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Game #41 – Oilers vs. Hawks: Spotlight – An Overworked Cam And Magic Talbot

We make a lot of fun of Peter Chiarelli here… so let’s do it some more! One aspect of building a team these days that seems to get overlooked is a backup goalie. Teams really need to have one that they can trust with 20-25 starts, or get them out of a stretch if a starter were to get hurt, because the days of goalies being able to carry 75 starts and then four rounds of playoff wins are behind us. Quite simply, teams need to find a backup goalie who can “take the ball.”

The Oilers have ignored this, and now may have something of a multi-year problem on their hands. Unless the acquisition of Al “Some Guy In Bensenville Beat Him Like A Rented Goalie At Rat” Montoya works out gangbusters.

Cam Talbot started 73 games last year. And he was pretty good, with a .927 at evens and a .919 overall. Certainly better than the Oilers have gotten in net for a long time. But those 73 starts clearly took a toll, as Talbot’s SV% has dropped to .905 this year and .922 at evens, with his shorthanded mark falling off a cliff that fell off another cliff, from .874 last year to .800 this year.

It’s not a new phenomena, and some goalies have been able to handle that kind of workload for a few years. Talbot’s 73 starts were the 14th highest total in the past 10 years. The most were Martin Brodeur’s matching 77 starts in ’07-’08 and then ’09-’10. In the middle of those, Brodeur got hurt and missed 40 games, and he never approached a .920 SV% again. Then again, Brodeur was already in his mid-30s at this point, where Talbot is only 30 now.

Evgeni Nabokov started 71 games in ’09-’10 for the Sharks at 34 and was never the same. Ryan Miller made 76 appearances at 24 and was able to have excellent seasons after, but never made more than 69 appearances again after that. Mikka Kiprusoff made more than 70 appearances for the first time at age 29, much like Talbot, and again at 30, and then was terrible for two seasons before regaining form at 33, all while making 70+ appearances. Marty Turco made his first 70+ appearance season at 28, and then was awful the next season before rebounding for a couple more. Cam Ward made his only 70+ appearance season in 2011, and he’s never been the same.

Jonas Hiller, much like Talbot, took a while to wrestle a full-time starting gig of his own. He got it in ’11-’12 with the Ducks, made 73 starts at 29. He never started more than 50 games again and had only one more season of an above-average save-percentage after that. On the other side, Braden Holtby made 73 appearances three seasons ago, and then won a Vezina the next season. Jonathan Quick made 70+ appearances in 2015 at 29, missed all of last year, and is now once again have a plus-season.

So it goes both ways, but clearly handing someone around 30 that many starts when they haven’t consistently done it comes with great risk. And it’s just not something Cup-winners have done of late. Matt Murray played 49 games last year, and the year before that was a late-season call-up. Corey Crawford has never started more than 60 games. Jonathan Quick played 49 and 69 games in the Kings’ two Cup years. Tim Thomas played 57 games. Antti Niemi didn’t even become the starter until March. Marc-Andre Fleury made 57 starts.

The Oilers almost certainly don’t have to worry about this this year, as getting into the playoffs is going to be a minor miracle. But this is clearly something they’re going to need to figure out for next year.

 

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