As the race for the Pacific Division heats up, the Calgary Flames have found light in one of their offseason signings to ensure that they can make it through the push. Goaltender Cam Talbot was signed by the Flames during the 2019 offseason, and though it is proving well now, the signing had some fans and analysts alike scratching their heads in confusion. The team needed an answer between the pipes, and Talbot’s previous struggles didn’t seem like the appropriate response. Let’s take a dive into what he looked like last season, and how much better he has been since donning the flaming “C”.
Last Season’s Struggles With Oilers and Flyers
In 35 games split between the Edmonton Oilers and Philadelphia Flyers, Talbot posted a sub-.900 save percentage with both clubs in the 2018-19 campaign. In Edmonton, he spent most of his starts splitting time with current starter Mikko Koskinen. The Oilers’ struggles were plentiful last season, and netminding was certainly one of them. Talbot posted an .893 save percentage (SV%), accompanied by a 3.36 goals against average (GAA) in 31 starts. As his struggles became evident and the reigns were handed over to Koskinen, the Oilers decided to pull the trigger on trading the pending unrestricted free agent to the Flyers.
Upon his arrival in Philadelphia, Talbot was relied on to fix the trainwreck of goaltending injuries and struggles that the team faced all season long. He was the eighth goaltender to suit up for the team that season, and the struggles from Edmonton only continued to be evident with his new team. In his four games played in the City of Brotherly Love, the Caledonia, Ontario native put up an .881 SV%, and a 3.70 GAA. Though this was a much smaller sample size, his woes seemed to follow him from his time with the Oilers. The Flyers went on to finish sixth in the Metropolitan Division, missing the playoffs and sending him into free agency where his future was uncertain.
Talbot’s Numbers Thus Far With the Flames
In the summer of 2019, Flames general manager Brad Treliving announced that the club had signed Talbot to a one year, $2.75-million contract. The Flames, coming off an early playoff exit in which goaltender Mike Smith ended up signing with the Oilers, wasted no time in this signing seeing as they were in dire need of a netminder to eat up some games alongside David Rittich. However, most people didn’t expect the impact he would have in games where it meant the most.
Through his first six starts with the Flames, Talbot posted a 1-6 record. It was a start that appeared similar to 2018-19. During that span of games, Calgary went 10-10-3, and was sitting outside of the playoff picture looking in. With Geoff Ward replacing Bill Peters as head coach, and Calgary’s goalscorers finally coming around, the Flames saw some light in mid-December, which they hoped would carry into the New Year. Talbot then saw the crease eight more times from December until now (Jan. 13), and improved his record to an impressive 7-7-0. Getting back to .500 after a bad start is always tough for any goaltender, but he has been resilient, calm, and solid in his most recent starts. He is undefeated in 2020, and has earned league recognition by being named the NHL’s third star of this week, only behind Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy and the New York Rangers’ Tony DeAngelo.
Talbot has also since improved his season GAA to 2.54, and his SV% to .922, which as it stands right now, are his best numbers since the 2014-15 season spent with the Rangers. It seems as though he has found his stride, is comfortable in the net, and most importantly, gained his confidence back. After the roller coaster of last season, this bounce-back season is one that Talbot can only hope gets better, and eventually helps lead the Flames into the playoffs for the second-straight season.
The Flames currently sit in first place in the Pacific Division, and are due east for a three-game stretch prior to the All-Star break. They then finish the month with a back-to-back where they will see the St. Louis Blues and Oilers, respectively. If we don’t see a Talbot start before then, we will almost certainly see one during that span of games. Until then, we can all sit and bask in the wonderful month and a half it has been for him.