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Photo Credit: Candice Ward-USA TODAY Sports

Searching for Stopgaps

Laurent Brossoit held in, with help from a TJ Brodie own-goal, for the win against Calgary Saturday night. Brossoit has let in five goals in two starts since Cam Talbot was placed on injured reserve. It’s hard to blame him for all of the goals. The Russell own-goal can be forgiven, but the goal-line flubs in the third period against the Flames shouldn’t be.

Almost every game is a must-win for the Oilers. They have to play close to .600 hockey to really get back into the playoff hunt. Todd McLellan said Cam Talbot is out at least two weeks and added that it could be longer.

The Oilers only play one game, against Philadelphia, before a back-to-back versus Montreal and Toronto next weekend. They need to acquire a goaltender, even if Talbot is only out for a couple weeks. Finding out if Brossoit can recover means the season could be over in the process. Here are some options.

Michael Hutchinson: Acquiring goaltender help from someone waived by the Winnipeg Jets seems strange, but Hutchinson has a .951 save percentage for the AHL’s Manitoba Moose this year and a career .910 in the NHL. The Jets opted for Steve Mason and Connor Hellebuyck, and would probably rather have Eric Comrie get the bulk of the starts for the Moose.

Calvin Pickard or Garret Sparks: Pickard and Sparks were both on waivers early in the season. Pickard is an interesting option. He was fantastic in a lesser role from 2014 to 2016, but wasn’t good as a starter for a historically bad Colorado team. Toronto traded for him after he cleared waivers, so it’d be strange if they moved him again.

Sparks is less proven than Pickard at the NHL level, but he’s been ridiculous in the AHL. His last three seasons in the AHL include .944, .922, and .928 seasons. His 17 NHL games all came with a Toronto team headed for last place in 2015-16. Scott Wedgwood, who had less impressive numbers in the AHL, is 3-4-2 with a .915 save percentage for Arizona this season. Sparks might be worth a shot even with his lack of NHL experience.

Andrew Hammond: Hammond will be remembered for his incredible run three years ago, but he followed that up with a respectable season after that. He was included in the Duchene deal as a salary dump, so I’m sure Colorado wouldn’t mind getting rid of his $1.5 million salary.

Philipp Grubauer: Washington’s backup to Braden Holtby has been fantastic through 74 NHL games, but he’s had a tough start to the season. His 0.886 save percentage is far below his previous NHL work, but he’s only played nine games.

Grubauer is one of those higher-end backups that could be a starter somewhere else, although that means his cost would be more than anyone previously mentioned. Braden Holtby’s the long term guy in Washington, but they’ll want something good to part with Grubaeur, compared to a Hammond or Hutchinson.

The other option is giving Nick Ellis a game or two. He’s been sold in Bakersfield, saving .914 percent of his shots this year, and .918 last season, but he hasn’t played an NHL game yet.

There are a few low-cost options, but I’d be intrigued by a Sparks or Grubauer, who could potentially help beyond this season too.

  • oilerjed

    The problm I see with picking up another player is that it will put the Oilers at 50 contracts and leave no room to upgrade somewhere that is a more long term need. IE forward group or upgrade in defense

    • TruthHurts98

      Maybe Reto Berra if they wanted to part with him, he’s a capable backup in a pinch. I think PC added Davidson and Walker because LB and another player are most likely moving out to get a better qualified backup.

    • Dan 1919

      Just kidding, I like Chiarelli generally but he did get a little overconfident going into this year. My opinion with Oilers glasses in full tint is that this little setback to start this year will pay huge dividends for the character of the players, coaches and management for the next 5+ years not take competing in this league for granted.

  • heyrayray

    LB will be fine, this is the cost of overplaying Talbot. He would be more ready to be thrust into a starting role if they would have let him start games without the pressure of having the #1 injured.

    • Dan 1919

      That’s a bold statement considering he’s put on possibly the worst NHL goaltending performance I’ve seen in quite some time in the last few games. But hey, I hope you’re right. For the team to gamble on him at this point would be sheer recklessness though, they may as well give Ellis a shot, nothing to lose.

