WWYDW: Is it time to replace Anders Nilsson with Laurent Brossoit?

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Faced with the second half of back-to-back games on Tuesday night, Edmonton Oilers head coach Todd McLellan decided to give backup goalie Anders Nilsson a start. Nilsson was shelled, allowing five goals on 30 shots; it was the eighth consecutive game in which his save percentage came in under 0.900.

In this week’s WWYDW, we ask whether it’s time to turn to prospect Laurent Brossoit to address the position.

Anders Nilsson

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Nilsson has had his ups and his downs, rising incredibly high during the former and collapsing entirely during the latter. Over the season as a whole he has played 24 games, with a 0.903 save percentage, a figure which ranks him No. 50 among the 58 goalies to play at least 10 games this season.

This isn’t exactly unprecedented. Over 23 previous games with the New York Islanders, Nilsson managed a 0.898 save percentage, which means that this year has actually been an improvement on what he did with his first NHL team. Over his career as a whole, he has a 0.901 save percentage; that ranks him No. 73 of the 77 goalies to play more than 40 games since 2011-12.

Nilsson also struggled with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers. In his last two seasons with the club he flirted with a 0.900 save percentage, managing a 0.899 number in 2012-13 and a 0.901 number in 2013-14, at which point he decamped for the KHL. He played well in the KHL, but given that his team (Kazan Ak-Bars) last had a sub-0.930 save percentage goalie in 2011-12, it’s hard to read too much into that.

He might yet recover, but the evidence (or at least my read of it) strongly suggests that Nilsson is a replacement-level goaltender in the NHL. His one-way, $1.0 million contract means that he would still count against the NHL salary cap in the minors, but only to the tune of $50,000.

This is an extremely easy player to demote.

Laurent Brossoit

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Both Craig MacTavish and the Oilers’ overemphasis on former Oil Kings catch a lot of flak these days, but Brossoit may be the exception. He had a 0.887 WHL save percentage when he was drafted by Calgary, but turned that around over two further seasons with the Oil Kings. He was traded to the Oilers just five games into his first pro campaign, and since then his development has been pretty impressive:

  • 2013-14, age 20, ECHL: 24-9-2 record, 0.923 save percentage
  • 2014-15, age 21, AHL: 25-22-4 record, 0.918 save percentage
  • 2015-16, age 22, AHL: 11-7-3 record, 0.927 save percentage

This is a player knocking on the door of NHL duty. He got into one game last year and did nothing to dissuade optimism, turning aside 49 of 51 shots faced in his first major-league start.

The Decision

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The development angle makes this tough. Brossoit is in only his second full AHL campaign and has less than 100 games played in the league. This is the first year where he’s operated without a real safety net (thanks to Ben Scrivens’ struggles); last season the coaches often turned to veteran No. 3 Richard Bachman. There’s value in leaving him in the AHL, letting him put in a bunch of games.

There’s also a chance that with more time, Nilsson will recover his early season form. 

On the other hand, NHL experience for Brossoit has value, too. Nilsson is a restricted free agent this summer and the Oilers will have to find a backup for Talbot. Brossoit might make the jump, and it makes sense that Edmonton might want to give him a trial run in what’s left of this season. The Oilers are also only six points out of the playoffs; every point still counts and having a competent backup in the majors could be very important. A win against the Lightning on Tuesday would have dropped the gap to just four points, and with a competent backup it’s likely the Oilers would have managed a win.

A third option is to use Nilsson as a bench-warmer, and recall Brossoit for the odd game where the team wants to give Talbot a rest; he could come up for a day or two, play the game, and then head back to the minors. The downside is sidelining Nilsson entirely and treating Brossoit like a yoyo.

So, dear comments section: What should the Oilers do?

RECENTLY BY JONATHAN WILLIS

  • TKB2677

    I don’t see how bringing up LB for a short stint to allow Nilsson to go down and work on his game is ruining LB’s development. Nilsson is clearly struggling. He hasn’t posted an above .900 save percentage in his last 8 starts. You have the ability to send him down without losing him on waivers. Why not let him go down, play a few minor games, hopefully get his confidence back and come up. Plus aren’t you supposed to reward guys on the farm who are playing well? Let LB maybe make a little NHL money. Give him a taste of NHL shooters. I don’t see any harm.

  • Ready to Win

    With our current defence the only development opportunity for Laurent in Edmonton is the development of post traumatic stress disorder. He needs to play a lot of minutes this year and next, so that means AHL.

