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Photo Credit: Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

High/Low: The Goalies

Barring a shocking trade or a minor free agent signing, the Oilers roster we see now will be the same one we see come September. With minimal changes to the roster, it’s clear that the organization is banking on some best-case scenarios from players this year in order to return to the playoffs.

Over the next few weeks, you’ll see me go through every player who should have an impact in the Oilers organization and try to guess what that players “ceiling” is, and also what their “floor” would be performance wise.

In doing this, I’ll be making a few assumptions. The first being that the player stays healthy for the entire season. Obviously, the worst case scenario for any player would be to miss a significant amount of time with injury. The other is that the player will spend the entire season with the Oilers. It would be easy to say that the best case scenario for some names is that they’re traded away from Edmonton.

For the high end of things, I tried to be realistic yet optimistic. Of course, it’s POSSIBLE for someone like Mikko Koskinen to come in and post a .930 save percentage while winning 40 games… but c’mon.

Also, if you missed the first four parts of the series, here they are: “The Centres”, “The Top Six Wingers”, “The Bottom Six Wingers”, and “The Defensemen”.

Now that I’ve explained my thought process, here is part five of my “Highs & Lows” for the 2018 Oilers: The Goalies:

CAM TALBOT

THE CEILING: Talbot is without a doubt the most important ingredient when it comes to the Oilers recipe for success next year. It will be his third season with the club, two of which have been successful, the other was miserable.

During his time in Edmonton, he’s started 193 games and posted a GAA of 2.65 to along with a 0.914 save percentage. Last year, his GAA was a hair over 3.00 and he honestly never looked comfortable. He gave up far too many goals early in games, which was a big reason why the team lost more games than they won. If he can fix that issue alone, the Oilers will be back in the playoff hunt.

Part of Talbots failures last season came from the team’s poor penalty kill. While Talbot was definitely hung out to dry quite often, the old saying goes “your best penalty killer needs to be your goalie”, and Talbot definitely wasn’t that. His 0.854 PK SV% was 6th worst amongst NHL starters. In 16/17, Talbot allowed two less shorthanded goals, despite facing 38 more shots.

2016-17 was a career year for Talbot, and I believe the numbers he posted in that season are close to his ceiling. I’ll say a 2.35 GAA and 0.920 SV% are the best case scenario for the Oiler’s starter.

How will he accomplish that? By being sharper at the beginning of games and by bringing his penalty kill numbers back up to an acceptable number.

THE FLOOR: Last year was really ugly for #33, and it changed the general perception of Talbot. When the Oilers acquired him, he was considered a late bloomer who simply needed the chance to play after sitting behind Henrik Lundqvist for two seasons.

His first year in Edmonton was up and down, but generally, things went pretty well. His second year, as I already explained, was sensational. His third season was statistically the worst of his career. So now the question must be asked: is Cam Talbot a legitimate NHL starting goalie? Or simply an average goalie who can’t handle playing 60+ games year in and year out?

If the answer is no, and we see Talbot struggle early in games and on the penalty kill, like he did last year, then it could be another long year for both Talbot and the Oilers.

With that being said, I don’t think it can get much worse than it was this year, so I’ll set his floor at a GAA of 3.15 and a SV% of 0.905.

MIKKO KOSKINEN

Edmonton Oilers backup goaltender, Mikko Koskinen.

THE CEILING: There are two different ceilings I’d like to establish for the presumptive Oilers backup. If Talbot struggles mightily, and Koskinen thrives, we could see him play close to 35 games. If Talbot returns to his 16/17 form, then no matter how well Koskinen plays, he’ll likely only play 15-20 games.

He only has four games on NHL experience and in those four games 4.33 GAA. He also has 41 games in the AHL, where his numbers are slightly better, but far from great. Since then, he’s spent six years in the KHL and been one of the league’s better goalies over that span, although I wouldn’t call him an elite KHL goalie.

Still, Koskinen could come over and surprise the league and make the Oilers gamble worth it by playing 30-35 games and posting a GAA around 2.80 and a SV% around 0.915.