  • TKB2677

    If you are Chia don’t you have to make a move to bring in a goalie just for the optics of the guys in the room? Talbot is out for at least 2 weeks, it might be longer. The Oilers as a team were off to a terrible start but are legit showing signs of taking off. Defensively they are playing a lot better and they brought in some depth. Scoring wise, they seem to be getting goals from different guys finally. They need to fix their PK but if they don’t get goaltending, every stride they make is for not. No player in the room is going to say it but you have to think their confidence in LB is bit shaky. In the Leafs game, he ended up settling down and the Oilers deserved at least a point but the second goal was brutal. In the NHL you can’t have your goalie letting in garbage goals. In the Calgary game, they were up 6-1 and they did go a bit on cruise control but Bennett’s first goal was from the corner on the goal line. That is a not an NHL goal. Gaudreau’s goal was again in the corner on the goal line. Another non NHL goal. Even the Ferland goal, a non screened beyond the top of the circles, wrist shot. It wasn’t even a one timer. Ferland is not a sniper and most good NHL goalies should stop that. Even Bennett’s second goal. LB was SOOOO deep in his net and went down way, way, way too early so Bennett had the whole top to shoot at.

    Even if Brossoit just stops the 2 goal line goals which are beer league goals, it’s 7-3. Is anyone saying the Oilers took their foot off the gas in the 3rd if it’s 7-3? Not a chance.

    • TruthHurts98

      You spot on your analysis. LB played well and maybe got lucky the first two periods. He plays way to deep in the crease and hopes the puck hits him by playing his position well in his mind. He’s not reacting well to shots and thus got beat easily multiple times without really moving on any of the goals. It seems very likely that PC is making a trade today for another backup so hopefully we don’t have to hope and pray LB can make a save next game when it counts.

  • FISTO Siltanen

    When Talbot started 23 games back in 2015 for the Rangers he looked legit by end of run. First 4 games? .882 S%.

    Can we give LB one more game before we write off his NHL career?

    • Jordan McNugent-Hallkins

      The problem is, if they lose the next two or three games due to goaltending, the season is pretty much officially done. And like TKB said above, the progress made by the team the last couple weeks is all for nothing. If they’d gotten off to a better start and were currently middle of the pack in the Pacific, we’d have some breathing room to audition Brossoit a little more while Talbot is out.

      As it stands right now, every game from here on out is vital, and we can’t afford to lose games due to a young goalie finding his footing/confidence.

      • TruthHurts98

        He had two chances back to back and let in 10 goals. That’s enough of a trial run in the NHL when your team is on the verge of getting back in the race or falling off the map. Another bad outing and the fans would turn on him big time. He doesn’t need that for his confidence, going back to the AHL might be more beneficial for his development.

        • FISTO Siltanen

          One of those goals was sniped by his own player. At least one if not two was by complete breakdown on the oncoming rush. And at least two were analyzed by Gregor in his post about the Oilers horrible PK and their line-up formation on the faceoff.

          Ten goals let in. Four with assists to his teammates/coaches.

          One more game. Short leash.

    • Derian Hatcher

      He had a rough third period no doubt. I thought he came out of the crease well on the second 2 on 1 to make Gaudreau miss the net on what would have been the tying goal. I would give him the start against Philly and see if he can bounce back. I think he has it in him. He made some outstanding saves against the Leafs.

  • Bob Lawblaw

    I say don’t give up on LB. Let him play vs Philly but don’t wait too long to put in Ellis if LB lets in a bad goal or two. As far as I know, Ellis has only preseason NHL action.

  • Bringer_Of_Snow

    Chad Johnson from the last place Sabres??? He was great last year, and is obvisouly not putting up as good numbers behind a putrid Sabres team. Also a UFA at the end of the year… Could do something around Pakarinen for Johnson?

  • gordo

    the coach, over the last regular season, and this year, never gave lb opportunities, at least not many. is he the answer? chia coulda brought in a goalie in july. a goalie today won’t be cheap

  • DXB

    I’m a little surprised Russel isn’t in the discussion, has anyone asked if he would be willing to strap em on? He’s one of the best in the league at stopping pucks playing out. Logic would suggest he could be a beast with goalie gear on….no?

  • Moneyball

    The question is what do you give up for this Temporary goalie? None of those guys cry out NHL goalie. I think you give LB at least another game. Start Ellis against Philly and then go back to Brossoit if Ellis is not outstanding.

    • Kevwan

      I agree with starting Ellis against Philly. If he struggles then Chia needs to make a move. If not one of the goalies listed then maybe someone like JF Berube. The cost will be a lower draft pick.

      Brossoit play this year has been brutal and the team has no time to let him work on his game

  • Spaceman Spiff

    Not to sound like I’m in the goaltenders’ union, but at some point, cooler heads must prevail. LB must be allowed to play his way through this. He’s played two bad games in a row – with good saves mixed in with the bad. That’s alarming and unfortunate and concerning … but it’s not a tragedy. The Oilers went 1-1 in those games. The two points earned Saturday still count towards the standings.

