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Photo Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Changing Perceptions: Laurent Brossoit

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.

BROSSOIT IMPROVING

Nov 30, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Laurent Brossoit (1) makes a save on Toronto Maple Leafs forward Patrick Marleau (12) during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports

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?

Nov 21, 2017; St. Louis, MO, USA; St. Louis Blues center Oskar Sundqvist (70) shoots against Edmonton Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit (1) during the second period at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

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

 

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  • Dinner for 10 at Jason Strudwick’s home catered by Chop Steakhouse.
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  • 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.

You can bid by calling 780.444.1260  or text 101260 between 2-6 p.m. today.

Package #2

  • 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.

Thanks in advance. All proceeds will help out the Operation Friendship Seniors Society and Santas Anonymous

  • FlameChampion

    I want to like the player. For me its not just the goals he lets in. He just seems so slow to react to some shots, like he doesnt track the puck very well, he is really poor at handling the puck. He doesnt instill confidence in me. Hes still very young with limited experience. I hope I am wrong on him.

    • fasteddy

      100% agree….so many times the puck has hit the end boards or ricocheted off a leg and his head hasn’t moved, as though he didn’t see it whatsoever. Combined with the bad angle ones it’s concerning. Reminds of Dubnyk I’m the day; anything low in the crease area was an adventure.

  • Consultant

    He’s played well of late. I’ll happily eat crow, but in defense of the naysayers that third period in Calgary was atrocious. Happy to see what he does tomorrow. Tomorrow’s game will be another huge test, the first game back after a road trip is always a tough 2 points. At this stage I think more rests on our PP than LB.

  • Randaman

    So the fact that Jesse carried a player on his back while getting to the rebound TWICE, totally escapes you?! The pass to McDavid on the 7th goal must have been terrible then.

  • Hemmercules

    I had my doubts but you cant truly evaluate a goalie without giving him a stretch of starts. Being a backup must be a tough position and even more so when your starter plays 70+ games like Talbot. Good for him for taking the opportunity and improving himself over the course of these games. Still needs a bit of work on his 5 hole and reaction time in some situations but if he continues with that save percentage he has over the last 3 he will definitely have proven himself as a capable backup.

  • Coco Crsip

    I do wish he would go back to a longer paddle.. it has really changed his style since 2015. I think he’s looked good lately and if the teams winning, who cares?

    • Jason Gregor

      Fair criticism. He has the shortest blade in NHL according to Woodley and that has him holding blocker hand down lower. Something to discuss with him. It is about comfort and feel no doubt, but like players who change stick over time I do wonder if he considers it in the future.

      • Coco Crsip

        If you go back to 2015 in his first gave vs SJ and look at his stance/mobility/style and compare it to now, it is very different. I have also seen a style chance in Cam Talbot. Cam’s stance is much wider compared to his NYR days and even last season.. strange stuff, but interesting.

  • Cujo

    I’m sorry, but I still fully don’t believe that LB is a capable NHL backup yet. Yes, he won some games but each of those wins the offence scored at least 6-7 goals. If a game is tied and the Oilers really need LB to steal it for them, I don’t think he can do it. LB plays comfortably when there’s not a lot of pressure and he still lets a “soft” goal in. I’m sorry if I’m being too critical here but I want to see Nick Ellis get at least a game and see what he can do. He outplayed LB last year and this year he is doing pretty good on a weak AHL team.

  • Spoils

    kind of fun to play at the idea of meta-gamesmanship/mind games, to note that the top two goalies in the world kind of lowered to his game – letting in softies, and the Oiler dominance carried those days, but then the backup leaves goalie he played in Toronto raised his game and they both played 59+ min of shutout hockey…

    also, man do I hate the leaves right now. i’d give almost anything to sweep them 4-0 in the Stanley finals this year. Just “waltz over them”. dummy them. launch them into the sun.

  • pkam

    If we lost the game to Blue Jacket, the first thing I complain is not the 2nd goal allowed by Brossoit, but the one missed by McDavid.

