To say Cam Talbot has had an underwhelming season would be an understatement. After setting an Oilers franchise record for wins last Talbot now finds himself with an abysmal .906 Sv%. That number puts him in 44th for goaltenders who have played at least 20 games.
Talbot has one more year on his contract before he becomes a free agent. Some fans have gone so far to say that if the Oilers want to make the playoffs next year they need to find a different starting goaltender.
I'll preface this next part by saying goalies are voodoo. However like with most players it's reasonable to put faith in career averages combined with the player's age to determine what the future may look like.
Talbot was a backup goaltender for the Rangers prior to joining the Oilers in 2015. His 2014-2015 campaign with the Rangers was the reason the Oilers targeted him. With Lundqvist injured for a large portion of the season, Talbot stepped up playing 36 games while posting a .926 Sv%. The season prior he played fewer games (21) but posted a crazy .941.
Since joining Edmonton Talbot has done the following:
2015-2016 - 56GP - .917Sv%
2016-2017 - 73GP - .919Sv%
2017-2018 - 64GP - .906Sv%
Out of all of these numbers which one stands out?
Why the change this season? Well let's look at 3 factors.
1) Personal Reasons
While it's easy to forget as we yell at them through our TV screens hockey players are in fact real people. Talbot is father to twins and you can certainly bet his training was interrupted this summer by the day to day challenges of being a new dad. Some have suggested the reason Talbot has performed better during away games is because he has gotten more sleep on the road. I'm not ready to go that far but to assume it hasn't affected him at all would be folly.
2) The Defense Was Garbage
Which sounds more likely? That Talbot has suddenly fallen off a cliff skill-wise? Or the defense that was missing arguably their best defender from last season in Sekera, was playing through injuries in Klefbom, was dealing with personal tragedy in Larsson, was not developing in a straight line in Benning, or simply wasn't looking as good as some people thought because the goaltender wasn't bailing him out in Russell.
The Oilers defense was a tire fire this season with almost everything that could go wrong happening. The penalty kill has been garbage with it taking months to move away from that awful L Formation or whatever it was called and even after that things were still not good. The entire backend has struggled to move the puck out of the zone and have given up some grade A chances.
3) Talbot Hasn't Been Good
Make no mistake I am not removing all blame from Cam Talbot. He has not been good enough this season. No one needs to be reminded how many games the Oilers have given up the first goal on the first shot. When that is happening as much as it has there is no doubt you aren't going to be a very good team.
As of right now it appears that the Oilers are planning on going into next season with Talbot as the starter, Montoya as backup and Brossoit. If the Oilers can make some other changes in the off-season I believe that goaltending should not be one of the areas that needs to be addressed this summer.
Thanks for reading!