TOP 100 OILERS: TOMMY SALO (59)

The two enduring images I have of Tommy Salo are as unflattering as can be. The first, pre-dating his six seasons with the Edmonton Oilers, is Salo taking an absolute butt-kicking while a member of the New York Islanders from Dan Cloutier. The second is the goal Salo allowed from a $5 cab ride away against Belarus while playing for Sweden in the 2002 Olympics.

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The truth is, in between those career lowlights in other jerseys, Salo played a lot of good goal in the 355 regular season and playoffs games he spent with a decidedly mediocre Oiler team from 1999-2004. Salo’s name stands out among the leaders of pretty much every goaltending category in franchise history every bit as boldly as those forgettable moments do. A decidedly mixed bag is Salo.

Tommy Salo

Goalie — shoots R

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Height 5.11 — Weight 173 [180 cm/78 kg]

Drafted by New York Islanders


Round 5 #118 overall 1993 NHL Entry Draft

BY THE NUMBERS

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Season

Age

Tm

GP

W

L

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T/O

SV%

GAA

SO

MIN

1994-95

23

NYI

6

1

5

0

.905

3.02

0

358

1995-96

24

NYI

10

1

7

1

.860

4.02

0

523

1996-97

25

NYI

58

20

27

8

.904

2.82

5

3208

1997-98

26

NYI

62

23

29

5

.906

2.64

4

3461

1998-99

27

TOT

64

25

28

9

.903

2.57

5

3718

1998-99

27

NYI

51

17

26

7

.904

2.62

5

3018

1998-99

27

EDM

13

8

2

2

.903

2.31

0

700

1999-00

28

EDM

70

27

28

13

.914

2.33

2

4164

2000-01

29

EDM

73

36

25

12

.904

2.46

8

4364

2001-02

30

EDM

69

30

28

10

.913

2.22

6

4035

2002-03

31

EDM

65

29

27

8

.899

2.71

4

3814

2003-04

32

TOT

49

18

21

7

.897

2.56

3

2791

2003-04

32

EDM

44

17

18

6

.896

2.58

3

2487

2003-04

32

COL

5

1

3

1

.912

2.37

0

304

6 yrs

EDM

334

147

128

51

.906

2.44

23

19564

5 yrs

NYI

187

62

94

21

.902

2.77

14

10568

1 yr

COL

5

1

3

1

.912

2.37

0

304

Career

526

210

225

73

.905

2.55

37

30436

Playoffs:

Season

Age

Tm

GP

W

L

GA

SA

SV

SV%

GAA

SO

MIN

1998-99

27

EDM

4

0

4

11

149

138

.926

2.23

0

296

1999-00

28

EDM

5

1

4

14

133

119

.895

2.83

0

297

2000-01

29

EDM

6

2

4

15

187

172

.920

2.22

0

406

2002-03

31

EDM

6

2

4

18

161

143

.888

3.15

0

343

2003-04

32

COL

1

0

0

0

7

7

1.000

0.00

0

27

Career

22

5

16

58

637

579

.909

2.54

0

1369

NOTABLE

His lack of fistic prowess aside, Salo was a very good goaltender who was capable of great moments right up until the wheels fell off in his final two seasons with the Oilers, 2002-03 and 2003-04, in the wake of a crushing 4-3 Olympic quarterfinal defeat to Belarus. Coincidence? Difficult to say.

In one of the greatest upsets in Olympic hockey history, the heavily favored Swedes lost in Salt Lake City when Salo allowed a goal from outside the blue line by Vladimir Kopat on a rising shot that bounced off his mask and into the net. Oiler GM Kevin Lowe was in the crowd. Whether it was that debacle or just erosion in his game, Salo was never the same.

In his last two seasons, Salo’s save percentage dipped below .900, to .899 and .896, before he was dealt to the Colorado Avalanche with a sixth-round pick for a young blueliner named Tom Gilbert. It was a good trade but a bad end for Salo, who’d play just five games with Colorado before going home to play with MODO in Sweden.

THE STORY

Salo

When talks turns to Oiler goaltenders, Salo is seldom mentioned among the best who’ve played here. That, in large part, is because the team never won anything during his tenure. The Oilers made the playoffs with Salo between the pipes four straight seasons, but came up second best to the Dallas Stars in every one of them. Salo never won a series.

Salo never had great teams in front of him, but he never did manage to nudge the teams he did have past a superior opponent the way Curtis Joseph and Dwayne Roloson did when the post-season came. He was very good in the 1999 playoffs but the Oilers scored just seven goals in four games. More of the same in 2001 as the Oilers lost in six games, scoring just 13 goals.

Post-season futility against Dallas aside, you’ll find Salo among franchise regular season leaders in games played (third at 334), wins (third at 147), save percentage (third at .906), goals-against average (first at 2.44) and shutouts (first at 23). Not championship stuff, but an impressive resume when you take everything into account.

This series will look at the top 100 Edmonton Oilers from the NHL era 1979-80 to 2014-15, starting with 100 and working up. 

Listen to Robin Brownlee Wednesdays and Thursdays from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m. on the Jason Gregor Show on TSN 1260.

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        • MGD

          I agree. It seems Rollie is the reason why the Oilers kept pursuing back-up goalies instead of getting a true #1… they caught lightning in a bottle with a career back-up who pushed them into the playoffs and on to an amazing run, but that’s about it.

