Cam Talbot is a vital part of the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been great since coming over from the New York Rangers in a trade, arguably Peter Chiarelli’s best move as general manager. Talbot’s .916 save percentage as an Oiler is identical to Henrik Lundqvist, Cory Schneider, Ryan Miller, and Jake Allen over the same time.
Talbot was placed on injury reserve an upper-body injury Thursday and Nick Ellis was recalled from Bakersfield. Could fatigue be a factor after playing so much? He’s started 108 of Edmonton’s last 120 games, and on pace to play another 70-game season. Is Edmonton overworking their starting goaltender?
I’m looking at the past five full season (12-13 was shortened by the lockout). Talbot’s played in 90 percent of Edmonton’s last 120 games. Starting 65 games is about 80 percent of the season.
Talbot started the most games in a season since Cam Ward in 2010-11. Braden Holtby and Jonathan Quick came close in 2014-15, but were a game or two behind.
Starting more than 70 games is rare. Doing it in consecutive seasons is basically unheard of, at least in this decade. Miika Kiprusoff had four consecutive seasons with 70 starts from 2007-11. Henrik Lundqvist started 70 or more from 2007-10 and Evgeni Nabokov had two seasons worth from 2007-09. Since 2010-11, no goaltender has had back-to-back 70-start seasons.
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Kiprusoff was a beast, but that many starts in a season just doesn’t happen anymore. Now, heavy usage is more around 60 games. Only 21 goalies have started over 60 games in a season in the past three years, with only nine goalies having multiple 60-start seasons (Cory Schneider started 59 but played in 60 last season, or else he’d qualify).

McLellan and Backups

*- pro-rated to 82 games from the lockout-shortened season
From Nabokov to Antti Niemi to Talbot, Todd McLellan relies on his starting goaltender a lot. Talbot’s debut season in Edmonton is the lowest amount of starts from a starter coached by Todd McLellan in the NHL. Talbot had an adjustment period, which gave Anders Nilsson the reigns for a bit. Nilsson started 24 games, among the highest for McLellan backups considering he was moved to St. Louis at the trade deadline. Laurent Brossoit assumed backup duties and played very little the rest of the way.
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Next season, Peter Chiarelli made the curious decision to sign Jonas Gustavsson, who unsurprisingly imploded. Gustavsson would end up on waivers in January, while Brossoit took the backup spot again, with very little game time again as Edmonton pushed for the playoffs.
Oct 17, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, CAN; Edmonton Oilers goalie Laurent Brossoit (1) guards his net against the Carolina Hurricanes during the second period at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Sergei Belski-USA TODAY Sports
This season looks like last year. Talbot’s starting almost all of the games and Brossoit is used sparingly. Both Talbot and the Oilers have been less successful, which presents an interesting dilemma for McLellan: does he keep going with Talbot and hope he returns to form, or give Brossoit more starts? He might have to depending on Talbot’s injury.
McLellan’s been reluctant to play Brossoit the two seasons, but he generally doesn’t play backups much anyways. He’ll have to either give Brossoit a bigger workload, or Chiarelli will have to find McLellan a backup he can lean on more than Gustavsson or Brossoit. Prospect Nick Ellis only has 45 AHL games, so he’s probably better served as Bakersfield’s starter.
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Starting Talbot this much doesn’t seem like a viable option long-term, with either injury or fatigue a possibility. Talbot’s been placed on injury reserve, so next Wednesday against Philadelphia is the earliest he can return, but McLellan told reporters it could be two weeks or longer. The Oiler will find out how much they can rely on Brossoit very quickly.
Stats from hockey-reference.com