A more reasonable ceiling though might be 20 games, 12 wins and a GAA of 2.90 with a SV% of 0.915.

THE FLOOR: I’ll say it again, Mikko Koskinen is unproven in North America. He has not proven that he can be a competent AHL goalie, never mind an NHL goalie. Yes his numbers in the KHL are strong, but it’s never a guarantee that those transfer over.

If Koskinen falters out of camp, and Al Montoya comes in as his steady old self, we might see Koskinen start the year in Bakersfield.

If he makes the team out of camp and plays 20 games as Talbot’s backup, there’s no guarantee they’re a good 20 games either. I’ll end with a question: would you be the slightest bit surprised if Koskinen plays 20 games and posts a sub 0.900 sv% and a GAA over 3.00?

AL MONTOYA

Mar 31, 2018; Calgary, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goaltender Al Montoya (35) guards his net against the Calgary Flames during the second period at Scotiabank Saddledome. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports

THE CEILING: This part of my series proved more difficult than I thought it would be. Montoya is currently sitting as the team’s third goalie and can be sent to the AHL without any real impact against the salary cap.

I’m sure the Oiler’s would be more than happy if Montoya would go down to Bakersfield and provide some veteran leadership to one of their young goalies (whether it’s Shane Starrett or Stuart Skinner). That would be a fine scenario, but I’m sure Montoya would prefer to be in the NHL.

He could come into camp and steal the backup job from Mikko Koskinen, but I think for that to happen, Koskinen would have to falter as well. But if the stars align and Montoya makes the Oilers, maybe he competently plays in 20 games and helps them win 10. That could be his NHL ceiling.

I’ll break one of my rules here and say that the best case scenario for both parties this year would be a trade. If Montoya wants to be in the NHL, and the Oilers could recoup a draft pick, both sides should be happy with that outcome.

THE FLOOR: I’m not sure how to establish a floor for Al Montoya, and I don’t think I can.

If he sits and plays 30 games in the AHL and never gets a sniff of NHL action this year, surely that would be disappointing for him personally, but it wouldn’t really affect the Oilers chances of making the playoffs this season.

There’s also a chance that he’s given the backup goalie job by default and can’t competently do the job, which I suppose would be a decent floor to establish.

NOTE: Stuart Skinner was not included in this piece, he will appear in the next piece titled “The Fringe.”

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  • OriginalPouzar

    Yes, Talbot struggled on the PK last year just like the entire team did. With that said, from February 1 through the end of the season, the Oilers had the best PK in the NHL and Talbot was a big part of that (as well as McLellan taking over from Johnson and Letestu and Caggulia being replaced by Strome and Khaira on the PK).

    During that period, Talbot has a 4 on 5 save percentage of .906 which is much better.
    ———————–

    Talbot was much better in the second half and last third of the year but he was still inconsistent and prone to the weak goal (and at bad times).

    I fully expect a nice bounce back season from Cam this year. History shows that last year was the outlier for Cam and goalies are weird, they often have crappy seasons and then come back strong.

    We need Cam for success and I’m looking forward to seeing it.

  • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

    Since some on here feel that Talbot is a “backup” goalie, let’s take a look at his numbers. This is according to HockeyDB.

    2009-10 – U. of Alabama-Huntsville: 33 GP, 12-18-3, 2.61 GAA, .925 sv%
    2010-11 – Hartford Wolf Pack/CT Whale: 22 GP, 11-9-2, 2.84 GAA, .902 SV%
    2010-11 – Greenville Road Warriors: 2 GP, 1-0-1, 2.46 GAA, .921 SV%
    2011-12 – Connecticut Whale: 33 GP, 14-15-1, 2.61 GAA, .913 SV%
    2012-13 – Connecticut Whale: 55 GP, 25-28-1, 2.63 GAA, .918 SV%
    2013-14 – Hartford Wolf Pack: 5 GP, 4-0-1, 2.49 GAA, .924 SV%
    2013-14 – New York Rangers: 21 GP, 12-6-1, 1.64 GAA, .941 SV%
    2014-15 – New York Rangers: 36 GP, 21-9-4, 2.21 GAA, .926 SV%
    2015-16 – Edmonton Oilers: 56 GP, 21-27-5, 2.55 GAA, .917 SV%
    2016-17 – Edmonton Oilers: 73 GP, 42-22-8, 2.39 GAA, .919 SV%
    2017-18 – Edmonton Oilers: 67GP, 31-31-3, 3.02 GAA, .908 SV%