          • Seanaconda

            Rollie did the same thing with Tampa when he was like 40 didn’t he ? He did have some bad years but he had great years too not many goalies make it that old if they can’t play

          • ubermiguel

            MacT’s biggest mistake as a coach: Conklin as the backup in Game 1 SCF 2006. No Conklin = no Brindamour goal = maybe a win in Game 1.

            Salo was a “very good goalie” who could never quite elevate his game to reach “great goalie”. Moog and Rollie both had stretches in the playoffs when it counted where they were “great”, so I put them ahead of Salo, but some very good cases have been made for the opposite position. Also the dead puck era elevated his numbers (e.g.: shutouts) quite a bit.

          • ubermiguel

            MacT’s biggest mistake as a coach: Conklin as the backup in Game 1 SCF 2006. No Conklin = no Brindamour goal = maybe a win in Game 1.

            Salo was a “very good goalie” who could never quite elevate his game to reach “great goalie”. Moog and Rollie both had stretches in the playoffs when it counted where they were “great”, so I put them ahead of Salo, but some very good cases have been made for the opposite position. Also the dead puck era elevated his numbers (e.g.: shutouts) quite a bit.

      • Oil Is My Blood

        I would put him ahead of Moog – who didn’t really win much in Oiler regular season 143 wins in 235 games(although better win% than Salo), and an .887 SV%. as he was primarly a backup to Fuhr. (as well as playoffs, save for 11-5 WL in 82-83, while his SV% was .906 v Salo’s .909%) Can’t blame Tommy for his team’s lack of playoff scoring.

        As well, I’d put him ahead of Rolo, as Tommy has a better regular season win%, albeit not much, and Rolo only went to the playoffs with the Oil once (although it was a very exciting once).

        Also, with his stats vis-a-vis other Oiler goalie alumni, I’m sure he should rank much higher than some of the other positional players above him.

      • The Dave

        5-16 in terms of wins and losses, but his GAA and Save % were both pretty good by the standards of the time. I wouldn’t say he choked under pressure in general (Olympics notwithstanding). His playoff stats are very reflective of how those series went back in the day: the Oilers played well but the Dallas Stars played well and had double the payroll.

        • Ed in Edmonton 1

          What I recall about the Dallas playoff years is that Salo was outplayed in goal every year. Be it Belfour or Turko, he was always the 2nd best goaltender. Had he played really well and the Oil lost because Dallas was a better team (which they were) I would not be so down on Salo. But in the playoffs he never raised his game, in fact your could argue his game went south.

          • The Dave

            The last playoff series he was in I would agree, but in the others it isn’t that simple. It’s pretty easy to outplay Tommy Salo when you get to make saves against Jim Dowd (third leading Oilers playoff scorer in 2000) and Tommy has to make saves against Joe Nieuwendyk (who wasn’t even their 1C).

            I wanted to double check so I grabbed the stats for the 2000 playoff series where the Oil lost in 5 games and Salo had bad looking stats. Dallas won those first two games at home and Edmonton had 1 goal in both games (2-1 and 3-0). I’m not hanging that on the goalie. The Oilers stomped the Stars in game 3 (5-2), and then in the last two games lost by one goal in each. Salo got outplayed, but comparing those rosters tells the real story.

  • Ed in Edmonton 1

    I also recall the 1st game back with the Oil after the Belarus goal, Salo let in an bizarrely similar goal. A long shot hit him in the shoulder and bounced up and into the net. I’m, not knocking Salo about this, just a weird occurrance.

  • Ty Guy

    i seem to recall Salo getting drillled between the eyes by my then fave player Steve Larmer with a slapper from just over the blue line…not only did it break his cage, it cut him….poor Tommy Boy, no love.

  • Monkey see Monkey do

    My memory of Tommys play on that goal in the Olympics really epitomized his career in Edmonton.I always thought his biggest problem during games was staying focused,he would be brilliant and then take a break,bam!goal then the tide would turn and our guys would be overwhelmed by the end of the game.I hated those Stars,but we always seemed to follow that pattern with Tommy.

  • Himynameistaylor

    Tommy Salo was the reason why I wore #35 and started playing goalie as a kid. Definitely ahead of Roloson considering during Salo’s tenure he didn’t have a very good team in front of him. In fact if you consider most Oilers “greats”, they all had a terrific blue line in front of them.

  • Himynameistaylor

    Also need to keep in mind Salo was always always playing against elite goaltenders like Patrick Roy or Eddie Belfour so it’s pretty hard to outplay those two in their primes

  • Am I right?

    I always thought that Salo ducked his head on that Olympic goal. Peter Forsberg, in the first game Colorado played Edmonton after those Olympics, purposely shot the puck at Salo’s head, can you guess what Salo did again? Another poster stated Larmer broke his mask and he got cut, maybe that’s why.

  • kelvjn

    No love for Salo’s 94′ Olympic gold? He back stopped the Swedish team pass Canada (without the NHL players, but still boosted names like Paul Kariya, Pavel Neved and a few other future household names).

    Looking back with what we know about concussions now, it’s easy to see taking pucks in the head is not hilarious.

  • Wranglicon

    Loved tommy Salo. I actually got to go to his 1 st game as an oiler. My favorite player at the time got a hat trick (Grier), oil won 4-3 against the Canucks, and tommy broke his stick on a Mogilny wrap around attempt; my sister ands I still have those 2 halves today.