Photo Credit: Eric Hartline-USA TODAY Sports

Finally . . . .

If you were inclined to list all of the reasons why it’s taken the Edmonton Oilers an entire decade to get up off the floor they’ve been face-down on since making it to Game 7 of the 2006 Stanley Cup final against the Carolina Hurricanes, you’d have to use most of your fingers and toes.

High up on that list, easily in the top three, is how fantastically inept the organization has been at finding goaltenders who can stop enough pucks to give a team that’s been short here, there and everywhere a chance to win. Granted, that’s been a next-to-impossible ask given the patchwork collections of overmatched blueliners and forwards stoppers have been asked to perform behind, but even allowing for that, the Oilers have been dismal at finding masked men.

Finally, after a carousel that’s seen 18 different goaltenders man the crease for the team since the start of the 2006-7 season, Cam Talbot and the current edition of the Oilers are climbing out of the deep, dark hole GMs Kevin Lowe, Steve Tambellini and Craig MacTavish dug and are shaking the dirt off thanks to the low-risk bet new GM Pete Chiarelli made after taking over the big chair.

Of course, it’s not just Talbot, who won his 36th game of the season with a 2-0 shutout of the Vancouver Canucks Saturday and is now closing in on Grant Fuhr’s franchise record of 40 wins in a season, who has turned the team’s fortunes around since Chiarelli stole him from the New York Rangers, but you cannot overstate how important he’s been. That seems obvious – now.

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Mar 10, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Cam Talbot (33) makes a save during warmup against the Pittsburgh Penguins at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

With the benefit of hindsight, it’s obvious now Chiarelli fleeced Glen Sather and the Rangers by getting Talbot and a draft pick (209th) for the 57th, 79th and 194th selections in the 2015 Entry Draft. At that price, Talbot, who’d mostly caddied for Henrik Lundqvist in his 57 games with the Rangers, was a good bet. I thought so at the time and so did most of you. I had no idea, though, Chiarelli’s roll of the dice would turn out as well as it has. Guess what? Neither did Talbot.

Mark Spector of Sportsnet talked to Talbot about cleaning up a mess in the crease that had seen Richard Bachman, current back-up Laurent Brossoit, Ilya Bryzgalov, Tyler Bunz, Yann Danis, Jeff Deslauriers, Devan Dubnyk, Viktor Fasth, Mathieu Garon, Martin Gerber, Jonas Gustavsson, Nikolai Khabibulin, Jason LaBarbera, Jussi Markkanen, Anders Nilsson, Dwayne Roloson and Ben Scrivens spend time in the blue paint since 2006-07.

“I had that stretch in New York when Hank went down,” Talbot recalled of taking over after Lundqvist took a puck to the neck and going 12-2-3 with a .923 save percentage in a 17-game stretch. “But it’s different, knowing you’re going right back to the bench. As opposed to now, where I know that night in and night out I’m going back into the nets.

“You can never be too sure. You want to be confident in yourself, but I still had something to prove to myself, and to this organization when I got traded here. I think I’ve done a pretty good job of that.” With a 36-20-8 record, a .921 save-percentage, goals-against average of 2.35 and six shutouts with 11 games to play, “a pretty good job of that” is the understatement of the year.

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Getting Talbot for the draft picks Chiarelli gave up is like finding a crumpled $20-bill in a jacket pocket, slapping it down on a lottery ticket and hitting the jackpot. Outside of landing Connor McDavid in the NHL draft lottery, acquiring Talbot stands today as the most significant bit of good fortune in, at long last, turning a miserable decade around.

Great goaltending will seldom, if ever, make a lousy team a legitimate Stanley Cup contender. It can, however, put a good, sometimes even a borderline, team in the hunt. We saw it here with Curtis Joseph in the 1990s and with Roloson in 2006. The Oilers are a good team right now — likely better than what Cujo had in front of him. So, you get what we’ve got here. A chance.

The Oilers are going to make the playoffs for the first time since their Cup run came up short in 2006 and Talbot, who has started 64 games and isn’t showing any signs or running of gas, is within reach of Fuhr’s single-season franchise record of 40 wins. Who called that when Chiarelli sent those afterthought draft picks to Manhattan? Not me.

