Heading into the 2015-16 season, the Edmonton Oilers were hoping they had solved their problem in goal with the acquisition of Cam Talbot. The 28-year old was coming off an awfully impressive campaign with the New York Rangers but had a grand total 57 NHL appearances to his name prior to this season. On paper, it appeared to be a match made in heaven that would allow both sides to test drive one another for a year before deciding what direction to ultimately go.
[Related Article: Time for Talbot To Take the Reins]
While there is still a ton of hockey to be played, if Talbot’s recent level of play is any indication of what Edmonton can expect for the foreseeable future, this is a relationship that could just be getting started. After all, the guy we have seen over the last month has arguably been the biggest reason the Oilers have managed to stay afloat in the Pacific Division playoff race.
— Rob Soria (@Oil_Drop) January 17, 2016
However, as good as the Caledonia native has been of late, the first 26 games of his Oilers career has been a roller-coaster ride of sorts. Despite his early struggles, Talbot actually played quite well in his first five starts of the year but hit a wall at the two-week mark and it cost him his starting job for the better part of a month and a half. While Anders Nilsson made the most of his opportunity, carrying this team on his shoulders for much of that stretch, he also may very well have saved Talbot’s season.
A Tale Of Two Seasons
From November 1st to December 13th the undrafted netminder made exactly three starts and was essentially relegated to the status of cheerleader and in hindsight, it was the likely the best thing for him. Adjusting to life as an Oiler was proving to be far more difficult than anyone had hoped and by not being forced to find his game while still playing on a nightly basis, it gave Talbot a chance to work things out and he has been rock solid ever since.
Following last night’s 2-1 shootout victory over the Calgary Flames, Henrik Lundqvist former caddy has gone 5-5-2 since stopping 47 of 49 shots against the Boston Bruins on December 14 and proceeded to post a sparkling .937 SV% and eye-popping 1.99 GAA during his last 13 appearances. While we are talking about a rather small sample size, the fact he has been able to do it playing in front of what is currently the weakest backend in the league cannot be overlooked.
[Related Article: Oilers: Talbot Answers the Bell]
Perhaps the most promising sign of all continues to be Talbot’s ability to limit second and third chances against, thanks to his outstanding rebound control. Unlike his most recent predecessors in Viktor Fasth and Ben Scrivens, not to mention Nilsson, the pending unrestricted free agent is not one who routinely coughs up rebound after rebound into the slot. On a team with as chaotic a defence as the Oilers, those second and third chance opportunities are suicide and when No. 33 has been on his game, those chances have been few and far between.
Talbot Is Earning That Contract Extension
Yes, he gives up the occasional stinker but every goalie does and when you face as many shots as he does on a nightly basis, chances are a few more softies may sneak by him than most NHL netminders. The difference we see from Talbot in the here and now compared to earlier in the year is he rarely gives up those “iffy” goals against at the worst possible moment…the most obvious example being his disastrous hiccup in the dying seconds of Edmonton 5-4 loss to their provincial rival on Halloween night. With that aspect of his game now under control, the sky appears to be the limit.
— NateInVegas (@NateInVegas) January 17, 2016
In order for the Edmonton Oilers to even consider signing Cam Talbot to a multi-year extension, the talented netminder needed to show he could carry the load of a No. 1. While it may have taken some time to get there, he is on the verge of doing exactly that and in process force Peter Chiarelli into thinking long and hard about offering him a two or three deal to be this team’s goalie for the foreseeable future. If he can accomplish that and do so at a relatively favourable cap number, it should allow the first-year GM to turn his focus towards upgrading other areas of concern on the roster…be it on defence or up front.
Rob Soria is the Author of Connor McDavid: Hockey’s Next Great One. He has chronicled the Orange and Blue since creating his Oil Drop blog in 2011 and has also had his writings featured over at HometownHockey.ca and Vavel USA, where he has covered the NHL, MLB and ATP Tour. Rob was born, raised and still resides in Edmonton, Alberta and can be reached via twitter @Oil_Drop.