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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

The Bounce: Cam Talbot

As was the case with just about every member of the Edmonton Oilers, Cam Talbot’s 2017-18 season was a disappointment in comparison to 2016-17, when the Oilers made the playoffs for the first time in a decade with 103 points and went two rounds deep in the post-season. Talbot had his fingerprints all over that campaign.

Likewise, it’s not the least bit unreasonable to point a finger at the drop off in Talbot’s play last season as one of the big reasons why everything went sideways. To understate, he wasn’t nearly as good. The question moving forward, given the lack of significant roster changes this off-season because of the salary cap corner GM Peter Chiarelli painted himself into, is whether Talbot can bounce back to, or close to, his previous form.

From where I sit, the ability of Talbot to put together a bounce back season is going to carry far more weight than what additions like Kyle Brodziak, Tobias Rieder and blue-chip first-round draft pick Evan Bouchard do in 2018-19 (I’ll also be taking a look at two or three other veterans in coming days). I’ll take it a step further – if Talbot doesn’t return to form, it really isn’t going to matter what the rest of the roster does.

WHO IS THIS GUY?

While it’s cold consolation for fans in the wake of a season that disappointed on so many levels, when I look at Talbot’s career numbers, I see this past season as the outlier, not the performance that backstopped the Oilers to the post-season in 2016-17. I think last season, not what we saw two seasons ago, is the one-off. He’ll get to prove it, with a contract on the line, this season.

In 2016-17, Talbot started a career-high 73 games and posted a 42-22-8 record with seven shutouts, a .919 save-percentage and a 2.29 goals-against average. Last season, he started 67 games, posted a 31-31-3 record with one shutout, a .908 save-percentage and a 3.03 GAA. The save-percentage and GAA were easily the worst in his five NHL seasons with the Oilers and New York Rangers.

Several factors played into those numbers. Talbot was slowed by an injury that finally took him out of the line-up. The Oilers knack of giving up a goal on the first shot of the game – an outrageous 14 times when I last checked – was a weakness. Too often, the penalty killing was abysmal and Talbot had a hand in that in what seemed to be a chicken-and-egg scenario. Bad PK, bad goaltending. Bad goaltending, bad PK.

While Talbot’s even-strength save-percentage dropped from .920 in 2015-16 and .927 in 2016-17 to .915 last season (a swing of 12 points from best to worst), he struggled mightily shorthanded. After going .893 in 2015-16 he dropped to .877 in 2016-17 and then fell off again last season at .848 (a swing of 45 points from best to worst). The one positive is Talbot played closer to previous form in the final quarter of the season.

WHAT’S NEXT?

Mar 25, 2018; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Cam Talbot (33) reacts to a goal from the Anaheim Ducks during the third period at Rogers Place. Ducks won the game 5-4 in overtime. Mandatory Credit: Walter Tychnowicz-USA TODAY Sports

So, is Talbot the stopper we saw during the return to the playoffs two years ago or the guy who we saw last season? Mark Spector of Sportsnet posed that question late last season: “If you compare this season to my first four years, this is the outlier,” Talbot said. “It wasn’t just last year. I had three good years before that. I don’t see myself as two different goaltenders. I see myself as one guy.”

So, can Talbot bounce back? His numbers through five seasons suggest that he can. If we put aside the disappointment of what was an unquestionably bad season after that playoff tease, I think that Talbot deserves the benefit of the doubt. What he does with it is going to have a more significant impact than anything else on what the Oilers do this coming season.

RECENTLY BY ROBIN BROWNLEE  

  • camdog

    If Koskinen is good, Talbot will be back to old form. Talbot’s only break last season was when he was injured and he still ended up tied for first in games played. If your goalie is injured, plays through the injury and still leads league in games played, odds are his performance is going to suffer. Talbot’s soft starts to the season are a problem as well. Koskinen needs to be a “real NHL goalie”. Because if he’s not the head coach won’t play him and we could be in the same scenario as last season.

    • C U Next Tuesday

      Talbot has had a slow start to every season with the Oilers. I don’t think TM plays him enough in the preseason. The same thing will happen again this year. The backup that has 4 more NHL games than I do will get a lot of looks.

  • OriginalPouzar

    Yes, of course, the main key to the season will be the play of Cam Talbot – there is a reason hockey is often also called “goalie” – the goalie is always the most important player.

    Yes nailed it though Robin – his numbers this past year were his worst in the last 5 NHL seasons, across the board. Its is reasonable to expect Talbot to bounce back – maybe not to Vezina vote form of 2016/17 but definitely much better than last season.

    A healthy Oscar Klefbom and Adam Larsson and a healthier Sekera will surely help as well.

    Go Oilers!

  • Dan 1919

    Nice sober thought amidst the draft and free agency when the Oilers are signing 4th liners and a lot of potential.
    When you really think about it, Chiarelli basically has put his job in Talbot’s hands.

    • JimmyV1965

      To be fair, Chia has totally remade our goaltending bullpen. He’s invested picks in Skinner and Rodrigue and traded for Hawkey from Montreal. He paid a steep prove for Koskinnen but he got the guy he wanted. This team will have good goaltending, but it might be after Chia is gone.

  • Ted

    Not sure if they keep stats on this but they can call it The Talbot …. I believe it was FOURTEEN FIRST SHOT GOALS! Yes Edmonton that’s our number one. That’s a record that won’t fall any time soon. BOOM

  • Serious Gord

    While I don’t disagree that Talbot’s performance this coming season is the most of any on the roster, I think a bounce back by the defence is just as critical.

