Cam Talbot could be Flames’ X-factor
If the Calgary Flames are going to repeat their 2018-19 regular season success and take another step toward becoming a Stanley Cup team they are going to need a better goaltending performance than the one they received a year ago.
The duo of David Rittich and Cam Talbot is one of the biggest — maybe the biggest — questions facing the team this season.
Talbot is the intriguing one here because his move to Calgary presents an opportunity for him to potentially jumpstart his career.
While his time with the Edmonton Oilers ended poorly, his first two years were extremely productive. He gave the Oilers above average goaltending, he was durable and played a ton of minutes, and was so good during the 2016-17 season that he finished in fifth in the Vezina Trophy voting. Given the number of minutes he played and the production he provided he was easily the second most valuable player on the team after Connor McDavid.
After that, everything kind of fell apart for him.
The Oilers never gave him a capable backup that could ease his workload and ran him into the ground as a result, and they did so while making him play behind one of the most porous and lackluster defensive teams in the NHL. The results were disastrous over the past two seasons, and especially so during the 2018-19 season.
Was it a result of the workload? Certainly possible. Between 2015-16 and 2017-18 no goalie in the NHL appeared in more games, played more minutes, or faced more shots than Talbot did for the Oilers. He not only paced the league in all of those categories, he was significantly ahead of the next closest goalie in each category, playing 200 more minutes than any other goalie and facing nearly 200 more shots. During those three yeas he faced more than 5,800 shots on goal. New York’s Henrik Lundqvist is the only one that faced more than 5,400.
He played 11,247 minutes. Only two other goalies (Devan Dubnyk and Martin Jones) played more than 11,000. There only four others that played more than 10,000 minutes.
As if the workload wasn’t enough, he wasn’t exactly playing easy minutes, either, serving as the last line of defense for a team that was awful defensively.
By joining the Flames he is going to the complete opposite situation.
With Rittich in place on a two-year contract Talbot will not be required to carry the bulk of the workload as there is the potential for a platoon situation to be put in place.
He is also going from a team that was 19th in the NHL in shots against the past two seasons to a team that was fifth and also boasts the reigning Norris Trophy winner. It is a much better set of circumstances.
Talbot has shown the ability to be a capable starting goalie in the NHL. Going from one of the most dysfunctional franchises in the league to a Stanley Cup contender could be just what he needs to get back on track and return to that level. If it happens for him, it is going to have positive results for the Flames as well.