On December 14th, Laurent Brossoit allowed four goals on 23 shots against the Nashville Predators.
It wasn’t his worst performance of the year, by far. He’d kicked off the season with a perfect 19-save shutout in relief on October 7th but followed that up with a pair of games posting sub-.800 save percentages; by even the most lax standards, those were reasonably unacceptable.
After that final loss, he didn’t sniff NHL action again before getting waived on January 6th, heading back down to the AHL’s Bakersfield Condors in a year that he had been expected to take a huge step forward.
For the Oilers, it’s a huge disappointment.
Brossoit was expected to be the team’s next big thing. He’d shouldered tough loads in the AHL with a weak prospect pool, and handled some miserable outings at the NHL level during his brief call-ups over the years.
The Oilers clearly reached a point where they were unhappy enough with him, though, that they were willing to expose him to waivers to send him down.
He’s now been replaced with Al Montoya in the NHL, which is a lateral move at best. It’s a move that sends a message, though, that perhaps even an aging career backup coming off of a concussion is preferable at this point to what Brossoit had been offering.
In a way, it’s as much his fault as it is anyone’s when they underperform in a job. He was given the green light to showcase what he could do with more consistent starts during Talbot’s injury but allowed some miserable goals during that stretch to lose the confidence of a lot of fans and personnel alike.
On the other hand, though, he never seemed to quite get a fair shake – and for Edmonton, that’s becoming eerily familiar in net.
Laurent Brossoit has not been good this year.
Let me start with that because it’s certainly important. Large or small sample size, a .886 save percentage in all situations is not good. It’s the kind of save percentage that implies that a team wins in spite of you, rather than because of you.
When broken down, though, it’s important to also concede: Laurent Brossoit has not been good, but he really hasn’t been as bad as his overall numbers, either.
The two sub-.800 appearances at the opening of the season are absolutely killing his save percentage, pulling it down by a full 1.2 percent. Right now, he sits on a .886 in all situations; if you remove those two games, he jumps to a .898, nearly breaking the .900 mark.
That’s because he’s had a few somewhat bad games since then (statistically; we all know that Battle of Alberta game was a horror sideshow), but has had a few quite good ones, as well.
On 10 recorded starts, Brossoit has two Really Bad Starts, which is a miserable percentage. Five of his other starts, though, are considered Quality Starts, putting him at a nearly league-average 50% quality start percentage.
His bad games are pretty darn bad, but he performs to help his team win about as often as any other league-average backup – yet with five very winnable games, he only has three wins. And with just two games that he, by all intents and purposes, lost for the team, he has seven losses in regulation overall.
That’s as much the team as it is him; he’s not pulling them up, but he really isn’t actively dragging them down to their current record, either.
As a matter of fact, his last four games prior to that Nashville one had been exactly what the team was hoping for; he had a .906 or better in every one of them, allowing three goals on 32 shots in the first and even putting up a .957 save percentage in a loss to Toronto on December 10th. In that game, he only allowed one goal, and the team lost anyway – that’s not him.
The numbers don’t exactly favor either Montoya or Talbot, either.
In all fairness, Talbot has been handling a much more gruelling workload, but he’s been far from the saviour of the team. His own quality start percentage is a miserable .394 through 33 starts, meaning he’s giving the team a 77 percent or better chance to win just under 40 percent of the time.
For perspective, league average is 53 percent. Brossoit, albeit with a much smaller sample size, hits the quality start threshold (either a .917 save percentage overall or a .887 in games with two or fewer goals allowed) 50 percent of the time.
That’s not necessarily an indictment of Talbot. He’s been given an obscene amount of work over the last two years, and an injury already this year isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement for that kind of workload. It’s more likely that he was carrying the team through unreasonable expectations last year than it is that he’s been failing in favorable circumstances this year.
But Montoya, put in a similar situation in Montreal (where shots flow freely towards the net and offensive depth is concerning), hasn’t exactly given any indication that he’ll be a significant improvement on Brossoit.
In his first game for Edmonton, the newly-acquired backup did all he could to stop the bleeding. He posted a .929 save percentage with one goal allowed on 14 shots in relief, giving Edmonton every opportunity to try and salvage their game on January 6th.
But prior to arriving with the Oilers, he had been far from a sure thing. His .863 save percentage through four games and three starts was worse than Brossoit’s same four-game, three-start opening to the season (which clocked in at a .881). He has one Really Bad Start on three games and no quality starts so far.
Perhaps, at this point, the team considers this an exercise in salvation.
Montoya, at almost 33, is not a rising prospect. He may get a Peter Budaj renaissance year with the right coaching, but it’s not terribly likely. He’s had a solid NHL run over the last decade, but he’s not exactly vying for any multi-year deals after this.
Brossoit, on the other hand, showed through his stretch ahead of his demotion that he’s still got room to improve, and he’s young enough that Edmonton doesn’t have to give up yet.
Giving him time in Bakersfield, where the AHL club is last in a comically-tight (and comically-good) Pacific Division, gives him both regular starts again and the chance to build up his confidence away from what’s happening at Rogers Place. They can then always try again next year.
The fact that we’re back here again, though, is a harsh condemnation of the way things are still going for the Oilers.
Devan Dubnyk was the team’s last goaltender to try hard, love the game, and absolutely tank in the Oilers system before thriving elsewhere. He received some reparative coaching in Arizona, then reunited with his old coach from Edmonton in Minnesota to revitalize his career completely.
Ben Scrivens certainly didn’t get much of a shot, either. After solid numbers in Toronto and LA, he came to Edmonton and immediately took a giant step backwards. Now, he’s wrapping up his second season in the KHL, where his numbers have been consistent and nearly flawless.
Talbot certainly isn’t a shining example that things have changed, either. While Brossoit is the one getting the brunt of the ire, Talbot’s numbers (a .902 save percentage in all situations) this year have fallen a few miles short of acceptable, and he also has a history of better performances elsewhere.
It’s probably a good thing, considering this, to give Brossoit a breather in the AHL. If you can’t give a player the chance to get his mojo back with another team, the minors are a solid option.
But that’s just a temporary fix if the Oilers themselves don’t see the changes they need before he returns. Otherwise, it’s all just going to be a harsh cycle of hitting the NHL and bouncing back until he either hangs them up or heads elsewhere – and there’s little indication that someone else is going to be able to come in and break that mold without the tangible changes in front of them on the ice.
It’s good to see Brossoit get the time in the minors, but that doesn’t fix the problem.