As great as Cam Talbot was for the Edmonton Oilers in 2016-17, expecting a repeat performance in 2017-18 would be quite the ask. In my mind, there is an extremely good chance the 30-year old will once again be among the best goaltenders in the league but to think he will do it by appearing in another 70 plus games and play over 4,000 minutes isn’t practical. So the question then becomes, is Laurent Brossoit ready to take on a bigger role?
In a perfect world, the Oilers would likely love to see their No. 1 guy start somewhere in the neighbourhood 55 – 60 times and leave the remaining 20-25 games for his understudy. In order for that to occur, two things will need to happen. Talbot is going to have to remain healthy and Brossoit is going to have to prove capable of taking on an increased workload. Though neither one can be looked at as sure bets, history suggests the chances of the former happening are fairly realistic.
Brossoit Has Yet to Prove His Worth
This brings us back to the one-time Edmonton Oil Kings standout and former sixth-round pick of the Calgary Flames. At 24-years of age, Brossoit is by no means a lost cause, especially when it comes to goaltenders, but we have yet to see anything that suggests he is ready to take a step up in weight-class. His numbers last season were fine but his appearances were so rare and starts even more infrequent, they mean next to nothing. That may seem a little harsh to some but it is the reality of the situation.
Brossoit’s performance and numbers in the AHL have been ok but at no point has he been dominant at said level. He has certainly made improvements in his overall game since junior but his flaws remain the same. Anyone who has watched him during his brief stints with the Oilers has firsthand knowledge of his struggles with shots to the upper region of the net. Be it on the glove hand or blocker side, he has routinely been beaten on both sides and at this stage in his career, that isn’t going to change. Better positioning would help to an extent but his reflexes are what they are.
Like most goaltenders, when he is on his game, Brossoit is generally in decent enough position to face second and third shot opportunities. Problem being, his poor rebound control and tendency to spill them with far too great a frequency into the middle of the slot, is yet another recipe for disaster when facing the best shooters in the world on a nightly basis. Are you starting to notice a trend?
Talbot Will Need a Few More Breathers
To be fair, these are not exactly uncommon traits for young goaltenders but if the plan is to have Brossoit take on a bigger role for the upcoming season, these are things that cannot be overlooked. Add to that the fact Edmonton is going to be without Andrej Sekera for at least the first couple of months on the backend and their goaltender instantly becomes an even bigger part of the equation.
There is roughly 26 weeks’ worth of games on the Oilers schedule next season and while there will certainly be stretches where Brossoit won’t be called upon to make a start in every single one, that is essentially the ask. Again, if he can go out and hold the fort on 25 separate occasions, that will leave the other 57 for Talbot to do his thing, give himself ample time to rest and prepare for the post-season.
Seems like a reasonable ask but considering we are talking about a guy with a grand total of ten NHL starts under his belt, it might be a bit of a stretch. The other thing to keep in mind, despite having clinched a playoff berth on March 28th with a win against the Los Angeles Kings, the head coach started Talbot in every game down the stretch until the season finale. In other words, Todd McLellan is not yet a believer in Brossoit and it is easy to understand why.
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.