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Photo Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

How Many?

Cam Talbot established a career high and led all NHL goaltenders with appearances by starting 73 regular season games with the Edmonton Oilers last season. Is Talbot capable of playing in 73 games with the Oilers again in 2017-18? Sure he is. That said, I’m not convinced that an encore would be the best option.

Credit to Gregg for raising that question in last Monday’s edition of the mailbag here at Oilersnation. Is starting 73 games too many for Talbot at this point in his career? Is that number about right? Is there even such a thing as just the right number of starts? I’m not sure there is, although my sense is the Oilers would be well-served by finding a way to ease Talbot down into the high-60s in appearances.

Doing so, of course, depends largely on having somebody capable of spelling Talbot off for a dozen or so games during the course of the regular season. Going into the this upcoming training camp, Laurent Brossoit, who has just 14 NHL games on his resume, is the guy who’ll get the first crack at doing that in 2017-18. Getting Talbot more rest also depends on the schedule, the standings and his ability to comfortably shoulder the actual workload – shots and chances he faces – in the games he gets.

“Lots of guys do it,” Talbot said last season when asked about pushing past the 70-game mark. “You’ve got to be smart, manage your body, recharge and be ready for the next game. 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.”

BY THE NUMBERS

Mar 30, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) is seen out on the ice as they play against the San Jose Sharks during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

Talbot played in seven more games than any of his counterparts last season. Frederik Andersen of the Toronto Maple Leafs was second at 66 games, while former Oiler Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild, Martin Jones of the San Jose Sharks and Tuukka Rask of the Boston Bruins rounded out the top five by playing 65 games each.

Talbot’s numbers aren’t out of line with games-played leaders in recent seasons. In 2015-16, Jonathan Quick of Los Angeles led the way with 68 games. Dubnyk was second with 67 and Braden Holtby of Washington and Pekka Rinne of Nashville played 66 each. In 2014-15, Holtby led with 73 games while Quick was second at 72 and Rask was third at 70.

Those numbers pale in comparison to the standard set by Grant Fuhr. The former Oiler great still owns the single-season record for regular season games at 79 – he did that as a member of the St. Louis Blues in 1995-96 at the age of 33. Martin Brodeur is second in that category at 78 games – he managed that at the age of 34 with New Jersey. All told, Brodeur played 75-or-more games five times during his career.

That’s not to suggest 70-plus games for starters is the norm. Fuhr and Brodeur were workhorses. Last season, for example, just 13 goaltenders played in 60-or-more games. In 2015-16, 10 stoppers played 60-plus games. In 2014-15 the number was 12. As an aside, it’s interesting to note none the last four Vezina Trophy winners hit the 70-game mark. Sergei Bobrovsky played 63 games this season. Holtby earned the Vezina in 66 games in 2015-16, Carey Price played 66 games in 2014-15 and Rask played just 58 in 2013-14.

THE BOTTOM LINE

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

Over the past three seasons, Holtby played 202 games for an average of 67.3 per season. Rask played 199 for an average of 66.3. Dubnyk has played 190 games for an average of 63.3. Quick was limited to 17 games this season because of injury but played in 140 the previous two seasons for an average of 70 games. Based on the go-to guys right now, Talbot’s 73 seems a touch heavy.

So, back to the question — what’s the number? The way I see it, Brossoit, or whoever is the back-up here, has to be capable of giving Talbot a minimum of a dozen nights off without the Oilers kissing off two points every time he does. Having Talbot on the pine for another two or three on top of that, say 14-15 games in total, would be right in the sweet spot for me. What about you?

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • Serious Gord

    In a perfect world – read: assuming the backup is just as good as the number one – the ideal number would be 60.

    It’s all well and good that talbot thinks he can sustain 73, would you expect him to say anything other than that? It’s like a starting pitcher saying he should come out of a game.

    So, assuming this year his playing time will ‘regress’ to the ideal number above, that means brossoit needs to be in about 20 games. I think it very safe assumption that his win/loss record will be worse than talbots.

    The difference between last year’s finish and missing the playoffs was (arguably) five more losses.

    And it is unlikely that talbot is going to play better than he did last season.

    So the upshot is goaltending will be weaker on the whole this year than it was last year.

    Which means the skaters will need to be better than they were this season.

  • Hemmercules

    I bet he plays 70 games. No less, probably more. 12 games seems like a reasonable number for Brossoit.

    It would be nice if Brossoit impressed and played more like 20 games but I dont see that happening.

  • Devolution

    The thing that should scare everyone is an injury. We became used to a healthy lineup last year, but that hasn’t been the norm. Then Brossoit is your number 1 and your backup is? Who?

    • crabman

      As our backup for this year? Before now Chicago wasn’t trading him because he was a great backup on tje cheap. And was traded this offseason because they couldn’t afford his raise.
      He now makes over 4M per. To much money for our backup. And not good enough to replace talbot for the minimal savings.

  • a lg dubl dubl

    Talbotron surprised me last year with how he handled himself in net and playing a lot of consecutive games before Gus/LB played. If LB can win his first 2 games I think TMac will have even more faith in him and we’ll see Talbot play closer to 60-65 games. If LB plays like crap then we could see Cam play closer to 75 again. Health is also a big question mark too for me, yes 33 has been healthy but the last thing the Oilers need is Cam going down for a long period of time during the season.

  • Nanook

    I don’t know. Some guys seem to be built to just work. There are far more strenuous jobs out there that work 10-12 hour days 6 days a week and no one offers to lighten their load. Not saying its right, but if he can handle it then what the problem? Besides. It seems that the games he struggled most in were games after a night off. Some guys get in a groove and just like to stay there. Either way im sure Mclelland and Talbot will be in close communication over it and they will do what they see fit.

  • Yelak

    I think we can pretty safely say it will be right in that 65-70 range. We don’t have a proven backup able to take on 20 starts with the high quality that Talbot brings. The standings are so close we cant just rest Talbot for the sake of rest as losing 2-3 games that could have been won by Talbot can be a major difference come end of season, in saying that we need to make sure Talbot is not getting burned out though either, especially as playoffs come around. Talbot and his coachs will know how he is doing and if they feel comfortable playing him 73 games again, thats just fine, I would assume it will be more around 65 though with more confidence given to the backup than it was last year. If Brossoit excels than he should be given some extra games, Ellis may find his way into a couple games as well.

  • Mike Modano's Dog

    LB played just fine last year. This year without ‘The Monster’ in net to put fear into the hearts of Oilers fans and coaches alike I believe we will use our backup more often. Hopefully Talbot plays in just under 70 games.