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

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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.”

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