Tonight’s win over the San Jose Sharks was Cam Talbot’s 41st of the season, passing Hall of Fame legend Grant Fuhr for most wins in a single season all-time by an Edmonton Oiler. We talk a lot, as we should, about the growing legacy of Connor McDavid being written in front of our eyes, but Talbot has put up what’ll go down as an all-time great season in Oilers history.
When the Oilers acquired Cam Talbot back in June 2015 for a second- and third-round pick, I think pretty much everybody viewed it as a nice acquisition. Nothing major, or game changing, it seemed, but a solid upgrade nonetheless. He was excellent in relief of the injured Henrik Lundqvist with the New York Rangers, playing well enough in limited action to finish seventh in Vezina Voting.
I don’t think anybody could have predicted the impact Talbot was going to have on this Oilers team. When he was signed to a three-year, $12.5 million extension in January 2016 after just half a season with the organization, it seemed like a fair risk to take on, at the very least, a solid goalie. Now, it’s arguably one of the best value contracts for any goaltender in the NHL.
It’s difficult to compare players and goalies throughout generations because of how the league changes around them. In the 1980s, the Oilers had multiple players putting over 100 points, now, it’s incredible that they might have one. Back then, posting a .900 save percentage was really something, whereas now, that would be below-replacement level.
According to Hockey-Reference’s point shares metric, Talbot has had the best season all-time for an Oilers goaltender. Of course, this stat isn’t perfect, none are, but it helps us see nice and easy just how good Talbot has been, and big of a role he’s played in this 2016-17 Oilers team’s success. It’s all the way up there, ahead of Tommy Salo, Dwayne Roloson, Curtis Joseph, Bill Ranford, and Fuhr’s best years. 41 wins, 72 games played, 1917 saves on 2086 shots is truly incredible.
Fuhr has always been described as somebody who elevated his play when the team needed it most. Whether it was 1-0 or 10-9, he would keep those 80s dynasty teams in the game, coming up with huge saves in critical moments of the game. I think Talbot has had a similar essence for the Oilers this year. He’s been steady and reliable almost every night, and in games when the Oilers get outplayed, he seems to step up his game. With somebody like that between the pipes, the team can play with a higher level of confidence. If not for Talbot, I don’t think the Oilers would be anywhere near as successful as they’ve been this season. He really is the unsung hero of this team.