The biggest challenge for any evaluator, analyst or fan is to change how they view a player. Some will never change. You can show me all the statistics you like, but I will never accept Benoit Pouliot was worth $4 million a season, or is a top-six forward on a good team. I think he can be an effective NHL player, but he’s never been able to find consistency year-to-year. Others will view him completely different, and we can debate in circles, but it won’t change my viewpoint.
I believe 500 games is a solid enough sample size to make an evaluation, but the challenge is when we look at young players. I’ve learned it is better not to take a strong stance, because their performance can change quickly. I really liked Gilbert Brule, thought he’d be an excellent player and stood by it, but it never transpired. Since then I’m much more cautious to draw a line in the sand on how good, or bad, a player with limited games can be.
Which brings me to Laurent Brossoit. When the Oilers announced Cam Talbot was injured and would be out at least two weeks, many felt the already glum-looking season was only going to get worse. Brossoit allowed ten goals in his first two starts — not a great confidence booster for those questioning his ability — and the doubters declared the season done because Peter Chiarelli hadn’t acquired a competent backup to start the season.
Brossoit, to his credit, admitted he lost his focus in the third period in Calgary. “I played the score. I relaxed, allowed my body to get cold and couldn’t recover. I’ll learn from it,” he said.
Since then, Brossoit has started four games, stopped 100 of 108 shots for a sound .926sv% and given the Oilers solid goaltending. It helps that the Oilers started playing better team defence as well, but on this recent three-game road trip Brossoit gave the Oilers a chance to win every game. He only allowed five goals in three games.
Early in the games in Montreal and Columbus, he was very good, held the fort, and then the skaters took over and pumped four goals past Carey Price and Sergie Bobrovsky before the second intermission. Neither goalie started the third period.
Brossoit proved his doubters wrong; for three games at least.
Now the challenge is: can he do it again?
If you look at Brossoit’s season, he has gotten better, and not surprisingly his improvement has come with him playing more. Very few players can play well in limited opportunities, and for goalies the adjustment from being a starter in junior, then in the AHL and suddenly becoming a backup in the NHL is extremely challenging. We’ve seen many struggle with adapting to playing once every two or three weeks, or even longer if the starter plays 65-70 games.
Based on my twitter mentions, I sense many still don’t believe in Brossoit, which is fine. He doesn’t have an extended track record, but when I hear the argument, “He still gives up easy goals,” I find many are still focusing on the Calgary game.
He allowed two goals in Montreal. None when the game was close and the two that went in I wouldn’t classify as soft.
The opening goal in Toronto wasn’t ideal, but it squeaked through his pads, which happens to every goalie in the NHL a few times. We saw that type of goal last night, but it was Bobrovsky who allowed the soft Matt Benning goal, not Brossoit.
Brossoit had no chance on the Bjorkstrand rocket from the slot last night. Was the Jack Johnson goal really that weak? Sharp angle, you bet, but also screened. If you are a hard evaluator I can see you not loving the goal, but the game was over at that point. And Brossoit had been excellent early on when it mattered most. Does one shot from Jack Johnson overshadow the rest of a very strong game? I don’t believe it should, but that’s just me.
It is interesting watching and reading how perceptions vary from player to player and fan to fan. Brossoit gets beat by Johnson at a fairly meaningless point of the game, but then he doesn’t allow another goal. Some hate the goal, but many of the same people are fist pumping and applauding Jesse Puljujarvi moments later when he scores the sixth goal. Did either goal really impact the outcome? No, but one is applauded and one brings doubt.
I’m not criticizing Puljujarvi’s goal. A goal is a goal, and when a player scores, even late in a loss or a win it still helps their confidence moving forward. I’ve never spoke to a skater who was upset they scored late in a blowout game. But is interesting how the perception of a late goal can be applauded for one player and be construed as a negative for the other.
You can’t change someone’s opinion. Only they can alter how they view a player or a situation, but without question Brossoit is looking more comfortable with every start.
Adam put out a tweet after the Toronto game about how he was concerned with the amount of goals Brossoit allowed within four minutes of the Oilers scoring. Good research, but you will notice how quickly the numbers change for a player with limited games played.
At that time Adam discovered the Oilers had scored 54 goals with Brossoit in goal, and 19 times the opposition had scored within four minutes after the Oilers scoring.
In his first year, he allowed zero goals of the only situation like the aforementioned allowed goal within four minutes of an Oilers goal.
In his second year he allowed seven in 12 situations.
In his third year, he allowed eight in 26.
This season he has allowed eight in 37, but only two after the last 22 Oilers goals.
It was a concern, although we would have to look at every goal and see if he had no chance, it was a weak goal or simply a nice shot. Not every goal is solely on the goalie, and I’m not a goalie apologist. I prefer goals.
But, if you are looking alone at that one stat you can see a massive improvement.
All I know is Brossoit played very well on the road trip, stopping 72 of 77 shots and never allowing more than two goals per game. Regardless of how he looks doing it, if your goalie can limit the opposition to two goals every night your chances of winning increase significantly. The Oilers didn’t need six goals in Montreal or seven in Columbus to win, but it should only be a positive when the majority of the players are coming home feeling good about their offensive contributions.
