As the dust continues to settle on free agency, the Ottawa Senators still have yet to fill the holes in their defensive group. While they’ve increased their scoring threat, the back end remains a question mark outside of stalwart Thomas Chabot. Without major improvement to the defense, they’ll need a strong performance from new addition Cam Talbot. Given his time in the league, the team can count on him to put up some good, with the occasional great, performances.
Talbot’s Numbers Last Season
Before the trade to the Senators, Talbot shouldered a fairly heavy load with the Minnesota Wild. He played 49 regular season games last year and posted a respectable .911 save percentage (SV%) and a 2.76 goal against average (GAA). That GAA number was good enough to have him ranked 18th out of 44 goalies who played more than 30 games last season, with his SV% ranking the same. Those numbers, while relatively solid, were on a Wild team that had a stronger overall defensive makeup than the Senators do right now. With that defensive weakness, the Senators allowed 745 high-danger shots against their goalies. Talbot is coming from a Wild roster that allowed just 606.
While the Senators have improved, they are still shaping up to be relatively suspect defensively. Those high danger chances will likely continue to come more frequently than they did in Minnesota. That being said, assuming there are no more moves made to the roster, the numbers he posted with the Wild should be sufficient to keep them competitive this season. Last season’s goaltending stats for the team overall were worse than Talbot’s individually. If he regresses a bit with a defensively weaker group in front of him, those numbers will still represent an overall improvement.
Is Talbot an Improvement Over Gustavsson?
Filip Gustavsson was, at one point, a key piece of the Senators’ future. While he didn’t get a large chance to showcase his talents in the NHL, the numbers he posted over an 18 NHL game sample size were middling at best. With a clear intent to compete this season, they needed an immediate improvement to run in tandem with Anton Forsberg. Sure, Gustavsson is on the rise and Talbot is on the decline, but over the course of the next season or two, Talbot will almost certainly remain the better goaltender.
Even if it doesn’t play out perfectly, general manager Pierre Dorion made a choice to select a goalie whose ability he knows rather well instead of putting his hopes on continued development from Gustavsson. With major contracts in place and a clear competitive window defined, he elected to strike now. While it was still a risk, it makes sense. He may be far removed from his best performances, but Talbot still has a competitive edge and the ability to provide for his team on and off the ice.
Talbot is a Proven Playoff Goalie
While he may not have any hardware sitting at home, Talbot has shown the ability to elevate himself in the playoffs. Having stints with the Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, and Calgary Flames, he’s shown he can be a difference maker on teams that generally don’t have a strong defense in their game plan. With 33 games under his belt, he has better playoff stats than in the regular season. His career playoff average consists of a 2.51 GAA and a .921 SV%, so he clearly knows how to get dialed in during the postseason. For a team as young as the Senators, that experience will also prove critical in the locker room.
It’s true that 33 games aren’t a major playoff career. But Talbot’s new partner in Forsberg has yet to play a game beyond the regular season. Admittedly, the Senators have made a bit of a gamble with their shift to “compete now” mode. But Talbot brings with him a wealth of experience in stable, consistent goaltending. He may not make highlight reel saves, and he’s unlikely to steal you games, but he provides a nice consistency that will allow Forsberg to feel comfortable in sharing the load and provide an opportunity for the new makeup of the forward group to shine. It’s not clear how the games will be split with this tandem, but whichever goalie is in net on a given night, the Senators will have a chance to win.
Devin resides in Ontario, covering the Ottawa Senators for The Hockey Writers. He’s interested in where the eye test intersects with advanced stats and is on a quest to make a formula to determine who really is the best overall defenseman.