With former Edmonton Oilers Milan Lucic and Cam Talbot wearing Calgary Flames jerseys this coming season, there’ll be an extra couple of storylines added to the mix when the 2019-20 edition of the Battle of Alberta unfolds.
While the trade of Lucic to the Flames for James Neal got plenty of ink — in equal parts because GM Ken Holland got out from under a contract many thought was untradeable and at the same time landed a winger capable of adding some scoring — I suspect Talbot will have a bigger impact on the BOA than Lucic does.
Lucic didn’t live up to his contract with the Oilers beyond his first season in Edmonton and struggled mightily with confidence on the way to getting a ticket to Cowtown July 19. Talbot, meanwhile, hit the skids last season, lost his job to Mikko Koskinen and ended up being dealt to the Philadelphia Flyers for Anthony Stolarz. Talbot signed a one-year deal with the Flames July 1.
I’d argue Talbot, 32, who posted a 104-95-19 record with a .912 save-percentage and a 2.74 GAA in four seasons with the Oilers despite a miserable .893 and 3.36 GAA in 31 games last season before being sent away to to Philly, is a better bet for a bounce-back campaign in tandem with David Rittich than Lucic is.
SOMETHING TO PROVE
There’s no doubt that both Lucic, who scored just 16 goals in his final two seasons with the Oilers after scoring 23 in the first year of his contract, and Talbot, who never managed to put together an encore of his stellar 2016-17 season in Edmonton and was traded away by Peter Chiarelli, have something to prove.
Contract aside, I don’t think there’s any way the Flames get the better of the Lucic-Neal swap, even if the big winger regains at least some of his touch and adds a physical element in bottom six minutes the Flames are looking for. I think there’s a better chance Talbot and Rittich will outperform Koskinen and former Flames’ stopper Mike Smith, who signed here as an UFA.
“It’s always been a heated rivalry, and I’ve been part of it for four years. It’s always an exciting time. I’m excited for the opportunity to switch sides,” Talbot said Sunday.
Talbot never managed to gain a foothold in Philly behind Carter Hart. He played in just four games, three of those starts, and had awful numbers — .881 and 3.70. In some ways, the way Talbot went sideways last season reminds me of how Devan Dubnyk came off the rails here, got traded and almost played his way out of the league until he found his game again. Might Talbot get his act together down the road with the Flames?
“Up until last year, I’ve had a pretty good career,” Talbot said. “I think I’ve proved myself, so it’s about getting back to what made me successful and getting off on the right foot. He (Rittich) played extremely well last year and kind of took that spot and earned his right to battle for it. I’m going in. I want to complement him.”
It’s easy for fans and media types to just dump on a player like Jesse Puljujarvi, who reiterated last week that his days with the Oilers are over, but it’s pointless without knowing the facts. “I want a new start with some other team,” Puljujarvi said. “Playing in North America is still my goal. I will stay in Oulu until I have a contract. I will find a place to play somewhere.”
I understand the sentiment of those who are pissed at the kid — if the guy doesn’t want to play for our team, screw him — but there has got to be reasons we don’t know about why he’s sticking to his guns. I don’t know what they might be and neither do you, but if Puljujarvi isn’t even willing to give things another go with a new GM and coaching staff, it seems obvious this is more than pouting about opportunity or being mishandled.
I think that Puljujarvi is making a mistake because he and agent Markus Lehto aren’t going to force Holland into making a rushed deal and his trade demand comes off as petulant when he hasn’t established himself as a bonafide NHL player, but it’s his decision, not yours or mine.