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
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
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?