    Maybe a few games this year and next with the big club to get a taste, and then let him come up in the 2017-18 season and knock on Cam’s door on our way to Lord Stanley. Look at a guy like Jacob Markstrom in Vancouver – highly touted, got rushed, took a step back, and now at 25 finally seems to have put it together. Laurent is only 22.

    • TKB2677

      EXACTLY! You don’t bring up LB long term because he needs to play but letting him come up, practice with the team, maybe get into a game for a couple of games while Nilsson hopefully goes down and figures whatever the problem he’s having out, can’t hurt LB.

  • 916oiler

    First and foremost, treat Talbot like the starter. Give Talbot as many starts as he can handle, let him find/continue his groove as the starter.

    After that, I think we need patience. Much like Talbot needs to play a lot, so does Brossoit. Let him feel what’s it’s like to play a full season as the starter in one league. He’s still quite young and many top goaltending prospects struggle with the transition to consistent NHL minutes.

    Let’s just hope Nilsson can get it together when he spells Talbot for the rest of the year.

  • Positive Ray of Sunshine

    The next step in Brossoit’s progression to being an NHL goalie is as a backup in the NHL. That is an unavoidable fact. His performance this year points to him being ready for that. I’m not sure why so many people think bringing him up now would set him back.

    Sitting on the bench and watching a few games, getting intel on NHL players and systems, working closely with the coaching staff, getting used to the new surroundings and facing NHL talent are all things that will benefit him. I would bring LB up for a short (5 game?) stretch after the all star break and let him start a couple. He is not going to be hurt by sitting on the bench for 3 NHL games. It would keep him on the steep part of the learning curve.

    Given the way Nilsson has played, I doubt he would get plucked off waivers so I would send him down. In that time, I would run him hard in Bakersfield and see if he can get his game back. Until then, I would not give him another start.

  • Himynameistaylor

    I’ve said it all season, especially when Talbot struggled. Anders Nilsson is not an NHL level goaltender. The Oilers management took a risk and while its paid off a little bit, (he did steal a few wins back when Talbot was having a rough time) he’s cost the team more than he’s helped them.
    I wouldn’t bring Brossoit into this. If the Oilers really need a backup that badly they can trade or sign someone from overseas. There is no use, halfway through the season to replace Nilsson.

  • A-Mc

    My opinion of Nilsson is higher than his current performance, so i find it hard to say that he should be bailed.

    I would keep him around and make the game split even more lopsided for Talbot.

    Under very few circumstances do i bring LB up to the Oilers. He needs to destroy teams every night in the AHL; this year and most of next.

  • someguy

    Send Nilsson down – no one will pick him up on waivers anyway if that’s what we’re worried about – and call up Broissoit after the trade deadline. See how he does.

    Then you have definitive numbers for next year.

  • Himynameistaylor

    Right now, I think Talbot gives us the best chance to win games. I don’t want Brossoit sitting. As long as we are even close to a playoff spot, I say stick with Talbot and let Brossoit focus on the AHL. Things change if we fall right out of the race.

  • Van isl Oiler

    It’s very tempting to bring him up and you have given some valid points to do so. However, for the sake of the player, I think he should stay in Bakersfield. He seems to be developing nicely and I’m sure his confidence is quite high. It is not going to help his development to sit on the bench for 80% of games, he needs to play. Not sure what the answer is for Nilson, maybe he should cut 6 inches off his stick.

  • Sheldon "Oilers Fan for Life!!!"

    I like the idea of bringing him up for a game or two then sending him back to the AHL. Before the end of the season give him about 4-5 games this way.

    Sit Nilsson for when there is an emergency

  • Rem99

    Bringing LB up now does not make sense – sitting on the bench, not a well planned out move, however the oilers should be planning with say 10 games left in the season bringing LB up with the plan to play him in 2-3 games if the Oilers are out of the playoff picture. Hes earned it, and he deserves the call up to show him what the prize is if he continues to work hard and perform. Sends the right message to LB over the off season that the backup position is open for competition.

  • Positive Ray of Sunshine

    How is this even a discussion? Brossoit is 22 with what, 85 games in the AHL?
    Don’t even discuss him playing another NHL game until either Talbot or Nilsson have an injury or until mid season next year.

    Hey! Our backup at the moment is going through a rough stretch, let’s drop everything and bring the kid in!