    CAREER: 348 GP, 194-165-30, 2.50 GAA, .918 SV%

    The numbers speak for themselves folks. Cameron Talbot, born July 5 1987 in Caledonia, Ontario, is an NHL STARTER! Season after season, Talbot has shown to be a reliable goaltender who can bail you out if your team is having a bad game. He’s not perfect, but I’d take him over what we had before. He is the BEST goalie this damnned franchise has had since Dwayne Roloson! He had 1 bad season. His track record as a goaltender is SOLID and I’m so excited to see him back between the pipes next season. He’s in a contract year and he’s going to show all of us how good he really is! I’m rooting for you Cam!

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      If, after reading what I posted above, you’re still not convinced that Talbot is a starting goalie. Here are some basic stats from some other NHL starting goaltenders.

      Cam Talbot – 2.50 GAA, .918 sv%
      Frederik Anderson – 2.54 GAA, .918 sv%
      Brayden Holtby – 2.41 GAA, .919 sv%
      Tuuka Rask – 2.26 GAA, .922 sv%
      Sergei Bobrovksy – 2.44 GAA, .920 sv%

      Guess these guys aren’t starters either, huh

  • TKB2677

    Talbot was hovering around .900 late into January. He went on a great run from February on. Having a save percentage of .900 isn’t even NHL goaltending. If he was a young guy, they would have put him in the minors. That is why I keep saying when it comes to anyone talking about the Oilers and “not improving”. All it takes is Talbot being an average NHL goalie which is around .914-.915 which is below his career average, and the Oilers will shoot up the standings. Even if the Talbot was at .908 which is what he ended up at for the whole season, the Oilers would have probably been in the playoff hunt.

    • AlexTheOilersFanSince2006

      I don’t disagree with you. I’m not saying Talbot is perfect, his play was suspect at times, but I’m getting tired of the constant “he’s not a starter” argument being tossed around here. These stats PROVE he is not a career backup.

      • TKB2677

        Exactly. Maybe Talbot is not a guy going to be in the Vezina running but he’s more than capable to be at least a middle of the pack starter. That should be more than good enough to get the Oilers at least in the hunt for the playoffs.

        • Glencontrolurstik

          I’d argue that the difference between .900 and .920 is the lack of “D”?
          Fix the “D” and the save percentage rises dramatically. I don’t have a problem with Talbot.

      • Spydyr

        Sure you need goaltending to win. Most teams have some idea what to expect from their starter. Yes every goalie goes through their up and downs but with Talbot it is extreme. Will they get the goalie from two seasons ago or will they get the one from last season that let in fourteen first shots and weak goals pretty well every game. It is a gamble on the Oilers part not only with Talbot but having an unproven KHL goalie behind him. They are betting another year of Connor’s prime on a big what if.

  • Daryl Katz

    What doesn’t thrill me is that the Oilers are basically going with the same team that failed last year, but to their credit the Oilers have added much needed experience in Brodziak and Rieder as well as Koskinen. Add to that the possible additions of Yamamoto and Bouchard and it’s 5 decent additions but is it enough?