Barring an unexpected playoff roll like we saw in 2006, there’s likely more work for Chiarelli to do, more seasoning required for young players like McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and Oscar Klefbom, before the Oilers can reasonably be expected to take a run at a sixth Stanley Cup. What we do know is the Oilers are a good team on the rise and they finally have their goaltender. It’s been a long time since we could even contemplate having the conversation that follows.

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

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    • Hemi-97

      I don’t think it will happen this year but if it did it would probably be the second most satisfying after the first one of course! I was 16 and in a baseball tournament that day and we listened to it on the bench and I caught the second and third period of the deciding game. What a day!!

  • My biggest worry right now is if anything happens to Talbot. They’re playing his butt off because we need the points and there’s zero confidence in Broissoit. That means fatigue (both mental and physical) will inevitably become a factor and the chances of getting injured increase dramatically. No Talbot, no chance. Bachman played great last night for the Canucks. I’d feel way more confident having a quality backup like that to keep him fresh.

    • OriginalPouzar

      People keep saying that fatigue will inevitably become a factor but there is no actual factual basis for this. He has been incredibly consistent through the entire season and, in fact, his numbers in the last quarter have been his best (stat from a few weeks ago). He rests via little practice time (clearly is OK not practicing), says he thrives on work as it helps him get in to a rhythym and is compact with his style of play).

      Absolutely a few games off during the stretch run will be great – hopefully they can provide a little breathing room so that a few starts off can be had, however, this man has shown no signs of fatigue to this point in the year.

      • OilersGM

        Agree ?% but there is no breathing room to rest him no matter what because we have to try and win home ice advantage and that means beating the Lames and ducks or should I say lame ducks.

  • Bloodsweatandoil

    Not so sure if Chiarelli fleeced Slats…….sometimes I wonder if Slats knew what he was doing and gave Edmonton a gift to build around as one last gift while he still could……..Once an Oiler, always an Oiler sort of thing…..

  • Big Jacks Meat

    I don’t think Bachman is any better than L.B. Seriously. He needs some damn work though. Once we clinch , send him down to play a couple games in the Bake if its not too late and bring GUS up to ride the pine. LB needs to play. Its been a month..Dont get caught with a rusty Goaltender. Think….

    • OriginalPouzar

      Gus is actually super hot right now with a save percentage over .950 in his last 5.

      They are riding Gus to a playoff spot in Bakersfield.

      Also, be careful of call-ups, we only have 3 non-emergency call-ups left.

  • OilBlood

    I think saying Chiarelli “fleeced” Sather is a bit of an exaggeration.

    Personally I think Sather did a favour to his old organization as his last move as GM of the rangers.

    • BlueHairedApe

      I have often wondered…the timing with his name being hoisted to the rafters was almost too much of a coincidence. Was Talbot a gift to the organization and the city? We’ll probably never know.

  • giddy

    Talbot is an interesting case in NHL goaltending. Various statistics suggest that he plays best when he’s playing a lot. Coming off 3+ day breaks is often when he (and to be fair, the rest of the team as well) plays the worst. Now after playing already 64 games, he doesn’t seem to show any signs of fatigue or that he’s any worse for wear than any other goaltender in the league. I mean heck, look at his 33 save shutout last night. I have no insider knowledge on what the toll of being a starting goaltender for an NHL team is like, and how it affects you when you play 65+ games in a season vs playing 55~ games, but Talbot seems to chug along just fine with his work load.

    Besides, unless your team’s name is the Pittsburgh Penguins, playing your backup in the playoffs is often a death sentence anyway. If Talbot feels he’s 100% going into the playoffs, what really makes him much more likely to be injured than a goalie that played ~10 less games over the span of 7 months?

    That said, having a reliable backup that we can have confidence in to start the odd game or on a -back-to-back would be fantastic.

  • CMG30

    My personal feeling is that Talbot is the number 1 reason this team is where it is. CMD gets a (well deserved) heaping of praise, but worst-in-league goaltending has sunk more editions of Oilers than I care to count. A fact that far too many fans refused to acknowledge at the time, instead trotting out the tired goalie-is-only-as-good-as-the-blue-line cliche or choosing to blame players like Hall.

    • OriginalPouzar

      I’ve been laughed at on other platforms for saying that an argument can be made that Talbot is the team’s MVP.

      I think its true.