    Where was this discussion when Nilsson was standing on his head and had the #1 spot?

    This sounds like Willis making his quota for blogs thrown up on the web.

    • Positive Ray of Sunshine

      Agreed. If the idea is to turn Brossoit into an NHL starting goalie, I say even give him another year in the AHL again next year and give him a full work load! Get him use to playing a lot of games!!

      We have talbot for 3 more years after this like it or not… So no rush on Brossoit

  • Tony Montana

    I would Cherry Pick a couple NHL starts for LB.

    Off hand I would say send Nilson down on Feb 22nd

    Then give LB these starts
    Feb 23 at home vs the Senators, just ahead of a road trip with 3 games in 4 nights

    Feb 26 in Anaheim easy to return him to Bakersfeild from Anaheim after the game(2nd game of an LA back to back.

    Let him be the backup for the other 2 games that week, and then send him back down to finish the season off with the Condors. Give him a taste of NHL hockey and then let him continue to be the starter on the farm, and recall Nilson to finish the season off as our backup.

  • ziyan94

    Nilsson would probably bolt to Europe if he got demoted, he’s been adamant about wanting a shot in the NHL. Keep him as the backup, flip him if the right offer comes in. Brossoit should stay with the Condors for the rest of the year

  • mithaman

    Nilsson has been “okay”. He has won us some games early, and he has been “okay” recently. Low save percentage is still better than Scrivens/Fasth last year, and let’s face it, our defense is still weak so our goalies are going to rank pretty low on the overall list.

    No need to rush Brossoit unless games like yesterday become the norm for Nilsson.

  • Anton CP

    Simple, like last year. If the Oilers slip so far away from playoffs and AHL season is over then they can call up Brossoit for a few times to gain more experiences.

  • mithaman

    If AN can put in a good showing and start trending up over the next few weeks he would most likely be traded for a pick. The CT contract confirms that I believe. LB could move to the show and we could see what EL does with the Condors.

  • mithaman

    Last night game in Tampa the whole team played sloppy in front of Anders, too many odd man rushes and nobody did back checking. The shorthanded break away was bad, Anders got fed up and made the error of coming out to get the puck.

    Anders still has more wins than Cam, he carried the team when Cam struggled. Give the guy a break, he cannot stop all the pucks when there’s no defense in front of him.

    For what ever the reason they let Tampa get so many good scoring chances.

    This team need to push for playoff spot to get some experience in the post season.

  • mithaman

    I find these kinds of hatchet jobs interesting.

    When Talbot was crapping the bed, there were no negative articles about Talbot. The longest winning streak this season was by Nilsson not Talbot.

    Up until a few weeks ago, it wasn’t even clear that Talbot is better than Nilsson. Remember the first Florida game where Hall got laid out? The Oilers lost that game 2-1, and Florida only had 14 shots. 0.857 sv% for Talbot, and a deafening silence from Edmonton media on Talbot’s play.

    Can’t wait to see who will be the topic of the next hatchet job.

  • mithaman

    Lots of people don’t want LB playing here because he won’t get playing time. If this the the thinking then he won’t play here theoretically for years as Talbot is apparently the man right now (still yet to be proven in my opinion). So I agree with some posters that the next step for LB is to be a regular NHL backup.

    Nilson has one terrible game and everyone trashes him. He was terrible no doubt but we have all seen him play decent as well.

  • mithaman

    Nilsson still makes key save at keys times. This is something the Oilers lacked the past two years. Nilsson has been inconsistent but he’s quick and has size.

    • .

      Agreed.

      Ders’ saves on Stamkos last night were what allowed the Oilers to stay in the game as long as they did. The high stick goal was a bit of a back breaker. And 4 of the 5 goals that did go in would have to have been highway robbery saves to prevent the goals.

      Nesterov’s goal has Hunt out for a skate, leaving the right side completely open.
      Kucherov’s goal had 4 Oilers above the hash marks while the puck was south of the dots. Nurse was the lone man back.
      Palat’s goal was scored from 10 feet out squarely between the dots with Palat all alone.
      Namestnikov’s goal was borderline high stick/ puck luck.
      And, sure, Boyle’s goal is on Ders.

      We can call up LB, but we should send down Hunt for the first goal, Lander for the second one, Purcell for the 3rd one, and the refs for the 4th one.

      Regardless of the SV%, Ders was not the problem in that game.