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.

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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.

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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

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  • I think it would be better for Brossoit’s development to have him playing the starter’s role in Bakersfield. Sitting on the bench behind Talbot doesn’t do much for him apart from give him the best seats (or worst depending on the night) in the house.

    • HardBoiledOil 1.0

      A lot of people on here don’t seem to have any clue how goalies are developed. They almost always start their careers in the NHL as a backup. Very very rarely does a goalie go from full time AHL goalie to full time NHL goalie. They prove themselves in the AHL then are brought into the league as a backup until they outright win the job…

    • Couldn’t agree more. This has the added bonus of ensuring that Talbot has the full starter experience this year and is more prepared for the role next year when I expect the real push for the playoffs to begin. Would serve LB poorly to play something like 10 games the rest of the way.

  • Surgeons Knot

    Wait until Nilsson gets hot again and trade him, then bring up LB. Get what you can for him at the deadline – hopefully a draft pick, any draft pick. No doubt LB is well deserving to be our backup next year, no need to rush him up this year. Talbot and Brossoit is a 1-2 tandem I will feel comfortable with for the first time in years.

  • Himynameistaylor

    I definitely didn’t enjoy last night’s game. Nilsson started to struggle ever since we got that 7-5 win against the Rangers. Every point matters and especially we keep playing more games than all of our other division rivalries. I want LB to come up now but I’m just worried that’ll mess up his development. If Nilsson keeps playing like this though, I’ll recall LB to backup Talbot. We still have a chance for the playoffs but we have to stop losing games like last night if Nilsson was sharper!

  • Himynameistaylor

    I agree with baggedmilk…this season is a bust (most likely) so let’s keep him down in the minors and and play the $#!t out of him! Next year’s training camp should be a real battle! (I can’t believe I’m saying this AGAIN!)

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Broissoit should not be called up to sit out 80% of the games. He needs the work. However I would like to see him called up during a week when Bakersfield has a break in their schedule to play a game in the show and then returned.

    Nilsson will find his form again, he is just one of those hot/cold guys.

    • Even the colour man said there was stick contact with the puck.PVR goes at 1/15 per frame, there was definitely contact making it high sticking and should not have counted. And 0 explanation from the ref’s to the bench. Even my Flames fan buddy said we got screwed, but also mentioned it seems to be a pattern when a US based team plays a Canadian team. (not just the Oilers). Tin Foil hat stuff, but definitely has me wondering about the discrepancies in calls vs non calls. If there is directions from head office, I wonder what they tell the officiating crews when two Canadian teams are playing?

      • Reg Dunlop

        The replay I saw after the game, it does look to me that the puck was contacted lower than the crossbar.

        The swing was definitely came from above. I think it was a goal but I would sure like to see the NHL penalize players swinging their sticks above their shoulders or armpits or crossbars.

  • Bi-Curious Gord

    For now, keep LB in the minors where he can continue to develop. The Oilers have Talbot locked up so just give him the ball and let him run with it, including back to back nights if he’s playing well. I think it’s more important for LB to continue to see a lot of game action as opposed to riding the pine.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    You need your prospects developing.

    Bringing Brossoit up stunts his development.

    Oilers just signed Talbot as the starter.

    Pretty easy decision. Give Talbot the majority of starts and play Nilsson like a backup.

    Not only would I not bring Brossoit up this season I would also let him develop another year in the AHL next season as the starter. Brossoit doesn’t need to clear waivers next season.

  • Mcmagicmitts

    The ders has struggled ever since…… Oscar Klefbom has been injured. This really does make quite the impact on the team overall. Having a guy out there like brad hunt over Oscar klefbom definitely plays a role in nilssons success. (Or lack there of in this case). I know it’s been said a billion times, but with a full healthy squad I do see Nilsson being a competent back up tender. Only real problem is, WHEN THE HELL ARE THE OILERS EVER HEALTHY????

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    Nilsson sucked against T-Bay and shouldn’t play much the rest of the season! he’s ice cold. i am not against bringing up LB for a few games, but i think he really should spend the rest of the season in the AHL.

  • HardBoiledOil 1.0

    My frustration after last night’s game wants LB to come up, but common sense tells me that he should stay and develop a while longer. My other frustrations are Yak and Lander – they are doing nothing to earn an extension. My surprise? Kassian. Initially I either wanted to slap his face (HARD)or give him a good shake/tongue lashing. After watching him play for us, I think I’d just like to hug him!

