Jason Brough


A mostly successful first season for Talbot, but uncertainty about the Oilers’ goaltending remains

This post is part of Oilers Day on PHT…

The Edmonton Oilers took a calculated risk when they traded for Cam Talbot last summer. The risk was that Talbot had never been a full-time starter in the NHL. In fact, he’d only made 53 starts in his entire career, serving mostly as Henrik Lundqvist‘s backup in New York.

But Talbot’s numbers were definitely good, albeit in a small sample size. He’d just gone 21-9-4 with a .926 save percentage for the Rangers, and he knew he had a “great opportunity” to prove he could be a full-time guy in Edmonton.

It did not start out well with his new team. Talbot struggled mightily in October and November, and by December he was already talking about his “extremely frustrating” season.

But then things started to turn around. He finished with a .934 save percentage for December. In January, it was .932, during which he signed a three-year, $12.5 million contract extension.

Talbot would eventually finish 2015-16 with a .917 save percentage — not too bad, given how things had gone out of the gate. His record may have been a losing one (21-27-5), but that certainly wasn’t all on him.

“Mentally it’s a bit challenging when you’re not winning as often,” the 29-year-old told Sportsnet in July. “As we grow as a team, the wins are going to come. If I get on a roll, I can play 65 games this year and my body will be great. Should be a lot of fun.”

The goaltending situation in Edmonton is still somewhat uncertain heading into 2016-17. The Oilers signed 31-year-old Jonas Gustavsson to back up Talbot, and if Gustavsson wasn’t good enough in Toronto, Detroit, and Boston, it’s hard to figure he’ll be good enough on his fourth NHL team. Gustavsson will compete with 23-year-old Laurent Brossoit for the No. 2 role. Brossoit has only made six career NHL starts.

Talbot also needs to be more consistent. Though his overall numbers were decent, he didn’t fare particularly well in the “quality starts” department. According to Hockey Reference, only 26 of his 53 starts qualified as good ones. For comparison’s sake, 42 of Braden Holtby‘s 66 starts were deemed “quality”, and Holtby was awarded the Vezina Trophy.

Talbot is hopeful that an upgraded defense will help get Edmonton back into postseason contention. The Oilers have already added Adam Larsson to the mix, and GM Peter Chiarelli may not be done fixing his blue line.

“When you shore up the back end,” said Talbot, “which is what Peter’s trying to do, as long as I do my part, I think we could definitely battle for a playoff spot this year and next year and go from there.”

Poll: Are the Oilers better or worse after the Hall-for-Larsson trade?


This post is part of Oilers Day on PHT…

Peter Chiarelli had to do something, and every other general manager in the NHL knew it. In order for the Edmonton Oilers to upgrade their defense, they were going to have to pay a very big price.

Still, it came as a shock when Taylor Hall was traded to New Jersey for Adam Larsson on June 29. The former was the first overall draft pick in 2010, a dynamic young winger who’s averaged almost a point per game in the NHL. The latter is a 23-year-old defenseman who’d been quietly developing with the Devils since going fourth overall in 2011.

“It’s a need-based trade. I feel very strongly about [Larsson],” Chiarelli told reporters. “I think he’s only scratched the surface. He was really excited when I talked to him. He felt the same thing.

“The bottom line is you’re going to have to pay a good price to get a good player, and that’s really what happened. It was a need I felt was significant. That’s the bottom line on this transaction.”

It helped that the Oilers had been able to draft winger Jesse Puljujarvi, after the Blue Jackets had gone against the consensus and selected Pierre-Luc Dubois. Chiarelli was also hoping to land winger Milan Lucic in free agency, a signing that was announced a couple of days after Hall was traded.

But Chiarelli was criticized all the same. From TSN’s Travis Yost:

The problem with this trade is that I’m not sure Adam Larsson is the player that Edmonton thinks he is, and the Oilers are thus assuming significant risk in this deal. The piece moving from the organization is one of the best scorers in the game, a top-10 5-on-5 point producer on a team that’s struggled mightily to do much of anything in recent years.

In return, the Oilers have acquired a steady, defensively talented blueliner who has all of nine goals in 274 games played. Larsson can certainly play, but is a seemingly one-dimensional player worth the cost of a Taylor Hall?