    • TKB2677

      Fair but at the same time, who would you have gotten rid of that you actually could?
      On defense:

      – Klefbom was hurt and had a lousy season because of it. The year before he was really good. So would you have dumped him or kept him to what he can do when he is healthy?
      – Sekera on a cheap hit got his knee blown out in the playoffs. His first season as an Oiler he was decent. His second season and in the playoffs he was really good. He missed almost the whole season due to injury and came back to early and wasn’t good. So would you have dumped him or seen if he what he can do healthy?
      – Larsson got off to a rough start, tweaked his back, then his 50 yr old dad dies out of no where. So he had a bad year. So would you have dumped him?
      – Nurse is 23 yrs old. He took a big step last year but he doesn’t even have 200 games yet. I can’t see you dumping him. It would make no sense.
      – Benning was up and down. He’s a young dman, doesn’t even have 2 full seasons under his belt. He’s a right shot. Why would you dump him before you even know what you got.
      I just rattled off 5 out of your top 6 dmen. 2 were majorly hurt so logic says you want to see what they can do healthy. One guy had major family tragedy so I am assuming you don’t get rid of him because he struggled because he lost a parent. 2 guys are under 23 and don’t have a ton of experience so you don’t even have an idea what they are so it would be foolish to get rid of them.

      So on defense, how do you make changes? I left out Russell because I am sure most would like to get rid of him just because. First of all, he wasn’t bad. Second he has a no move and 3rd, who was out there that was any good to replace him with?

      When it comes to the forwards. Taking out Lucic for a minute. The bulk of your main forwards are 25 and under, most of them are 24 and under. Nuge at 25, is the old man. SO most of those guys haven’t even hit their primes yet. Other than Lucic who you can’t get rid of, who are you dumping to shake things up?

  • Big Nuggets

    I’m not Nostrodamus, and I have been wrong before but I strongly believe in a Talbot bounce back season. I am using the newborn twins excuse along with nagging injury, over-use, injured defensemen and a team that fell apart as reasons for last year. Indications that he will bounce back are when he was still calling for a playoff run when the Oiler’s chances were long gone, indicating he still has confidence and he actually inproved late in the season around that same time. Along with a healthy defense and a team that has its pride on the line this year(which is secretly the biggest factor heading into next year) all mean Talbot will have a good season.

    As for Koskinen I shouldn’t even guess because I know nothing about him, but I expect him to struggle in a few games and get a few wins on the back of strong team performances.

    I would rather Montoya in the minors than trade him. We need some success in Bakersfield to get this crop of prospects playing with confidence. An ex-NHLer is just what is needed between the pipes to finally get some playoff action for the AHL affiliate and lead this young crew to the poor-man’s promised land.

  • Gingerballs

    Talbot is a quality starter who had a bad year at the exact same time as his team was going through growing pains, injuries and apparently some issues in the dressing room. It would have been ideal for him to carry the team through all of that, but unfortunately he did not. I’m not sure what goalie could have made up for all of that, but fortunately for Cam he has another year left on his contract to redeem himself. He may not be the best goalie in the league, but he has proven through his career that he is a battler, and should rebound nicely. A solid 65 – 70 games played with 35+ wins seems realistic based on his body of work.

    Koskinen is a tough read based on existing stats from his previous tour of duty in North America. However, his stats from the KHL are encouraging but certainly does not guarantee anything at the NHL level. The bet Chiarelli is taking on this one is not visually pleasing, but if it works out it could be really good. If it goes bad at least we have Montoya. He is a big Finnish goalie so there is that.

    Montoya had a decent season last year and did an admirable job based on what he was asked to do, and based on his cap hit he was/ is a good fit. I really wish he was the guy we were going back in to this season with as the back up and not the insurance plan/ mentor but it looks like he got caught up in the business of hockey and will have to do more than Koskinen to get his job back.

  • TKB2677

    I know nothing about the player but I am not a fan what so ever of the contract of Koskinen. It’s WAY too much money for an unknown.

    BUT

    If you as a team sign a guy to that much, you obviously expect him to be good. If you think he is good and you as a team give him that much money as a result, you expect him to play. So if you are pushing for a guy to play, that has to put pressure on Talbot to step his game up big time if he wants to keep his job. IN pro sports, nothing pushes a player more to be their best than someone else trying to take their job. So even though I still hate how much money they are giving Koskinen to be a potential back up, if him being here lights a fire under Talbot’s ass and he has a really good year because of it, maybe it’s not as bad as I think.