Once the Edmonton Oilers get out of their current five-day
break, they’re going to need a backup goaltender, which means that it’s time
for the club to put some faith in long-time prospect Laurent Brossoit. As much as there’s risk in trusting a rookie, Brossoit is as likely to get the job done as almost any of the trade candidates the Oilers could pick up.
February isn’t too crazy for the Oilers, what with this
five-day break and a two day break between home games against Chicago on
Saturday and Arizona on Tuesday. Nevertheless, the back half of the month is
packed, with eight games in its final 14 days and six of those on the road.
There’s a lull at the start of March as Edmonton plays just
a pair of games in the first nine days of the month, but from March 10 through
the end of the year things will be difficult. In the final 31 days of the
season, the Oilers will play 16 games and a pair of back-to-backs.
The point in all of this is that it’s probably a bad idea to
play Cam Talbot for all of those games, particularly if the club expects him to
be rested when the first round of the playoffs starts. Not only might his
performance suffer, but the risk of injury increases. This is particularly true
given the amount of travel that comes with playing in the West.
Brossoit vs. the Alternatives
Goalie aging curves are still a matter of debate, but the
evidence that I’ve seen (this,
are all good pieces; I also recommend Colby
Cosh on this subject) suggests that we’re justified in treating them like
prospects at other positions but with a greater uncertainty factor. In other
words, it seems likely that they peak around age 25, though one must allow for
Laurent Brossoit turns 24 next month. He’s past the age
where we can expect big leaps forward in ability, and if he can’t make the jump
now it’s possible that he never will. There’s some good evidence that he can.
First, Brossoit has posted decent numbers at every level. He
was a quality starter in the WHL, then in the ECHL, and finally in the AHL. He entered
this season with two quality years under his belt (0.918 and 0.920 save
percentages, respectively), and while his numbers are down a little over 20-odd
games this year that sort of thing happens sometimes.
Those AHL numbers don’t look too bad when compared to some
commonly cited alternatives. Reto Berra has a 0.913 save percentage in
Springfield this year; Ondrej Pavelec managed a 0.917 with Manitoba. Neither
player has particularly outperformed Brossoit this season at the same level.
Brossoit has NHL size (6’3”, 200 pounds), a resume at other
levels which suggests he’s ready to take the jump, and played well in his only
major-league start this season. He’s also on a dirt-cheap contract for this
year and next and doesn’t cost any assets to acquire.
It’s going to be hard to find a goalie who fits what should
be Edmonton’s two essential criteria for making a trade: a) plainly better than
Brossoit and b) cheap.
Most of the commonly cited goalie options are players the
Oilers shouldn’t even bother looking at. Pavelec is a great example of this kind
of player. He’s been a bad starter for years and his numbers
this season are nothing special in the AHL and downright lousy in the NHL. He’s
far more famous than Brossoit, but the evidence doesn’t suggest we should
believe he’s any better than Brossoit is today.
A lot of the potentially available goalies fall into the
same category. Keith Kinkaid and Anders Nilsson are having great seasons, but
have mediocre career numbers and were basically replacement-level a year ago.
Berra has been nothing special this season.
At the other end of the spectrum are potential starters, any
of which would be overkill with Talbot in the No. 1 spot. There’s no sense
paying a premium to bring in a challenger with him playing so well.
It isn’t easy to find a legitimate upgrade on Brossoit who
is also cheap. Looking around the league, the one I see is Jaroslav Halak, who
is a long-time starter and a quality goalie. He might be cheap because of his
contract, but the Islanders would need to take money back the other way (Mark
Fayne would be an obvious fit) and if they were to do that one would imagine
the cost of acquisition spiking.
If Edmonton can find a bargain backup goalie that is clearly
better than Brossoit, there’s no harm in going for it, but that’s going to be hard to do. If, as seems likely, the Oilers can’t acquire a legitimate upgrade they may as well just play the guy they already have.