    We can speculate all we want on here, but I believe Chiarelli and McLellan already have the man they want in goal right now, for the time being, and will stick with him to see if he can right himself. Like young pitchers and young quarterbacks, the only way to fix young goalies is to send them back out to get their confidence back and hope they’ve learned something about themselves or their game along the way.

    I mention this every time an Oilers’ goalie struggles and I’ll mention it again: In the first game of the Stanley Cup playoffs, Bill Ranford got lit up so badly (and looked bad doing it) by the Winnipeg Jets, the CBC cameras caught Jets coach Bob Murdoch yelling to his players to “Shoot that puck from everywhere! Shoot that puck from everywhere!” because Ranford would likely let it in. Ranford let in seven that first game, but despite the bleatings of the local media, John Muckler didn’t throw Pokey Reddick in. He kept with Ranford, who shook off his nerves in the bright spotlight and went on to win the Conn Smythe and the Cup.

    Fast-forward to now and the Oilers are in nowhere near the kind of jam they were 27 springs ago. In fact, they have spent the better part of the last two years developing and preparing LB for this moment. No way they toss him aside after two bad games, one of which was a win. I will stand corrected, but my guess is LB starts against the Flyers.

    • Kaplan

      I think this comment nailed it. Far too soon to cut LB loose. He’s .500 after his first two starts, post-Talbot injury. That’s not terrible. He’s barely started and has had a sub-par d-corps in front of him at times. Start him against Philly, and watch his team rally in front of him and his confidence rise.

    • the reasonable person

      Ya, someone needed to post something like this… Like it or not, in my opinion, Brossoit needs to start against Philly. Why would you put in Ellis then maybe go back to Brossoit, to trash both guys’ confidence levels? This is a two-week stretch light on games and Brossoit needs a chance to calm his nerves. Let’s not forget he did what he needed to do to give the team a chance to take 4 points in must-win games against good teams that he was tossed into… He’s not going to keep letting in multiple goals from beside the net.

  • Oilers Nation Citizen

    There’s this amazing thing called “team defence” where teams that do it, like Las Vegas, are making the playoffs with third and fourth string goalies. It looks like we are resigned to giving up high danger chances under whatever system Todd has them playing, and we need a goalie that can handle that type of pressure.

  • D'oh-ilers

    I think LB still has a chance to make it in the NHL in some capacity, but he needs more time in Bakersfield to get himself back into the right mindset. He’s great when he’s playing with confidence, but he seems to be lacking that at the moment.

    • the reasonable person

      Not in total disagreement with this but the Oilers cannot go with LB as their backup, NEVER let him play, then kick him to the curb when he has a shaky couple periods in 2 must-win games on big stages against good teams. Come to think of it how attractive would it even be for a goalie to come here knowing Talbot plays 70 games a year, you get 12 if you’re lucky, then you’re expected to come in and outplay Talbot should he ever get injured or else you might be run out of town. Just another example of how things perpetually seem to work here in the heartland of hockey.

  • Bob Lawblaw

    John Shannon at Sportsnet is “reporting” that not one fan wants LB in Oilers net. I for one know he’s wrong and that it’s a case of media listening to the vocal minority. I’m really tired the hyperbole with media propaganda speaking for the silent majority. LB is a young player who has had a few struggles in limited time as a starter that for the most part in the games against Toronto and Calgary played well. He’s young and learning. He knows he needs to be better and deserves the chance. No one needs the media to incite fair-weather fans to chase yet another player out of town. Remember Dubnyk or Lupul or Conroe. Even Eberle but everyone want to blame Chia for that one instead of recalling how he wasn’t worth a sh!t in one way or another. Good grief.

  • LB doesn’t have to be Talbot…he just has to be halfway decent, which he wasn’t in the 3rd period.

    But I do think he can be a halfway decent goalie, and I think it can happen as soon as the next game vs Philly.

    With Drai on the 3rd line, this team has scored 18 goals in 4 games. The offense we’ve been expecting all season has finally arrived, along with fairly sound team defense for most of the past 4 games. Throw in a halfway decent goalie along with those 2 things and you’ll get wins. The Golden Knights first month and a half was defined by this.

    There is a back-to-back this weekend, I’d try Ellis in one of those games, for sure.

    I’ll admit I could be overly patient, here. I’m essentially allowing LB another chance to collapse, and it might happen. But I have a bit of faith in him and the team.