      Clearly McDavid is a superstar and Talbot isn’t at his level (he’s not top 2 in his position in the world), however, with Talbot, we are likely a lottery team (same with McDavid).

      Guess what though? Talbot is an Oiler. McDavid is an Oiler.

    • giddy

      I agree, but look at Dubnyk with the Edmonton blue line, and Dubnyk with the Minnesota blue line. Obviously a lot comes from Dubnyk maturing as a goalie, and there’s no question he let in a lot of softies when he was playing as an Oiler, but a good blue line that reduces the number of grade A scoring chances is going to make a goalie look a helluva lot better.

      • LaRock

        Dubnyk was also a disaster in both Nashville and Arizona before he saved his own career in Minnesota, and good for him. I was always a fan of his, but it was not all Edm’s D.

        • Dwayne Roloson 35

          Dubnyk actually saved his career in Arizona. He credits their goalie coach for his turnaround. He did post a 2.72GAA and a 916sv% which is pretty solid.

  • grumpyKoala

    Tonight Flames vs Kings…

    Not sure who I root for…
    I would hate a flames win for obvious reason
    I would hate a kings win for obvious reason….

    No betman point plz

    • OriginalPouzar

      Yup, the LAK/CGY game is annoying.

      LAK in regulation is the right call I think – LAK are currently 10 points back – they are simply not going to catch the Oilers at this point.

      Yes, generally, I am still cheering against the Kings, I’m counting down that magic number, however, for tonight, I think the best is for an LAK regulation victory.

      • Crazy Pedestrian

        Yep, I mentioned the same rule the last time everyone was conflicted about who to cheer for (the Last fLames-Kings game) unfortunately that game ended with the worst possible result, fLames winning in OT…
        Go Kings Go!!!
        (that feels weird…)

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    It was a smart low risk cost and has turned out nicely. A lot of positive factors have contributed to his success like better defensemen, a better system deployed by the coaches and the Connor Effect. I say ride the horse that got you there if he goes down there is no backup that could really replace him. No matter what he is a good goalie and the right personality for this team and I wish him and the whole team more victories going forward.

  • Bills Bills

    I agree and disagree. Yes Talbot is a NHL starting goalie. He is very good, probably top 10. But without an NHL caliber defence, there is no stopper that could have helped this team. This team spent the last 10 years shuffling reargards like deck chairs on the Titanic. They finally have legitimate a nhl defence. They are still a top pairing RH guy away from really making hay but I trust PC will find the guy they need.

  • Finnish Oiler fan in Edmonton89

    Hey guys , nothing to do with article , but should we be cheering for flames to lose or the flames to win

    If Flames win, it will put an even larger hole between the kings and 8th place

    Basically the idea being if the oilers collapse, it will be much harder to fall any further than that last wildcard spot

    • Seriously Bored

      Flames to lose.
      We have a 10 pt lead on the kings with 11 games to go. That means the kings would have to win 6 of their games and we lose every single one of ours. We play vancouver twice and colorado twice.
      There is no way the oilers will miss the play offs now. They have not gone an 11 game losing streak this year and they are not going to go on one to finish the season.

  • dangilitis

    I agree with virtually everything expressed about Talbot. Not Chiarelli’s mistake, and not to be too pessimistic, but… the fact remains that 1 of the goalies from that carousel is likely going to win the Vezina over Talbot, and we didn’t even know what we had. And it wasn’t a stop gap goalie, it was one that the team paid a premium for as a 1st round pick, developed slowly through the system, only to be thrown to the wolves as a starter in Eakins’ train wreck of a system on an undermanned organization. I didn’t think getting rid of Dubnyk was a bad bet at the time, and it’s moot now, but it’s crazy to think about the tandem this team could have if they had held onto Dubnyk for a couple more years and made the play for Talbot.

      • OriginalPouzar

        It wasn’t just one bad season, Devan wasn’t good enough in the previous seasons, even those that had decent save % and GAA. He was similar to Roli in that he was prone to letting in a terrible goal at a terrible time. I don’t are if your are solid and stop 32 out of 35 shots if two of those goal let in are weak and momentum killers.

        Since he left, I have realized that a big part of it was the defence – not just the d-men but also the team defence – it was brutal and I’m sure it was tough to be a tender behind it.

        Devan had to go and the trade was a good one – we got some nice years out of Hendricks.

