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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.

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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.

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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.”

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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  


  • Spydyr

    It would not surprise me if Talbot losses the starters job like he did in his first season in Edmonton. I just hope that Koskinen takes the reins and runs it.

      • Spydyr

        His inability to be ready at puck drop fourteen first shot goals attest to that. He lets in weak goals at an alarming rate. His angle play looks off.He sometimes overplays the puck carrier and does not anticipate the cross ice pass well. He goes down too soon on almost every shot leaving the top half of the net exposed. His stats from last season were abysmal. His confidence and mental toughness appear shaky. Of course these observations are just my opinion others may see things in a different light.

        • What of his other four seasons? Lucky? Did you look at his numbers in the final quarter of the season? Being .908 isn’t good enough for your starter, but abysmal? I don’t see anything in the vast majority of his NHL work that supports your contention.

          • Spydyr

            His first season he lost the starters job here. In his four season he has had two bad ones one average one and one outstanding one.Having a .908 made him fifty-seventh in NHL goalies. Yes if your starter is fifty-seventh in SV% that is abysmal he was also sixtieth In GAA and first in goals allowed.

          • Spydyr

            Robin, I really hope you are right and Talbot does bounce back. It would please me very much to be wrong about that. We should have a idea by Halloween and we should know by Christmas which Talbot we will see next season.

          • Dan 1919

            I hope Spydyr is wrong too. But like he said, in Talbot’s time here he’s shown he can play at a high level, but he’s also shown he can be underwhelming. That fact scares me, because if Talbot plays weak or slightly below average with the current roster in front of him, it’ll be another season with no playoffs.

        • nbandito

          You aren’t wrong with your observations. The dropping to his knees sometimes before the shot is released technique was new to last season. LB also displayed this on numerous occasions so I’m thinking it’s a technique that was being drilled into them by the tending staff.
          Not reading the cross ice pass is more an issue with defenseman communication, our defense will be better next year.
          Confidence is on Cam, but I’d sooner bet on him being better next season than losing the crease. He’s a good goalie.

  • 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.

  • CMG30

    Missing from the discussion is that Talbot had newborn twins. I firmly believe that exhaustion or lack of sleep impacted his concentration on the ice. I do believe that going into this season that he will come prepared and will be out to prove something (also contract year!).

    Yes the twin towers of McDavid and Talbot were what got us to the playoffs that year and Talbots troubles last season was the key reason we dropped so far.

    To the goalie apologists out there who automatically chant “Goalie can’t mess up before 5 other guys already have” I say: In today’s NHL there are shots that goalies simply have to stop. At the beginning of last season they were finding their way into the net. I believe in Talbot but I fully acknowledge that he had a bad season last year. Too bad the GM didn’t recognize this and have a competent backup standing by.

      • Loil

        I beg to differ. Having two young kids myself, 3 years old and 15 months, it plays a huge factor. I am not a professional athlete but I know it impacts my mental sharpness in my work.

        There were others factors as well of course, injuries, the defense not being as sharp, inconsistent coaching (too many changes by throwing the lines in a blender and not allowing any chemistry for players to gel on their perspective lines) That’s gotta throw a wrench in anyone’s confidence.

        • Odanada

          The reality is that in order to compete at the top of the NHL, the game has to come before the day to day grind of family life. It’s a largely unwritten rule, but you either follow it or some other guy takes your job away from you.

        • Dan 1919

          Lol, what if you made $4million a year and your job was to be a well rested pro athlete. 100% his lifestyle and values on life changed overnight when he had kids, but I realllllllly doubt that old Cam was the one that woke up at 2AM to do feedings when he had a game the next day.
          Most woman I know are pretty generous as far as letting a husband sleep through the night if he works the next day, call me crazy but I assume this could be the case for the Talbot family, as well as most NHL families.

          • Loil

            If i made 4 million a year i wouldn’t be working once i made my first 4 million haha.

            Most woman are pretty generous in getting up with the kids, yes, my wife included. But when do they get to sleep? Being the husband and father I try to help out when and where I can. I don’t think one can really understand the impact that having small children can have on a sleep schedule. Just because she gets up with the children all through the night, doesn’t mean you don’t wake up hearing their cries or wake up to your wife getting in and out of bed.

            Cam is not alone in being the only one in the NHL to have children, i understand that. All I am saying is don’t understate or underestimate the impact that that may have had on his season.

      • LAKID

        But yet you will argue Maroon should give up 1M+ to stick close to his kid but not earn money for the future of his family? But I agree the twins are no excuse.

  • Speaking Cleary

    Was last year the first year that Schwartz took over as goalie coach? It seemed like Talbot was going down to his knees a lot last year. Maybe it’s just because he had a bad year but to me his playing style seemed to change from 2017 to 2018.

    • camdog

      Talbot was going down early for a majority of the year. I don’t know what injury Talbot had and when it occurred, and how it impacted his game. What was evident was it got in his head and he lost his confidence. Todd’s mentality was that the more you play a struggling goalie the quicker they will break out of their slump. That didn’t work last year. Same thing that happened with DD.

    • Odanada

      Carey Price also tends to go down early. Maybe it’s an old school thing?
      It’s kind of like when McDavid didn’t shoot enough. Defensemen would play the pass and broke up more plays then they perhaps should have. Then McDavid starting shooting and they lost their edge in how to play him.
      When a goalie goes down early the shooters know to wait a microsecond and then aim up over the shoulder, giving them an edge. As soon as you develop a pattern of predictable play in this league, they get an edge on you. Cam just needs to get his “edge” back.

  • Danoilerfanincalgary

    We all like Talbot and want to see him have a bounce back season for obvious reasons however what if he doesn’t? the entire season lies in the balance on Talbots shoulders seems like a lot of risk.

  • 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.

      • 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.

          • 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

          • 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.

    • 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.

    • 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.