    To my eye there are two types of goalies:

    those that excel regardless of the defence in front of them – who play with a me against the world attitude and who sometimes actually are less good when they have competent defenders in front of them as they lose focus.

    And those who play great as part of the defensive team – strong positionally and steady even when they face very few tough shots.

    I think someone like Curtis Joseph falls into the former category and Ken Dryden into the latter (some games KD saw single digit shots in a game and many of those were weak).

    I see Talbot as part of the latter grouping. His struggles/deficiencies last year were due in large part to the defence being far weaker and less stable than the years prior (he had a very good defence corps to work with in NY).

    Therefore, if Sekera and/or Klefbom do not return to form and also stay healthy I think Talbot will disappoint and the season could well be sewered – Regardless of how well MCD and the rest of the team fare.

    I suspect Chia has many moments of feeling helpless as a result.

    • TKB2677

      Good analysis. But at the same time Talbot was letting in a lot of weak goals last year and he had that ridiculous stat I believe it was a record of him setting a record for letting in the first shot of the game. So I agree that the Oilers defense wasn’t as good largely due to injury but at the same time it’s hard to blame the defense when your goalie is letting in weak goals or the first shot of the game.

      • Serious Gord

        If memory serves the defence was very slow to start in many games – most of those first shots were really high quality scoring opportunities given up by the defence. Talbot’s lack of Josephian individualism converted those opportunities to goals.

        • TKB2677

          I don’t think all of them were high quality shots but I don’t remember either. The Carolina game in Edmonton comes to mind where Teravinen was coming down the wing and fired a shot from the boards just over the blue line that somehow picked the far corner. Regardless, it doesn’t really matter. The Oilers defense wasn’t good enough last year. I think a big part was injuries but at the same time Talbot wasn’t good either. To be a starter in the NHL, you are supposed to make all the saves you should and lots you shouldn’t. fIf the success of your goalie is contingent on your defense not giving up anything, then you aren’t a starter in my opinion. I personally think Talbot is a decent starter and this year was just a bad year. Price had a bad year this year. Yes Montreal’s defense wasn’t that good but he’s made some pretty mediocre Montreal teams look real good over the years. He was just off. So bad seasons happen from time to time for most players.

          • Odanada

            I also think that shooters have evolved while facing the style of play Price spearheaded – they now wait a fraction of a second and aim up over the shoulders. Price set the standard with the positional, sliding butterfly style, but the new goalies are playing a bit of a hybrid style, with a little “stand-up” thrown in to keep the shooters second guessing, and in this league you either evolve or get left behind.
            I’m glad the Oilers don’t own that Price contract – it’s going to be a bear.

      • Serious Gord

        More in the Curtis Joseph mould IMO. God knows he saw a ton of broken play quality shots when he was with the oil. Dryden was the kind of goalie who could go long stretches with no action and then when required make those one or two excellent saves to get the win. Compare him to his peer Tony Esposito who was at his best when facing a torrent of shots. IMO the ’72 series would have been a lopsided win for Canada if Espo had played all 8 games. Dryden simply couldn’t adjust to how the Soviets managed to break through Canada’s defence. (thinking back Dryden’s play – his lack of sharpness – seems similar to how Talbot looked at times last season).

        • Kneedroptalbot

          I always wondered why Harry Sinden started Dryden in game #8 of the Summit series after Tony Esposito won game 6 and 7?? If Espo played all 8 games for Canada they wouldn’t have blown those leads in games.

          • Serious Gord

            I recall – perhaps erroneously- that sam Pollock and the then very powerful Canadiens organization demanded that Dryden play half of the games (back then Montreal was the home of the league HQ). It was also why several Canadiens skaters saw ice time and several others from other teams did not.

          • Kneedroptalbot

            1972 Summit Series (Goaltending Stats)
            Rk Name Age GP
            GAA SV% W L SO TIME G A P PIM
            1 RU Vladislav Tretiak 20 8 3.88 0.884 3 4 0 480 0 0 0 0
            2 CA Ken Dryden 25 4 4.75 0.838 2 2 0 240 0 0 0 0
            3 CA Tony Esposito 29 4 3.25 0.882 2 1 0 240 0 0 0 0

    • JimmyV1965

      But how do you explain his solid finish to the season? Our defence was actually worse at the end of the season when Sekera returned and was playing agonizingly awful. Yet Talbot played better.

  • TKB2677

    Goaltending is everything in hockey. Your team can be absolutely stacked but if your goalie can’t stop a beach ball, you won’t win. Talbot had a bad year where he was giving the Oilers sub .900 goaltending for half the season. A team can’t recover from that. I personally believe it had to do with his home life. He’s has twins, they would have been barely 1 when the season started. I have 2 kids, both kids were terrible sleepers. I got jack squat for sleep and I was a zombie at work. I just have a desk job. I can’t imagine what not getting enough rest would do to a pro athlete. If you aren’t getting enough sleep, it impacts EVERYTHING you do. We ended up getting some help with the sleep training for our kids but it also improved with every passing month they got older. As soon as my kids started sleeping through the night, I got better. Any coincidence that as the year went along and Talbot’s kids got older, he got better? I have no clue if that was the case but I am just speaking from experience. Having your first kid is a HUGE learning curve and rocks your world to the core. I can’t imagine how much MORE it would impact you if had 2 kids at once.

    For Talbot this year. I think he was going to bounce back anyway but it’s a contract year so he will for sure bounce back. If all he does is go to being a middle of the pack goalie, the Oilers will make the playoffs.

    • Bills Bills

      There may be something to that thought process. As the Oilers and Talbot had a severely different penalty kill on the road vs home. Everyone knows who the best penalty killer on the ice is.