    The fact is Brossoit out performed Price and Bobrovsky. Can you image what the doubters will say if Brossoit let in a goal like Bobrovsky’s 3rd goal or Price’s 2nd goals?

  • OilersGM

    I believe in Brossoit I think he will only get better from here and be a very capable backup. It’s hard for a backup to be great when they don’t play that often especially behind Talbot.
    The more he plays the better he will be and get into a rhythm and roll.

  • 40 Year Re-build

    Anyone remember Talbot when he first got to Edmonton? He was terrible. But given enough opportunity, he began to find his game. Brossoit is in the same position now. He likely will never be a Talbot, but I would never be too hard on a young goalie who is literally in his very first stint as a starting goalie. Talk to me when he has played at least 12 of 15, or something around there. I think he is doing pretty well for a guy who has sat on the bench for more games than any other goalie in the NHL over the last 2 seasons.

  • Cujo31

    LB can’t stop anything on his blocker side, I estimate 80% of his goals are scored that way. Any team that pre scouts him will see that. He doesn’t instill any confidence in the team when he’s giving up poor goals like that. Ellis deserves a start.

  • D

    Broissoit has done what the Oilers needed him to do – play steady (not necessarily spectacular) in net and give the rest of the team a chance to win the game.

  • Iceman0016

    Not gonna lie. I was pretty sceptical when LB was kept at the start of the season and they didn’t look elsewhere. But even through the Calgary game I’m becoming a believer. Reminding me a lot of Dubnyk who’s done well in minny since he’s left.

    Give him time and I think people will start to realize what we’ve got here

    • ubermiguel

      Trashed and cheers for this comment. The fanbase has a problem with unfairly running players out of town, but Dubnyk went through Nashville (where there were comments about his bad fundamentals), Montreal and Arizona before he found his game. If he hadn’t gone through that I doubt he’d be the player he is today.

  • belair

    Broissoit right now is essentially our Michael Hutchinson, which is why I don’t necessarily understand why we’ve been linked to him. He’s a guy who owns the AHL but is prone to sieve-like goals when given the opportunity at the NHL level. Both of these guys are capable of good stretches of hockey, but have never shown much consistency at this level, if any. I’m not completely done with Laurent quite yet but, I’d be much happier if he was, like Hutch, in the farm system.

    The market for backups must be steep though considering the lack of movement from Florida or Pittsburgh. If you make a move for a Mrazek, Neuvirth or Johnson, you’d better be prepared to lose Brossoit outright, unless Talbot is out for a while.

    • Spydyr

      Great. Let him know he should always be square to the shooter and too hug the post on the short side on bad angle shots. He keeps getting beat on the minor league side.

  • ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    “if your goalie can limit the opposition to two goals every night your chances of winning increase significantly.”

    The truth of this statement comes out in the Leafs game, where if the Oilers could only score one goal they could be on their first three game win streak of the season. LB can’t win when the team doesn’t score.

  • Gravis82

    Benoit Pouliot was a good player. He was a 3 million dollar player. We needed to pay 4 million to get him. Then, we had a good player. We bought him out because he was not worth 4 million. Now we are paying 1million and have no player.

    Numbers may not be exact, but you get my point.

  • McLoochbomb

    He’s turning out I think, wouldn’t mi d having Hutchinson or Pickard just for insurance but I guess that’s a roster spot taken up we don’t really want to waste. As long as Brossiot doesn’t implode again like he did vs Calgary I’d let him have the starts. Also would like to see Ellis get in against a weaker team. He has serious potential.

  • Big Nuggets

    He is too young to make any real evaluation on how his career will go. This is essentially his first real taste of nhl hockey and been unsurprisingly a little shakey. Even good goalies have rough stretches and let in soft goals so I wont be too hard on him at this stage. We won a few games with him in net which is all you can expect from your back-up. With more experience he could round out his game. I think he has been useful in that the team is forced to play a full game with him in net. Hopefully they can keep it up.
    Also curious to see Ellis in a game. hopefully these guys can both turn into capable back-ups.