And that leads us to the poll:

(Click here if the poll doesn’t show up for you.)

Under Pressure: Milan Lucic


This post is part of Oilers Day on PHT…

Milan Lucic turned 28 in June. He’s already played 647 games in the NHL, plus a bunch more in the playoffs. And along the way, he hasn’t exactly been shy about throwing his body around.

So, naturally, the seven-year, $42 million contract he signed with the Edmonton Oilers on July 1 has raised questions about his longevity as a power forward.

And not surprisingly, he’s optimistic.

“I’m looking forward to these next seven years and I plan on playing them out to the best of my ability and, hopefully, I can add another year or two once this contract is done,” Lucic said, per The Province.

He added that a couple of doctors he saw as part of the free-agent process were “shocked that I wasn’t beaten up as much as they expected me to be.”

Lucic scored 20 goals in 81 games last season for the Kings. An underrated play-maker, he also had 35 assists.

Oilers GM Peter Chiarelli is more excited about Lucic’s upside than he’s worried about what might go wrong.

“There’s risk in every decision you make,” said Chiarelli “He’s 28. He’s very limited in terms of injuries, 10 games he’s missed the last six years. Yes, the style of game he plays is sometimes tough to play into your 30s but I know what care he takes of his body. He was always one of the best conditioned athletes on the Bruins.”

Of course, pressure to perform is nothing new to Lucic. He had it in Boston, and he had it in Los Angeles.

But the Oilers haven’t made the playoffs in a decade, and now he’ll be expected to play a major role in ending that slump — possibly on a line with young Connor McDavid

“People have been questioning whether I can play since I was 13 years old,” Lucic said. “I’ve always managed to pull through and prove people wrong. … You can listen to [the criticism] and let it bring you down or you can use it as motivation in the right way.”


Under Pressure: Nick Foligno


This post is part of Blue Jackets Day on PHT…

There were people who said it was a mistake to give Nick Foligno so much money and term, that he was due for a regression.

So far, those people have been right. Because after scoring a career-high 31 goals in 2014-15 — during which he signed a six-year, $33 million contract extension — Foligno’s production fell off a cliff in 2015-16. He finished with just 12 goals in 72 games, and his struggles put him through the wringer.

“I’ve gone through every emotion possible,” he said in April. “Anger. Frustration. Disappointment. Eventually you realize that those things don’t make it better.”

Of course, not only is Foligno one of the highest-paid players on the Jackets, he’s also their captain. Which adds even more pressure to perform.

But it may be unrealistic to think that Foligno will ever break the 30-goal plateau again. His previous high was 18, in 2013-14, and even then he needed to score on 16.2 percent of his shots. The next season he converted at a 17.0 percent clip and notched 31.

And then it fell to 8.1 percent last season.

It was a classic regression, really. We’ve seen it before, and we’ll see it again. It’s why most coaches focus on the process, not the results. Results — goals, wins, etc. — can be misleading. They certainly aren’t always the best predictors of the future.

Foligno is still more than capable of scoring 20-25 goals. His career shooting percentage is 11.8 percent, right around average for NHL forwards. If he’d converted at that rate last season, he’d have scored 18 goals. And he missed 10 games due to injury.

For the record, this isn’t to suggest that the only factor in scoring goals is luck. Obviously, it’s not. Remember that Foligno enjoyed a lot of his previous success playing with center Ryan Johansen, and playing with Johansen wasn’t an option after January’s big trade for Seth Jones. The Jackets don’t really have a legit first-line center anymore. That’s going to be a challenge for them next season.

At any rate, Foligno is convinced that going through last year will make him “a better player” in the long run.

The Jackets had better hope so. Because he’s signed through 2020-21, and the last thing they need is another bad contract on the books.

Video: KHL player goes on rampage during preseason game


A KHL player, Damir Ryspayev, has reportedly been suspended for the rest of the preseason after going on a rampage during a game between his Astana Barys club and Chinese expansion team Kunlun Red Star.

In a press release, the KHL said that Ryspayev’s behavior had “nothing to do with hockey” and the league “strongly condemns” what happened.

The 21-year-old defenseman could be disciplined further after a full hearing is held.

Video here:

The Red Star Kunlun coach apparently pulled his players after Ryspayev went wild.