson, who’s played behind exactly the same defense as him and has done a far better job.

    Nothing complicated here.