  • JohnnySkidmarks

    Biggest mistake would be bringing up Brossoit now. I agree with keeping him south in Bako, even another full year with the Condors won’t hurt anything, the more experience the better. Nilsson isn’t bad, he’s a Jekyll and Hyde tender-streaky as hell. With Tabs being anointed as the full time starter, the lineup we have right now is a good problem to have. We definitely don’t want history repeating itself and it looks like Chia is taking the high road. Keep LB down in the minors and let him over-ripen!

  • JohnnySkidmarks

    Looks like we once again are looking to the trade deadline and the June draft.

    I hope the Oilers are buyers at the trade line and not sellers.

    For example – Purcell – either they sign him (at a reduced salary) for next year or trade him for a NHL player with a few years left on his contract.

    In other words no more draft picks for players. We will never get ahead if we let NHL players go and continue to draft young players, especially 2nd round and onward.

    Next year our 3 centers are McDavid – 19 years, Drai – 20 years and Nuge 23 years.

    Oilers wont win next year unless they are surrounded by NHL veterans.

    • ubermiguel

      I’m not sure why you would hope the Oilers would be buyers this season?

      I think everyone knew this season was going to be a year for Chiarelli to evaluate what he has and what moves he needs to make in this upcoming off season. If the Oilers do make the playoffs that would just be a bonus.

      Scott Zerr just wrote a Report Card on the Bakersfield Condors and well…. I think its safe to say the Oilers cupboards are pretty bare with upcoming NHL prospects.

      If the Oilers trade away Schultz/Purcell/Nikitin for draft picks to give Chiarelli’s scout team some room to refill the cupboards I’m ok with that.

      • Positive Ray of Sunshine

        I agree @total points. The oilers currently have a complete NHL forward group, at least when healthy. What they don’t have is guys knocking down the door that can come in and play a middle 6 role on a cheap ELC.
        When the cap becomes a concern in 3 years we are going to need guys to play wing and be productive for cheap as McDavid and Drai are going to need to be paid. Adding talent that can be 20-21 years old at that time is going to be important if you are hoping to build a consistent contender. Getting those players in the system now allows you the luxury of trading picks or prospects for veterans when you are truly a cup contender.

        • mithaman

          So your resolution to solve the Oilers problems are to trade draft picks for NHL veterans at the deadline for a playoff push?

          If that’s the case, if the Oilers end up missing the playoffs (which is very likely) the value of those draft picks you traded away just went up and no guarantee the player you traded for is going to re-sign and can walk in the off season.

          The logical move here is to be sellers at the deadline and trade away our NHL vets we won’t re-sign (Schultz/Purcell/Niktin) for whatever draft picks we can get. Chairelli can head into the off season with Cap space and trading chips with those draft picks to acquire the NHL vets you were originally trying to push for at the deadline.

  • Dan 1919

    “and with a competent backup it’s likely the Oilers would have managed a win.”

    I’ve often disagreed with people blindly defending Oiler goalies these last few years, because well, they’ve been terrible.

    But I will say that IMO Nilsson played good enough for a backup. Sure he let that SH one in at the end and should have stayed in his net, but why was he even put in that situation. Why was there a breakaway against on the PP.

    The Oilers were scrambly, and had a horrendous power play last night. Nilsson certainly didn’t have a game to write home about, and he has to improve… but I blame last night’s game on the players this time.

  • ubermiguel

    So the KHL goalie with 19 games previous NHL experience isn’t working out? Shocking. Nilsson has marginally better numbers than Scrivens did last year, and that was the worst of Scrivens’ NHL career. I’m still not convinced Scrivens as a backup (which is what he was in LA) would be worse than Nilsson right now.

  • No. You’d see the same thing happen to Brossoit as you’re seeing with Nilsson. The problem with being a seldom-used backup is you don’t get much game action so you’re never at the top of your performance. Practice is just not the same.

  • No, just no!!! We let 51 shots in Brossoit’s debut(way to welcome your young goalie to the league!!!) last year. This defense is still made up of loose parts and scraps from other teams. How will that affect him having to stop 40 shots every game?? Id rather have him dominate in Bakersfield then lose his confidence up here

  • Serious Gord

    Bring him up only if that is deemed to be something that will help his development.

    The playoffs are a very remote possibility at this point – they need to get ready for the best start possible next year.