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