        Lets not forget, Dubnyk was also let go by the Predator and Hab organizations before he landed in MIN.

        Great on Devan to become elite – I’m happy for him.

      • dangilitis

        Agreed. I clearly remember many times that season where he let in a softie that couldn’t be blamed on the poor defensive coverage, which often seemed to be back breaking for a fragile team. Also happy for him, and it’s nice to know that the two moves several years apart have seemed to offset one another.

  • Aussie Oil

    Disclaimer – I have never been a goalie so can’t back this up with any evidence… But I think the whole argument of a goalie getting tired over a season from playing too much is a total load of crap. To me that would be like saying ‘I’m too tired to go to the gym today because I’ve gone so much over the last several months’. Total garbage. If anything a goalie should play better if he’s played a lot of games. Does anybody actually think Talbot gets tired because he played a few games more than the average goalie throughout the year? Doubt it.

    • I think there’s truth to it, but a few things work in Talbot’s favour. His style is pretty efficient, and he’s had a few stretches of rest already. The timing of the All-Star break as well as the Oilers break in the season made them nearly back to back.

      Energy level is one thing, but playing through minor injuries is another; I do believe there is truth to playing your goalie a little too often. Also, going to the gym is different than playing sports. Going on a day where you don’t have the physical or mental energy, you can afford to pace your workout to make it more manageable. In sports you have to be 100% during 100% of the time.

      The ideal season + post-season is at least around 100 games. Every single one of those post-season games is ideally played by your starter and never by your backup. So having that bit of extra rest going in is important IMO. Going into that post-season playing 10 fewer games only helps. But as I said, Talbot had the benefit of not going to the ASG and not too long after had his bye-week.

      Let’s not forget that this is a first for Talbot too. Being in this position in the standings is new to Nuge, Ebs, etc. but being a starter playing more than 60 games a year is new to Talbot. So whether he plays 75 games by the end of the season or 65, it’ll be interesting to see how he fares…he’s held up rather admirably when you consider that the most he’s played prior to joining the Oilers is 36 games.

  • Second Tier Oiler Fan

    Acquiring Talbot was huge, but the single biggest change for the oilers occurred when Katz finally grew a pair and brought in an experienced hockey czar (Bob) and he skidded Klowe/Tambo/MacT and brought in Chia. Culture change and respectability of the team started to turn in the right direction soon after.

  • foureyedmike

    I am happy for the Oil, and for Talbot, for succeeding so well. It’s nice to see the Oil set in goal.

    However, this article is written with the benefit of hindsight. Trading a 2nd, 3rd and a 6th (?) for a promising backup is a pretty good haul. Edmonton had tried their luck with other team’s promising backup / 1B goalies (Scrivens, Fasth, Garon), and even older starters (the Bulin wall)… and for all them, it was their last NHL stop.

    Edmonton’s D, and systems, are better than they were before. Did MacLellan / Chiarelli make a change with goalie coaches or consulting? Or did the Oil just strike lightning this time and Talbot’s the real deal? Robin, do you have any insight here?

    It was surprising Chiarelli didn’t pick up a backup at the deadline. I still think they could use one…

    • “However, this article is written with the benefit of hindsight. ”
      I think I made that pretty clear throughout the item, including here: “At that price, Talbot, who’d mostly caddied for Henrik Lundqvist in his 57 games with the Rangers, was a good bet. I thought so at the time and so did most of you. I had no idea, though, Chiarelli’s roll of the dice would turn out as well as it has.”

      The Oilers are better. The systems are better and, yes, Dustin Schwartz came aboard in 2014 and is the goaltending coach now.

      • foureyedmike

        Oh, for sure… and I read those points in your article.

        I guess I’m wondering why this guy succeeds and the others don’t. Being closer to the team, how much do you put on ability vs. that new goalie coach (is he better?) and systems?

      • foureyedmike

        Also, part of me wonders how you look at a backup and tell he’s a potential #1, and could start 70 games a season.

        Good thing no one pays me hundreds of thousands to manage an NHL team…

  • McPucker

    I coach.
    If we don’t have a good goalie, I know we’re not going to compete with the top teams.
    I’d say Talbot and McDavid are both vital to the team’s success. Another question to ask is, if you were Tmac and had to sit one for 15 games, who would you get more wins with?