IS BROSSOIT PROVEN?
I believe it is still too early to tell, but he is at least trending in the right direction. He can’t change what happened in Calgary. The moment he allows a soft goal, which will happen again (it happens to Talbot, it happened to Bobrovsky last night and it happens to every NHL goalie), we should evaluate him on how he responds after. Does he let it get to him, like in Calgary, or does he shrug it off and play well after? He did that on this road trip and for a young goalie that is a good sign of learning from previous mistakes.
I’ve been asked if he is good enough to be a back up in the playoffs. How many teams have a good enough backup come playoff time? It varies from year-to-year, but outside of the Pittsburgh Penguins, very few teams use their backup in the postseason, especially as much as Murray and Fleury.
Since the NHL went to four round of best-of-seven in 1987 (30 years of Stanley Cup Finals), 22 times the starter won all 16 games.
In 1987 Andy Moog won two and Grant Fuhr won 14. Moog was a veteran and an excellent goalie
In 1991 Tom Barrasso missed fives games due to injuries and Frank Pietrangelo won four. Pietrangelo was a veteran of a few years, but just an average backup.
In 2006, Cam Ward won 15 of 16. Martin Gerber started four games, going 1-1, was pulled twice and had a .856sv%. Gerber was in his third season and had solid numbers in his first two seasons.
In 2007, JS Giguere won 13 and Ilya Bryzgalov won three. Both had identical .922 sv%. Giguere and his wife had a son on April 4th and he had some complications with his eyes so Bryzgalov started the first four playoff games. Bryzgalov was in his second season in the NHL. He had just over 50 starts prior to the playoffs.
In 2008, Dominik Hasek was the starter. He started the first four games, and went 2-2 with a .888sv%. Chris Osgood got the start in game five versus Nashville and played the rest of the way, winning 14 games. Osgood was the rarity. A former Cup winner who started as the backup, but took over and won.
In 2015, Cory Crawford had two rough starts in round one. Scott Darling then started games games 3-6, but was pulled in game six and Crawford returned and stopped 44 shot to get the win, and then started the rest of the playoffs. Darling was a rookie in 2015 with a total of 13 NHL starts under his belt before the playoffs began.
In 2016, Matt Murray had 13 NHL starts before he was given the starting job for game one. He won 15 games in the playoffs. But he was injured in round one and Jeff Zatkoff had to make two starts (he won one). Marc-Andre Fleury had been injured late in the season with concussion on March 31st. He returned and did make one start versus Tampa Bay in the third round, after relieving Murray the game earlier. Fleury allowed four goals in his start and they went back to Murray. An unusual situation where the goalie who won 16 games was not the starter on April 1st a few weeks before the playoffs began.
Last year Fleury started the first two rounds and won a game in the third round, before Matt Murray returned from injury and won the final seven games.
Darling and Murray were raw rookies when they got thrust into the playoff fire. Murray performed better than anyone would have imagined, and Darling was great in a few games and struggled in the others, as you’d expect for a young goalie.
Osgood and Hasek are rare combo, same as Fuhr and Moog. The Oilers aren’t getting an established vet with 400 wins to back up Talbot.
The names being tossed around, Michael Hutchinson among others, are just as unproven as Brossoit would be come playoff time. If the Oilers can claw their way back into the playoffs, Talbot will be the starter. Most teams don’t have the luxury of a proven, veteran backup. Very few teams have one, and most will never use him anyways. They stick with their starter, unless there is an injury.
Brossoit is making the most of his opportunity. His numbers are trending in the right direction after a few tough starts. His last four games he has allowed eight goals and has a .926sv%. You will gladly take those numbers from your back up. He is giving the team a chance to win. But he needs to keep doing it. He likely will allow a questionable goal here and there — even great goalies do — but if he limits the easy goals and continues to stop the majority of the pucks, then he is doing exactly what the Oilers need until Talbot is ready to return.
Has your opinion changed or are you still concerned?
MONTH OF GIVING
Thank you to Jose and his great bid of $5400 and to Todd McLellan for the coaching donation.
Day 9: Package #1
- Dinner for 10 at Jason Strudwick’s home catered by Chop Steakhouse.
- It will be a five-course dinner with wine pairings as well as special hand crafted
cocktails. We will personalize the menu to the guest’s tastes.
- Chef Jonathan Ruby will prepare all of the food. He has worked at some of the best restaurants in the world. His most recentis Le Bernardin with Chef Eric Ripert.
- Brad German will be doing the wine and cocktails.
- Your party of ten will be picked up and driven home by Blue Sky Limos.
- Pub party for 10 at The Urban Tavern Includes meals and beverages for all.
- $300 GC from The Urban Tavern as well as a Lobster Bake (for eight)
- Pair of tickets (row 23) to the Oilers/Kings game on January 2nd.
You can bid by calling 780.444.1260 or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.